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How MaryAnne went from teaching to product management

MaryAnne started her career as a product manager after 6 years in education

The title ‘Product Manager’ didn’t exist ten years ago. Flash forward to today, and it is in the top five most in demand jobs in Australia.

Product Managers can come from a range of professional backgrounds, and in lieu of formal qualifications, many companies have managed ad-hoc training for existing employees to pivot into this new field. 

That was the case for MaryAnne, who recently completed the Product Management Future Skills course at RMIT Online. A decade ago, MaryAnne was finishing her Bachelor of Education, before going on to land the role of Director of Science and Technology at Sydney Grammar School. After six years as a teacher, she was offered a chance to move into a product focused role and decided to take on the challenge. Today, she is a Product Manager at UNSW Global, but decided to undertake formal training in the discipline to help her manage the challenges of the role. Here's her story:



You first started out in education, when did you realise you wanted to make the shift to product management? 

I was in my previous career as a teacher for six years and was very much enjoying working with 300 students a week and having a positive impact on their education. At the same time, I was leading teacher workshops at conferences and writing articles for peer reviewed journals – I wanted to reach more people with education topics that I was passionate about and make a difference in the education community. When the opportunity arose to work at the UNSW Global on their national and international school assessments, I jumped at it because I knew the reach would be far greater than anything I had worked on before. I worked to develop content for the assessments for about 8 months before being offered the Product Manager position. At this point, I wanted to shift into Product Management to be involved in the key decisions about making amazing products for schools. 

How did you get your start in product management? 

When the Product Manager position became available at UNSW Global, I applied, not knowing very much about Product Management. I did, however, already have extensive experience in stakeholder management and my teaching background gave me a lot of empathy and deep inside knowledge of the target market. Upon being offered the position, my main focus was the customer journey in using my product and ensuring it met teachers’ needs. 

Why did you decide to study the Product Management course with RMIT Online? 

I had been a Product Manager for a year before applying to do the course with RMIT Online. I knew that I could only get so far on how to do the job using logic and by asking my colleagues a heap of questions (which they always graciously answered). I wanted to know Product Management jargon and best practices to improve my knowledge and skills, so enlisted the help of RMIT Online. I had researched lots of courses, but the RMIT Online course was comprehensive and cost-effective.  

What was your favourite part about the course? 

I enjoyed the course delivery as a whole, but would have to say the 1:1 course mentor meeting and the live webinars were invaluable. The mentor meeting involved talking with experienced industry professionals not just on the course material, but on Product Management in general and as it applied to me in my workplace. My mentor, Jay Stansell, gave me a lot of insight into how Product Management works and how to deal with tricky situations. The webinars were delivered by both Jay and Olga Drobysheva (also an experienced Product Manager), who thoroughly explained the course content and how it fits into daily life as a Product Manager, which brought the course to life. 

How did you manage to juggle study with work and a personal life? 

I found the course reasonable in the amount of hours the course needed to be fulfilled, which was about 2-3 hours per day. I worked on the course after hours at home and sometimes on a Saturday, but was very easy to manage my personal life around it. 

Why would you recommend this course?

I would recommend this course because it has up-to-date best-practice advice about Product Management, which is easy to digest and use in your own workplace. Also, you’re taught by practicing Product Managers who know their stuff, with whom you can regularly engage with over the Slack channel. The contact with other students was also very supportive, as people shared their experiences and gave each other help. This course has opened my eyes to better ways of doing things as a Product Manager!

This article was originally published on 20 March 2020