For the last 2 years, I have been juggling work as a product manager alongside my responsibility for legal and operations at Clifford Chance Applied Solutions. Looking back at that time it was a very reactive phase of my career. I was constantly switching hats and there was little time to invest myself in each of my competing priorities.
Over the last few months, I have gradually been handing over many of my legal and operations responsibilities in order to focus full time on products. Whilst at first, I thought I could juggle it all, with the newfound clarity and space to think about products I now ask myself… what took you so long!!!
That said, a career change (let's call a spade a spade) doesn't come without its highs and lows. For anyone thinking of trading-in their current role for a new one, I wanted to share my own perspective on the emotions that I felt and experiences in hopes that it will help others going through a similar phase of their career.
I'm ordinarily an anxious person. The prospect of moving from a role that I have 7 years of experience in to one where I have no formal experience made me a very anxious person. Up until my job title changed I had a safety net in the form of my legal training and experience on my CV which, had I for-whatever-reason been looking for a new job, would have helped me get my foot in the door of a new employer. Although in hindsight I'd say I was doing a lot of roles to a mediocre standard, I had taken a strange comfort in being stretched and having fingers in many pies.
Following the initial anxiety, I went through a period of calm. I was buoyed by the support of my colleagues, many of whom have been through similar career changes, including from law. During this time I also had a chance to take stock of my experiences and skills and came to the realisation that I do actually have a lot of experience that is relevant to a product management role. Life as a finance lawyer in the city equips you with a very strong skill set which, combined with my creative and entrepreneurial experiences (helping to drive innovation as a lawyer and in my former start-up), gave me a lot of reassurance that all was going to be okay.
As I handed over my responsibilities, it felt like weights were gradually being lifted off of my shoulders. Relief came to me in two guises. Firstly, I finally had some headspace. That wasn't to say I wasn't still busy, but I had time to actually invest myself into my role and my new personal brand. Secondly, I didn't have to worry about so many things. All my important responsibilities were handed over to exceptionally trustworthy individuals and the less important ones frankly didn't matter anymore or fell away.
With my former responsibilities behind me, I was a bit like a kid with a new toy to play with. I was getting fired up and imagining all manner of exciting things that I could do with the role. It reminded me of the time when I was back building up my legal tech start-up. As great as this feeling was, I had to keep myself in check because if there is one thing I have learnt over the last 2 years, it's that entrepreneurial energy can be just as damaging as beneficial to the long-term success of a business if it is not kept in check and under control (I'll write a separate post on that soon). Nevertheless, things were looking up.
As the adrenaline of excitement starts to ebb away (chasing after a 9-month-old Labrador helps here!), I now find that, whilst still very excited, I have much more focus. Doing one role instead of three means I have much more clarity of purpose. I'm not constantly switching hats (a very draining thing in itself and a very bad habit that a lot of lawyers have!) and I have time and energy to really think about the tasks I'm undertaking. Instead of being reactive, I can be more proactive and ultimately I feel much more in control… and happier.