Scaling up: The career path of a Product Manager

2024 April 23

There comes a time in all our careers when we yearn for a new challenge. But sometimes, figuring out exactly what steps to take to reach the next level can be tricky. In this article, Nicole van Alphen, Director of Product at Vinted Go, shares her story of how she grew from a Product Owner at a close-knit startup to where she is today. You'll hear unique insights from her incredible journey at Vinted Go and discover some key tips for making the next big move in your career.

Meet Nicole van Alphen

Nicole van Alphen kicked off her career as a Product Owner at a local startup and worked her way up from there. She dedicated nine years to sharpening her skills in Product Management, spending over half that time in the field of Logistics. But one day, a key experience ignited a spark of inspiration, and Nicole realised she was ready for a new challenge. That's when she stumbled upon an opportunity at Vinted Go and decided to take the leap, joining the team as Director of Products in the Vinted Go carrier domain in October 2022. Now, let's hear from Nicole in her own words about how she scaled her Product Management career, plus some tips for how you can do the same.

  • Logistics service sequence from seller to buyer
    What functions does Vinted Go carier domain cover?

It all starts with a goal

I remember the moment I decided to move into Product Management very clearly. It was 2013, and I was in New York for an event, doing Sales for a startup at the time. During one of the seminars, the Head of Product came on stage. She explained the company's roadmap, their vision for the platform, and how they planned to get there. It was so inspiring to hear, and I immediately set a goal: one day, I would be on a stage at an event, talking about Product Management. 

Throughout the years, this goal has helped me to keep my eye on the prize. I didn't set out with a clear path for how I would become a Director of Product. But the goal I set allowed me to stay inspired and motivated along the way.

Becoming a Product Manager

I didn't study Product Management. I actually have a different background, with a Bachelor of BA in Hotel and Event Management. But, during my studies, I realised I was interested in all things E-Commerce. Following my studies, I joined a small startup and took on many different roles, including Sales/Account Management, Marketing and even some Office Management duties.

Then came that inspiring moment when I set my goal to become a Product Manager. Around the same time, I noticed a gap in the company I was working for. We had a strong platform, but we needed someone to plan the roadmap and analyse the user needs in-depth to align them with the business objectives. So, I chatted with my manager and she agreed I could fill the role of Product Manager at the startup. After that, I took some courses, dove into the topic of product and climbed the ladder from there.

But one path is just as good as any other. I firmly believe that a mix of different personalities and backgrounds makes a great team. I also believe in hiring junior team members, as this is how we build a stronger product community together. Since there aren’t any university courses dedicated to Product Management, the field is also ideal for people seeking a career shift. Each person has their own unique skill set to bring to the table. So, a wide range of professional backgrounds are valued.

As Vinted grows, there are many opportunities. I've seen Product Managers move from Vinted Go to Vinted Marketplace and vice versa. There is definitely room for open discussions with your team leader about your personal development and growth, and Vinted always strives to find what will suit you best.


Product Owners vs. Product Managers

These terms are often used interchangeably. However, there are some differences:

Product Owners (POs) - come from the Scrum methodology. These people have specific tasks related to Scrum ceremonies (e.g. running sprint planning, creating user stories, etc.)

Product Managers (PMs) - have a broader role and are not just bound to Scrum ceremonies. Product managers are responsible for ensuring their product meets the business objectives. 

At Vinted, we only work with Product Managers.

Common misconceptions about PMs

My favourite one is that Product Managers are mini-CEOs of the product. Although Product Managers are experts in the product, they're not actually running a company, nor are they the final decision-makers. 

Another common misconception is that Product Managers always have or must have a technical background. As a Product Manager, you’re the critical link between the business and engineering. So, some level of understanding is critical, but you don’t need to know every detail.  

Things every Product Manager should know


Cross-team collaboration is vital for Product Managers in any organisation. And, it’s important for Product Managers to understand their users deeply. For example, in our domain, we often travel to package sorting centres. We work with the shift managers on-site, drive along with delivery drivers, and more  all to see our product in action.

This means you must be a strong communicator, both with your engineering team and your stakeholders. Think of skills like storytelling (it’s our job to convey the vision of a product, so you’ll need to know how to explain why we’re working on certain topics over others), leadership, and influencing skills (it’s important to win people over in a collaborative way, rather than asking your team members to work on a task just because you told them to).

A Product Manager should excel or have the potential to become very proficient at:


Setting goals

Tracking goals using measurable KPIs

Identifying the core of your user's problems and fully understanding their needs

Navigating a complex trade-off between a fast, cheap and good Product Development triangle. 

Lastly, what's important is product-specific or industry-specific knowledge. To fully understand your users' pain points and identify opportunities, you must understand the space you're working in. Get to know your users in-depth, know the product, and understand your competitors.


The best part of being a Product Manager

Product Managers ensure that the right features are built at the right time. They identify the user's needs, listen to the business needs and objectives, come up with a plan to measure success, and communicate all of this to the engineering team. Then, they communicate a development plan and ensure delivery happens on time. 

Product management is not just one skill. It's about being able to see the big picture and communicate with a wide variety of people in different roles. 


Interested in applying at Vinted? Here's my advice

Don't be afraid to dive in! Product management is great, and the level of collaboration is amazing. It can be daunting, but I believe with the right mindset, you can do it!

We’re always looking for motivated and passionate people. So, if you want to stand out, highlight what gets you excited about Vinted or Product Management in your application. 

It's also a bonus when candidates are specific and can share what projects they’ve worked on and what their contribution was to them. Building a portfolio of the projects is helpful, as it's proof that you can do an amazing job in Product Management, even without having the title yet.

Are you interested in a career in Product Management? Explore our current vacancies on our Careers page.