A very quirky Product Manager and UI/UX designer who loves to read, write, sing in echo-ey places, ❤️ 🐶s & the 🌙
I have recently received messages from a few people asking questions about transitioning into the PM or UI/UX design roles, how I juggle both and steps to take in order to make a smooth transition into entry-level positions in both roles. So, I figured that since I barely touched much about the resources that I have found helpful in my article on my 1-year post-transition into Product Management, I might as well dedicate an entire article to it now.
Just in case you are wondering why I am doing both, I made the decision because in my opinion, they each appeal to two separate and distinct aspects of my personality — Product Management appeals to me because of my love for strategy, my passion and ability to relate with and to people (users) and creating products that address their pain points.
On the other hand, UI/UX design appeals to my creative side and ties into Product Management by addressing issues from a visual and psychological point of view. So, I work as a PM by day and I do freelance UI/UX design at night, literally. It definitely has its challenges but I have finally found a career path that I absolutely love and one that suits my quirky, creative but also analytical personality. Why not ride the wave?
Anyway, I digress. Pardonnez moi. This girl can talk for ages about this stuff.
So, without further ado here are the resources that have helped me on my journey as a Product Manager and UI/UX designer.
1. Daniel Scott’s 3-hour Adobe XD tutorial on YouTube
Yeah, Yeah! Figma and Sketch are all the rave with designers but this tutorial on Adobe XD is gold! So, you know how traditionally, you are taught how to drive using a manual car first before switching to automatic because it is believed that driving a manual car is more difficult and has more moving parts (figuratively and literally) than driving an automatic.
Therefore, if you master the more tricky one, it’ll be a breeze for you to master the automatic. This is how I feel about Adobe XD vs Figma. For a while. I preferred Adobe XD to Figma for this reason but once I decided to give Figma another try, I was hooked. Regardless, my advise would be to learn with manual (Adobe XD) and progress to Figma where everything is much more seamless and you get more features on the free plan.
If you agree, then I suggest you get out your laptop and watch Daniel Scott’s 3-hour tutorial while you practice. I have seen basically 90% of his videos, he explains things simply for lay people like me, he’s also quirky and I find his teaching style great. When you’re done, progress to Figma.
2. The Holy Grail — Product Management Essentials: Tools and Techniques for Becoming an Effective Technical Product Manager by Aswin Pranam
I have called this book the Holy Grail because it is concise, easy to comprehend, touches on every aspect of Product Management and it also contains Q&A sessions of leading Product Managers in the tech industry that give you a better understanding of what being a PM is all about.
I also love that this book talks about the technical aspect and resources needed in order to develop or learn those technical skills that people with a business background like myself desperately need. Aswin talks about UX, SQL, UI design,Wireframing, mockups, user research….everything! So, the thing I have observed is that developers are the cherished and priceless possessions of the tech industry and in order to communicate with them, assign tasks and perform your duties as a PM at an optimal level, you need to speak their language. They also need to know that you know what you are talking about to some degree. This book does well to point you in the right direction. I think it’s about 170 pages long if you’re using an iPad or Kindle to read and it’s written in a relatable, funny way so you won’t be able to put down this book until you’ve soaked up every bit of knowledge that you need.
If you are currently undecided, on the fence or would just like to know more about everything Product Management and UX, this book is it.
Listen, dear aspiring Product Manager please get this book. Just get it. You’ll see why when you read. There’s a reason why it comes right after my Holy Grail of Product books even though this list isn’t arranged in any specific order but this particular sequence was deliberate. Read it and let’s talk.
4. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
This book was one of my first reads as a Product Manager and as I read it, all I could do was leave my mouth agape in awe because it all just made absolute sense- the reason I love the apps that I do, why I keep going back to some apps more than others. The features that keep me addicted to Tinder! Guilty, but that’s a story for another day.
Anyway, it throws light on subjects such as gamification, the role of push notifications in keeping you glued to that app, enhancing user experience and building software products that users love while being aware of that thin line between a great product and one that crosses the dark threshold of addiction and how to balance it.
It’s an amazing book. Please, read it.
There was a period of time during the pandemic in 2020 when almost all my friends talked about this documentary so, chances are that you have most likely watched this documentary on Netflix. If you haven’t, it is worth a watch. I say this because as Designers and Product Managers, we want to build and design products that our users absolutely love as well as financially viable products that raise the company’s revenue and bottom line.
The thing is that we will do whatever it takes in order to achieve this but how far would we be willing to go to meet our KPIs? At what point do we pump the brakes when we see our beloved products metamorphosing into a whole other beast? How do we recognize the damage that our products are causing our customers and how do we minimize it? These are the questions that this documentary makes you ask yourself perpetually as a PM, Designer or Software engineer.
As glum as it sounds, asking oneself these questions regularly keeps you grounded and helps you preserve the most important quality you need to possess as a UI/UX designer and PM — Empathy. If you ask me, that’s a win.
6. UX and UI Strategy: A Step-by-Step Guide on UX and UI Design by Pamala Deacon.
This book contains everything that you need to know about UX and UI design, I mean everything. I like this book a lot but the only hitch for me is that it reads a little too textbook-ey to me. I like books where the writer has a sense of humor and a splash of sarcasm or yogic wisdom . Regardless, if you want just one book that covers everything on design, this book or Daniel Ling’s book (see below). It’s also one of the cheapest books on this list.
I just signed up for this one last week and I’m hoping that the job I interviewed for clicks because that’s literally the only way I can pay for this without crying every month. Apparently, at Google, getting one of these Google professional certificates is equivalent to having a first degree in that subject (allegedly). So, of course even if I have to pay through my nose, I will do it. It promises value in terms of knowledge acquisition as well as added value as a job seeker. If you don’t sign up for this, I’m not sure what other sign you need from the universe.
Just do it, it will pay in the long-run. At least, that’s what I tell myself every time I think about the $39 that will be deducted from my account until I finish it. I like it because, I will have no choice but to follow-through and so should you. :)
I forget the name of the instructor on this course but he is great! He explains SQL in the most elementary way. If there’s a SQL course to take online, it’s this one. It is very comprehensive and in-depth. Even though I didn’t pay for a certificate, I am glad that I have the knowledge. I suggest that you get the certificate though because how else will you convince an employer that you have knowledge of SQL? You need to flaunt that cert on LinkedIn hunnaaay!
9. Product Mindset by Product School
This is a very short manual on the mindset and thought process of a great PM. It is straight to the point and if I recall correctly, features sections by other Senior Product Managers — there is a lot to draw from. It’s a great read for a newbie PM who wants to understand the basics of what’s expected of them. It’s free too!
10. Complete Design Thinking Guide for Successful Professionals by Daniel Ling
I will be very honest, I haven’t completed this book, however, based on the pages I have actually read, I believe this is an important book on Design that every UI and UX professional to read especially at the early stages. The design equivalent of my Holy Grail Product book, Product Management Essentials. The difference is in the subject matter and the writers’ voices but it is packed with just as much wisdom.
11. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
This book seems to have attained cult status in the design world and I love it because it is simple, applies to any form of design stretching beyond the scope of UI/UX design into industrial design and such. It just goes to show that a great book should be easy to comprehend, applicable to almost every area concerned -in this case, design- and it should also be relatable. The relatability of this book makes it stick so much that you start to notice design flaws everywhere around you including your stilettos that are so pretty but defy any logic in terms of comfort or usability.
These are so great! When I have more time on my hands, I make sure I attend at least three webinars in a week but when I’m swamped, I make do with whichever pops up on my calendar when I have a 30 minute to 1 hour availability.
They are very illuminating because you are essentially getting nuggets of wisdom from PMs that have been in the game for a while as well as worked at some of the biggest companies in the world. I also find that it helps me network with peers from other countries because you get into discussions after the event is over and connect/follow one another. It’s great, trust me. Just sign up already :)
a. The Almanack of Naval Ravikant
I believe that this book should be read by everyone regardless of whether you work in tech or not. I love the writer’s voice and the splash of Buddhism-like nuggets of wisdom that help you navigate life as a person and as a person in tech. It’s free my dear, just read it. I’ve told all my bookish friends about this book. I may have also started a book club last year (which didn’t last long) because of it. Haha. I should revive my book club.
b. Brotopia: Breaking up the boys’ club of Silicon Valley by Emily Chang
Hmmm….. I love this one. It opened my eyes to see that some of the behaviors that I have grown accustomed to while working in the tech space, tossed up to some weak explanation or swept under the rug, are actually behaviors that are rooted in misogyny. On Twitter for instance, using ‘Tech Bro’ in your bio is seen as normal behavior or even as a joke but this book helped me understand the role that such accepting behavior or ignorance plays in perpetuating the lack of gender diversity, sexism and lack of inclusion in the technology industry. It’s a must-read for every feminist in tech.
c. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Blake Masters and Peter Thiel
This one is…. ! It’s a great book especially if you work in tech, you are an entrepreneur in any sector today or you just have the entrepreneurial DNA. As we move to a future where adopting technology will not be an option but a necessity, this is the book that everyone needs to read.
Have I read all the books mentioned on this list? Yes, I have (except for the one I didn’t finish). It would have been weird if I hadn’t. Sometimes, reading is the only access you have to the amount of knowledge and information that you are thirsty for. Staying hungry and pursuing growth and knowledge are very important traits to have in a hyperdynamic industry such as tech especially as a newbie.
You learn a lot when you take courses, you learn much more on the job but I find that the most learning I have done thus far has been from books and Product School’s webinars because it’s an amalgamation of all the learning and experiences of the best minds in the game. If I can’t meet them in person to shadow them, I’ll hear them speak by reading their words in a book. As a Product Manager or UI/UX Designer, you need to learn to read, write, network and practice everyday.
If you read this article to this point, thank you so much and I hope that this helps. ❤
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