Policy to Product Design

Health Policy Scientist: Career Change from Public Policy to Product Design : Career Quest

December 2012

Hi Anthony — Greetings, I hope you are doing well. I wanted to send a long overdue update on my career plans.

I have some exciting news to report—I decided to accept an offer to join a search engine giant as a product manager. I resigned from the nationally acclaimed health policy think tank in November and am starting my new role in early January. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to join them in the local office (CA), only about a mile from where I was working before.

My decision was based a number of factors:

* They seem to be the one organization I know whose culture embodies so many of the qualities that came up in my self inventories (innovation, creativity, willingness to push the boundaries, playfulness, systems thinking, making a contribution, etc.)

* The product manager role is also aligned well with my careerfinder profile and inventories (e.g. high idea flow, imagining possibilities, persuading and selling, data analysis, writing, etc.). It is a very multidimensional role that I think will leverage many of my natural talents.

* One thing I came to believe is that my ability to successfully innovate in any of the fields that have interested me would be accelerated greatly by being surrounded by other innovators. I couldn’t imagine another place with as many innovative people in one place as in this search engine company.

As a comparison, I could have instead selected a single domain of interest to me (e.g. financial planning) and tried to dive into the field, educate myself, and innovate there. I suspected though that it may have been difficult and taken time to surround myself with other like-minded people, and that along the way, there was a risk that I might have gotten bogged down in the traditional world of financial planning which doesn’t have a reputation for innovation. This risk I think is true of many fields. I felt more comfortable joining a place known for innovation, to learn and grow there, and then when I am able and have the resources, take a leap and try to innovate in a problem space that I am passionate about.

* Additionally, all my most creative ideas revolve around digital media and technology anyway, so most of my innovations would have involved those elements. They are a natural fit from that perspective.

I want you to know that I found my overall Pathfinders experience (including our discussions) to be *incredibly* valuable. I would say I consider it one of the best investments I have ever made. You gave me much greater clarity about the type of person I am and the types of environments and roles in which I belong. This gave me more conviction that joining the renowned search engine team is a good step for me and puts me on the right path (which also helped me be more effective during the interview process). While it is now a large, corporate environment, and doesn’t satisfy every need I have (e.g. autonomy), I feel it puts me on the path towards it, as I see a lot of ways to leverage this experience into entrepreneurial endeavors down the road.

BTW, I found this process so helpful that I recommended it to a friend of mine who is working through career decisions of his own, and gave him both the Now What? and Pathfinder books to work through.

Let’s talk soon, I would like to review my findings, and think through how I can best use my new job to position myself for entrepreneurial endeavors in the next 3-5 years.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you!

Health Policy Scientist
Stanford PhD in Informatics, MS and BS in Computer Science |