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Digital, Insights, Careers

How do you become a product manager?

Meet Mark Buckley, one of our product managers on The PSC digital team. Here he shares how he navigated his career, why technology is not just important but inevitable to the future of government and the biggest challenges he sees ahead for govtech.

We’re thrilled to have Mark on our team to bolster our digi offering at The PSC - with nearly five years experience as a product manager at the Government Digital Service (GDS), he brings extensive knowledge and technical expertise.

During his time at GDS, he worked to develop GOV.UK Platform as a Service (GOV.UK PaaS), which is a secure cloud hosting and software development platform for all government needs. From small beginnings, it now runs more than 3,000 applications and services for the public sector and processes around 130 million requests a day.

How do you become a product manager?

If you’d like to listen to hear more about this, listen to our full conversation with Mark on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, where he shares more info on the impact of GOV.UK PaaS, the role of tech in the future of government, and the biggest challenges he sees ahead for it.

But here we share part of Mark’s conversation with our host Katie, where he explains what a product manager does, how he got into that career path and why he wanted to work in the public sector…  

Katie: How would you describe what a product manager does?

Mark: Hopefully it's somewhat self-explanatory in that you manage products as opposed to people. It’s an agile development role, so rather than a timeline where you're trying to deliver a project on time and on budget (of course that's important!) but you're using different sorts of skills and methodologies to deliver a product that works for a user as well as the business - that's the product viability. So ultimately, you're trying to create a usable product for users and whoever needs to use it.


Katie: You’ve been a digital specialist for ten years and in the public sector for five years. So how did you get into the product manager career path?

Mark: Being a product manager is quite a generalist role, which suits general management capabilities. You're especially in the digital space, you're working on the interplay between users and design and technology. So any kind of background can lead to that if you've had a more generalist background.

But in terms of my route to product, I did a psychology degree at university. Then I joined a design agency and through that was working with some of their digital people. So even though I was a marketing assistant, I was doing some digital projects.

A few years later, one of those digital specialists asked me if I'd be interested in another gig as a digital consultant at a design agency on that digital team. I did that and learnt a lot of good skills in terms of consultancy and eventually after three or four years working in corporate communications in digital, I went to Government Digital Service (GDS). And although I was working more on the sort of consultancy side and stakeholder engagement side, I then transitioned firmly into product management. That's my last gig before I came here!


Katie: And what made you decide to make the leap into the public sector, is that important to you?

Mark: It is important to me. Working in corporate communications, we did work with some companies that I suppose I wasn’t as keen on from a reputation point of view and impact on the planet.

But at the agency I mentioned, I worked on a project with the European Commission. It felt like some of the work I was doing had a real purpose from a societal point of view. And that became increasingly important to me. I wanted to go and work in the public sector and hopefully improve services for citizens and the individual.

It's still very important to me, to improve those things and at the very least not make anything worse!


Listen to the full conversation between Mark and Katie on: Spotify and Apple Podcasts


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