Career Transition Success Story: From Sales to Product Management

In this series, we talk with previous clients to get an honest look at what it was like to work with a coach, what challenges they were encountering, and how the journey unfolded along the way to accomplishing their greatest career goals. 

This success story is about accomplishing what almost everyone said was impossible, betting on himself, and going all-in to reach a goal he wasn't even sure was possible. Learn more about Spencer's search to navigate from Sales & Customer Success into the one of the most sought-after and competitive roles on the market, Product Management in Tech, and his words of advice to other job seekers trying to do the impossible.



What's your name?

Spencer Hardwick

What's your title or function?

Senior Product Manager

What industry do you work in?

Technology

What led you to reach out for help with your career?

I was unhappy and I needed to make a change - change in a number of ways, for a number of reasons. I knew deep down that I already was a Product Manager at heart, but I didn’t have the confidence to really own that for myself, or do the work required to get there. So many people told me transitioning to Product Management from Sales/Customer Success wasn’t possible, especially without a completed college education. I was already pretty low on confidence, so hearing all of this negativity really wore me down. I knew that I needed to change my headspace, find some help in centering myself, and then find some help in moving forward into the next chapter of my life.

What made you decide to work with me as a coach?

Something about your approach and your content seemed very genuine to me… very warm and inviting. “Clear thinker is a better compliment than smart” is one of my favorite quotes, and your framework really jived with that for me. Plus, behavioral economics & behavioral science are deep passions of mine, so your time at the behavioral lab at Duke definitely caught my eye - Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational” was a big inspiration for me in wanting to become a PM. Then, once I spoke with you, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind. You’re so kind, warm, centered, and thoughtful, and I immediately knew that you would be able to help me figure out what’s important, help me center myself around those things, and then help me move forward in my career transition with confidence in those things. I felt like you do this because you genuinely want to help people, and because you know how much peace can come from clarity. My life has changed immeasurably since you helped me find my own clarity, and it is a framework for self-reflection that I think about nearly every day.

What were your hesitations about hiring a career coach?

Honestly? None. I actually didn’t research any other coaches other than you 😛 I spoke with you and my gut immediately told me you were the one, and that I should do whatever it took to make it happen. I learned to start listening to my gut a few years back so when it spoke up about you, I listened. I mean, I was unemployed at the time, in the midst of the “Great Resignation” and a global pandemic, attempting to transition into the most competitive role in tech from a non-traditional background with no savings or safety net. So, hesitation is probably not the right word. A lingering sense of existential dread remained on the periphery throughout my entire time in your program - I went all-in and did not have a back-up plan. It was terrifying. But, my gut told me it was the right call and I believed in you. And it all turned out better than I could have ever imagined it would.


"So yes, in many ways it was a leap of faith in working with you. But really, I think it was about being willing to take a leap of faith in myself. I had to believe I was capable of something that I was really struggling to believe was possible."


What made you take the leap of faith to work with a coach?

 I bet big on myself and didn’t look back. If I failed, I would have been completely screwed. No savings, evicted from my home, putting our pets up for adoption, upending my family, credit obliterated, moving back in with my mom at 32 years old. I spent ALL of my 20s fighting for semblance of stability in my life, and it all would have been undone in one fell swoop if I failed. So yes, in many ways it was a leap of faith in working with you. But really, I think it was about being willing to take a leap of faith in myself. I had to believe I was capable of something that I was really struggling to believe was possible. So many recruiters, other PMs, and people in my life spent a lot of time telling me how impossible it was. I am very glad I didn’t listen to any of them.

What was the process like working together?

Absolutely delightful, and a defining chapter of my life. It was uncomfortable and challenging, but it was also wonderful and inspiring. I learned to believe in myself, be kind to myself, and really spend time deeply reflecting on what is most important to me. It was rarely easy, but the most satisfying things in life rarely are. I often heard things I didn’t want to hear, and I had to learn to trust the process. It changed my life for the better, and years later I still find myself centering on much of what we talked about. 


"But it worked, and I had two six figure offers on my plate with just two weeks of unemployment benefits left. Maybe I was less surprised, and more relieved. Maybe both? Probably both."


What, if anything, surprised you?

Ha! That it actually worked! Joking aside, for whatever reason I usually feel a little surprised when I follow my gut and it turns out I made the right call. Maybe that’s an ongoing sign that I should have more faith in myself, and more faith in others? I’m not sure, maybe there’s a lesson in there somewhere. There was a time there towards the end, when my unemployment was running out and I wasn’t sure I would find something in time. But it worked, and I had two six figure offers on my plate with just two weeks of unemployment benefits left. Maybe I was less surprised, and more relieved. Maybe both? Probably both.

What did you find most difficult during the process, and how did we alleviate it?

Having the confidence to really own what’s important to me and feel confident aligning my search around that. Your program doesn’t work if you don’t really and truly commit to it. We had to spend some time reframing the way I view my own story and how I share it with others. I had to let go of things from my past, and learn to treat myself with kindness. I think in a lot of ways I didn’t feel like I deserved success or happiness, and I would often sabotage any progress towards them. We had to break those cycles and help me embrace what’s most important so I could move forward with confidence.

What were the three most impactful lessons you learned during working together? Especially ones that will impact your career going forward?

Clarity is everything. Like I mentioned before, “Clear thinker is a better compliment than smart” is my favorite mental model. Clarity is the foundation of everything we do. If we don’t have clarity, we are drifting without purpose. When we lack clarity, it is painfully obvious to everyone, including ourselves, whether we’re aware of it or not. But, when we do have clarity, aligning with others who share our values becomes effortless. People recognize it and identify with it. It’s really incredible the difference it makes.

Be uncompromisingly authentic. I think this is more true now than it has ever been. People can tell when something isn’t authentic - when it feels rehearsed, scripted, or unnatural. We gravitate towards authenticity, and it is really obvious to us when we find something or someone that truly resonates with our core values. Don’t build a “brand”, be authentic and willing to put ourselves out there. It’s scary and intimidating - it requires vulnerability. It’s how we find the people who resonate with what’s important to us, because it’s important to them too. And when we find each other, it lights up our lives. It’s life changing, and life affirming. Being ourselves is the best thing we can be. Don’t give that up for anyone or anything.

Clarity requires The Big Leap. This is the biggest one for me, personally, and is the one I still find myself still working through daily. I have a penchant for self-sabotage. Sometimes when I have moments of happiness, my mind often replaces those thoughts with fear, worry, or self-deprecation. Why? It’s an attempt to hold myself back, self-sabotage in action. I think clarity for me meant no longer holding myself back from the success and happiness we all deserve. I had to learn to transfer this negative energy into something healthy and positive, a pattern made infinitely easier through radical self reflection. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think most people engage in these patterns, and once we learn how to spot them, it becomes a lot easier to intervene on our own behalf. It paves the way towards clarity, and clarity reinforces our ability to build healthy habits. 


"And then a year later, when I found myself laid off again, I doubled down on the process and landed two more six figure offers, one of which was one of my dream companies I had put on my list initially."


What was the outcome of working together? Did it meet your expectations?

Gosh, it exceeded even my wildest expectations. I pivoted into Product Management from Sales and nearly doubled my salary with a non-traditional background in one of the most competitive job markets of our lifetime in less than four months. And then a year later, when I found myself laid off again, I doubled down on the process and landed two more six figure offers, one of which was one of my dream companies I had put on my list initially. I’m now a Senior Product Manager at Live Nation with less than two years of experience, and I own two product lines worth more than $3B. I have a very bright future ahead of me, and it is more than I could have ever imagined for myself before.  If you had told me back then where I’d be in less than two years, I would have thought you were out of your mind. Yet here we are 🙂

Was the investment worth it?

Do I even need to answer this question? Absolutely, unequivocally - yes. 


"Having clarity in one aspect highlighted a need for clarity in others. I can’t really unsee it now. I strive for clarity in everything, whenever possible now."


Beyond the outcome of coaching, the process is often the most powerful part. Did you find that to be true for you?

Oh yes, absolutely. It is a framework for life, in all aspects. I find myself centering on clarity for my personal life, my marriage, my relationships, work, goals, hobbies… everything. Having clarity in one aspect highlighted a need for clarity in others. I can’t really unsee it now. I strive for clarity in everything, whenever possible now.

What’s the most exciting part of the work you’re doing now?

I am learning how to be a PM at a large organization, where the relationships are just as complex as the business problems I’m trying to solve. There are a lot of people involved and a lot of moving parts. The decisions I make have a massive impact on the business, which in turn impacts millions of people around the world. I tend to be quite impatient, and change takes a lot more time at a bigger company. My impatience is probably my biggest weakness, so I’m excited to have an opportunity to really focus on this part of myself for a while. I have plenty of support and am surrounded by coworkers who appreciate the value I bring. It is very hard, but I’m excited to focus on improving this part of myself. 

What would you say to others who are considering working with me as a coach, or Fink Development as a company?

As much as I believe everyone could stand to benefit from working with Jenni and the rest of the team, I know the program isn’t for everyone. You have to be willing to hear things you don’t want to hear, and go into it with an open mind. If you fight the process it won’t work - you have to be willing to accept change and what that change means for you. There will be some hard truths, some harder than others. Some people just aren’t ready for that. But, if you are, I can’t imagine anyone better. Jenni changed my life, and that’s not hyperbole.

Navigating your career is challenging. What piece of advice would you give to other jobseekers or professionals trying to be intentional with their career?

Start with clarity, and less is more. When you have clarity, it empowers you to approach your career with intention. It’s really scary putting yourself out there in front of others, and it is incredibly uncomfortable to only apply to a handful of roles (if at all) when every bone in your body is telling you to shotgun applications far and wide. It seems counter-intuitive, but it really, really works. When you focus on the organizations that align with your core values, you’ll resonate with the team and they will advocate on your behalf because “it’s a good fit”. And, you’ll find your career so much more fulfilling. It’s hard, but it is so worthwhile. 




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