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Sept 28 2022

How Elma Khandaker Jump-started Her Career in Product Management

by Chris Miljanovski

"When it came to challenging new tasks, I always received incredible support from my team and manager, which helped guide me through the learning process. I was able to shadow experienced product managers and had a support system to help me maneuver through areas of uncertainty. PDFTron gave me a space to learn from my mistakes thanks to their supportive nature."

Elma Khandaker

Even if you’ve mapped out your career path and goals right at the beginning of your professional journey, obtaining the skills to make those dreams a reality may prove difficult. Choosing the right employer to help you realize all your long-term goals can be the most challenging part.  

In the fifth installment in our series, we spotlight Elma Khandaker. She sought out PDFTron after university to start her foray into product management, where she is now a product manager. Let’s see what she had to say about her career journey thus far:

Why product management? What do you love about it the most? 

I came from an engineering background combined with a business management minor. For several course projects in university, I had been taking on the responsibilities of a product manager without even realizing it. It was exhilarating to build something from the ground up from just an idea. My responsibilities included business validation, conducting competitive analysis, prioritizing features, and defining the vision for the product. It's a unique experience since you contribute to every pillar of the outcome. It’s also highly collaborative; you will work with various teams, including engineering, design, marketing, legal, and finance, to ensure your product is successful. Witnessing the impact you bring to the team from start to finish is the most rewarding aspect. 

What brought you to PDFTron?  

As a new computer engineering graduate, I applied to the most junior role in product management at PDFTron as an associate product manager before working my way up to the title of full product manager. I learned throughout the interview process that I would be able to learn and grow my skills with the help of my team and other learning resources. 

Almost immediately after I started, my gut told me I was going to be part of a great product team where I could learn and grow – I was impressed by the supportive environment and team spirit right from the beginning. 

What excites you about your job, and describe a work-related accomplishment that’s made you proud?   

The most exciting part of my job is seeing the impact of my work. I’ve been working on an end-user product named Xodo for almost a year and seeing every vision come to life is incredibly gratifying. Talking to users, engaging in cross-team collaboration, building user empathy, and knowing my work impacted a product millions of people rely on are just some of the many exciting aspects of my role. 

Being promoted to product manager was a proud moment, along with the big launch of our new Xodo subscription, which involved collaborating with several different teams. I went through every cycle of the product launch, where I developed several crucial team collaboration skills. I’m also proud to announce our team has several more rockets launching in the coming months.  

The journey from associate to product manager must have had its challenges, including being asked to complete tasks that may have been new to you. How did you handle being asked to complete unfamiliar tasks, and what proved helpful?

Working in product management looks different for everyone and can be competitive. When it came to challenging new tasks, I always received incredible support from my team and manager, which helped guide me through the learning process. I was able to shadow experienced product managers and had a support system to help me maneuver through areas of uncertainty. PDFTron gave me a space to learn from my mistakes thanks to their supportive nature. Additionally, having so many resources at my fingertips to grow my skills from books, courses, and hackathons, helped me enhance my product management expertise while keeping up with my technical knowledge. 

For readers looking to get into product management, what would you consider the top skills you need to learn quickly to set yourself up for success?  

Some top skills needed to succeed are prioritizing, empathizing with the user, and communicating effectively. PMs face a broad set of responsibilities and tasks daily, which requires constant context switching. Setting priorities will help you achieve maximum productivity in your daily work and deliver the highest impact for your product.   

Another core skill you build along the way of becoming a great PM is user empathy. As you conduct interviews and create user personas for your product, you will quickly start to see the product from their point of view. Strong communication skills go a long way since you and your team must understand each other and work together to bring your product vision to fruition. 

Lastly, learning to manage your time is also essential since PMs can get pulled into meetings at a moment's notice. Figuring out how to juggle different tasks fast is vital since you'll need to seamlessly maneuver through various projects and ideas. And don't forget to stay organized because finding a balance between several teams and channels of feedback can be challenging! 

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CHRIS MILJANOVSKI

Content Strategist

Content marketer, social media enthusiast, and logophile.

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