Career Path: From Design to Product Development 

By Celtra

Starting her career as a 3D artist and motion graphic designer, Lauren walked the deliberate and, at times, organic path to becoming a product manager. Today, she’s responsible for spearheading the development and expansion of Celtra’s animation and video product. A big believer in a strong background in the domain you’re managing, Lauren utilizes her design expertise to deliver a creative-centric product that takes into account both the company’s objectives and the creative needs of end-users. Read along to discover how she makes sure not to get overwhelmed by the many projects she’s working on and why she makes her time at Celtra truly special.

Q: When did you decide to pursue a career in the field of product development, and what steps have led you here? 

My journey into product development followed a somewhat random path. Originally, I embarked on a career trajectory as a 3D artist and motion graphic designer, crafting visuals for various commercials and advertisements across multiple production and media firms. Despite working within prestigious studios, I found myself lacking a sense of fulfillment and connection to my work. The transient nature of my projects, lasting mere hours or days, left me seeking a deeper professional experience.

After several years, I made a deliberate pivot, transitioning to an in-house creative role at a video technology startup. Here, I leveraged my design background to collaborate with engineering teams and product managers in enhancing the functionality and scope of the company’s video product while creating visual content for that product to use.

My inadvertent switch into product management stemmed from a realization during my tenure as Design Director: That there was a misalignment between the product management team’s decisions and the nuanced needs of a creative-centric product. Despite my efforts to advocate for design-driven features, I encountered challenges in influencing the trajectory of product development from a design position.  

The opportunity to assume the role of Product Manager for video initiatives arose organically.  Embracing this role, I  leveraged my design expertise to spearhead initiatives that were aligned with the company’s objectives and deeply rooted with end-users’s creative needs. This transition marked my initial immersion into the realm of product development.

During this transformative period, I was fortunate to embark on a new venture: the creation and expansion of a video product for Celtra. This opportunity proved to be a pivotal moment, allowing me to apply my accumulated knowledge and skills to the development of a video product from its inception. Drawing upon my experiences from previous roles, I contributed to shaping and refining this new offering, integrating insights garnered from past endeavors. This endeavor not only showcased my adaptability and ability to navigate novel challenges but also reinforced my passion for product development and innovation.

Q: What, in your opinion, are 2-3 character traits that are crucial to product managers?

PMs should be visionaries They should have a clear vision of what the product should achieve and how it aligns with the company’s goals and market needs.

PMs should be customer-focused: They should satisfy customer needs and preferences, which is essential for creating products that resonate with users. 

PMs should have great problem-solving skills. They often encounter challenges and obstacles that require creative problem-solving to overcome.

PM background: When I transitioned into the role of a product manager, formal education or dedicated training programs for this position were virtually non-existent. Instead, individuals often found themselves assuming this role based on their prior experience in fields such as engineering, design, or marketing.  This organic evolution meant that product managers brought a diverse range of skills and perspectives to their roles, drawing upon their previous experiences to navigate the complexities of product development and management. 

In my view, possessing a background in the domain you are managing can significantly enhance your effectiveness as a product manager. Drawing from my own experience in video creation, I find that my prior expertise accelerates the research and innovation process. Leveraging my familiarity with the intricacies of video production allows me to swiftly navigate through challenges and glean valuable insights from stakeholders. Moreover, my domain knowledge serves as a guiding force in shaping the product strategy, ensuring alignment with industry standards and user expectations. Overall, I firmly believe that a background rooted in the field you are managing can greatly expedite decision-making and drive innovation within the product development lifecycle. While the landscape has evolved since then, with the emergence of specialized courses and resources tailored for aspiring product managers, the foundational principle remains: the role of a product manager is often shaped by a blend of practical experience, adaptability, and a deep understanding of the industry and market dynamics.

Q: What does a normal day look like as a Lead Product Manager at Celtra?

My day typically commences with a morning check-in session with the teams under my purview, ensuring alignment and addressing any immediate concerns. Following this, I engage in project meetings with engineering leads to discuss progress and any pertinent technical considerations. Subsequently, I convene with design leads for each project, collaborating on design strategies and iterating on solutions.

In addition to internal meetings, I allocate time for engagements with various customer-facing teams, providing updates on project advancements and coordinating efforts to meet client expectations and timelines effectively. Throughout the day, I dedicate several hours to conducting research pertinent to ongoing projects and documenting findings.

Recognizing the significance of client feedback in shaping product evolution, I prioritize client interviews, endeavoring to conduct at least one session per week. These interactions serve as invaluable opportunities to glean insights into client needs and preferences, informing our product roadmap and ensuring alignment with market demands.

Q: What are the toughest challenges you face daily, and how do you overcome them?

My toughest challenge is keeping track of the progress on the numerous projects that I work on. There’s a ton of context-switching. I keep a task list that I’m constantly updating everyday. This helps me not get overwhelmed and to stay on track.

Q: You’ve been at Celtra for over 2 years. How did your role change from when you started until the present day?

My primary role at Celtra has been to spearhead the development and expansion of the animation/video product. However, over the course of the last year, my role has evolved encompassing responsibilities conceptualizing and implementing workflow and HTML-related features and challenges. This expansion of responsibilities has provided me with valuable opportunities for growth and has enabled me to contribute to the overall success and innovation of the organization.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of your job, and what makes working at Celtra special?

My favorite aspect of my job at Celtra is undoubtedly the incredible people I have the privilege of working with. The team is composed of immensely talented and creative individuals who continually inspire and challenge me. When I initially joined Celtra, I had limited knowledge of Slovenia and its people. However, my experience has surpassed all expectations. Collaborating with colleagues in Ljubljana has been particularly rewarding, and the opportunity to meet the team in person has been a highlight of my journey with Celtra. The camaraderie and synergy within the company foster an environment of innovation and growth, making Celtra a truly special place to work.

Liked this article? Read the previous Career Paths Q&A on how to become a Product Designer, or check out our content hub for more culture and industry-related blogs.

Interested in a product management career? Check available positions at Job Careers at Celtra and apply today! 

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