Surviving a Product Management Redundancy

Tom Gibb has just survived a Product Management rite of passage: redundancy. The redundancy was a result of acquisition which meant there was a long lead time before the actual axe fell. Tom has shared some of the lessons he learned from the process and some great insights earned along the way.

“The redundancy was no surprise after 18 months in flux, but I still found that I had no succession plan for my own career. Upon getting the redundancy I was left with a feeling of ‘what’s next?’. The most important lesson I learned from this was to put myself and my career before any possible upside.”

In an acquisition situation when redundancy is the most likely outcome for the duplicate roles, there seems to be a mindset that kicks in with the possibility of a payout, a carrot that creates career limbo. “In the end, the process took far longer than any of us could have ever imagined. This was long enough to see a sharp decline in new project work and to see a destabilising effect on fellow employees.” Putting your life on hold for an uncertain outcome erodes the control you have over your career. “In the future I would set a deadline for resolution internally and after that point, I would look for another position. Waiting for a redundancy takes the power over your career out of your hands. Don’t spend time sitting still, make your plans and goals both within your existing role while it still exists, and for a job search outside your existing role.”

As with everything in life, attitude is paramount. It is hard to stay positive when all around you is filled with uncertainty, change, rumours and delays. You should respect yourself and the work you have done for your company by continuing to work to a level you are happy with. Easier said than done. In a redundancy environment, especially a prolonged process, there is so much uncertainty and feeling of “why bother” but for your own sanity and self esteem try no to let your emotions or emotional attachments to your work colour your opinions or behaviour. “Don’t undo your great references and professional word of mouth reputation by becoming negative amidst the sea of change. Be the positive voice and set the example to follow.”

Another practical insight he had is something that makes sense for everyone, not just after redundancy. “Invest heavily in your professional network throughout your work career and not just when you are job hunting. Participate in as many Industry events as possible, submitting, sharing and exchanging information in blogs and online forums and keeping in touch with colleagues. Once you are looking for work you will reap richer rewards with an active, supportive network than if you are just touching base when your circumstances change.”

Tom’s job search was quite short and he was snapped up for an exciting new role very quickly, unfortunately for Brainmates, as he spent most of his days in our offices while seeking his next opportunity. “Pitching in at Brainmates gave my search discipline, motivation and focus. I was able to treat the search like a 9-5 job while doing some great stuff with Brainmates at the same time. This helped me keep myself motivated each day and gave me a further network of people and skills to tap into.”

We wish Tom the best in his new role and hope that his insights help other product managers who themselves are facing some uncertainty in their career.


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