Jenny Chu

Prior to my career break, I was a senior product leader
On career break
@
Previously Eucalyptus

What has been your journey up until now?

My pathway to tech & startups was an unexpected one. 

While at uni, I was an aspiring optometrist (mostly due to pressure from parents). In my first year, my transfer failed after failing a couple of subjects and I decided to just take the leap and follow my passion at the time: design. While studying design, I took up a lot of different roles to gain experience to avoid being a “starving artist” and randomly landed up in a startup in food-tech that was doing an accelerator program at the time.

There, I fell in love with the world of startups and wanted to be a product designer. Startup after startup, I finally decided to try a big tech company, where I applied for Atlassian for their internship. I miraculously got into the product management one (instead of the product design one) and here I am, a product manager.

After Atlassian, I joined Eucalyptus as their 15th employee and first product hire. I stayed with them for 3 amazing years and decided to take a year long break to rest, rejuvenate and figure out what’s next. 

Now, I'm on a career break. If you'd like to check out what I'm up to: jennychu.substack.com

How did you make the decision to take your last role?

After Atlassian, I knew I wanted to go back into startups - I yearned for the ambition and energy that I remembered. However, most of the startups in Australia were B2B, SaaS or fintech at the time - none of which I was really passionate about then. Even if they weren’t in those spaces, when I did the interview process with potential companies, I just didn’t feel like there was a good cultural fit or perhaps I didn’t believe in the founders vision.

When Tim started Eucalyptus, I was already following along for a while as I knew him from a previous job. I was always passionate about healthcare and B2C and it seemed like the perfect dream job for me. They weren’t hiring for a product manager at all but I decided to just message him after years of not contacting him to see if he needed a product manager.

After meeting with the team (and the other founders), learning about their strategy and business model, their vision for healthcare in Australia, I knew I had to join the company. 

How would you describe your last role to a 5 year old?

I can barely explain what a product manager does to adults let alone a 5 year old, but let’s try. As a product manager, I help decide what features we should build and why. I decide using research, business objectives and talking to users.

What were the perks and challenges in your last role?

As a product manager of a high growth startup, I loved:

  • The energy and the people – especially working in health-tech, you get to attract so many amazing people who really care about the work we do. 
  • Real constraints – in big corporate companies, sometimes those “deadlines” aren’t really that impactful or real; but in startups, you have a finite amount of money and are still trying to establish your place in the market. These constraints and considerations might be challenging but that’s what makes the experience so exciting. 
  • Real impact – similar to the above, the impact you make and shipping quickly actually matters a lot – you can see the impact you make almost immediately. 

Challenges:

  • Stakeholder management – in order to deliver a product, teams of experts are part of the journey (marketing, data, legal, development, design, leadership, operations, support etc.). As a product manager, it is your job to bring them altogether and align them on the same page. This can be one of the most challenging parts of the job!
  • Adaptability – in a startup, you need to be able to adapt to changing markets, environments and in the case of a new space like health-tech, regulations. Things can change really quickly, so being comfortable with change and embracing it is really key.

What advice would you give someone deciding what they should do?

Find ways to prototype your future career! 

If you’re not sure what you want to do (who does?), then find ways to learn more or opportunities to try parts of the job. For example, you can:

  • Speak to a variety product managers to validate whether their lifestyle and day-to-day is actually what you want to do
  • Attend product management events to learn about the skills and knowledge that a product manager needs to have to see if it appeals to you
  • Actually try build a product (it doesn’t have to be a software product) and apply the knowledge / skills you learnt and see if you enjoy the actual process

And if you can afford it, actually seeing if you can volunteer or dedicate a bit of time to working at a company as a junior product manager. Career changes, especially when you have a few years of experience in your current role, can be scary as it often means taking a salary cut or a title change. So finding ways to de-risk your choice is one of the best ways to decide if you want to make the jump.

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