Just a few months ago, my career as a product manager landed me in a city I had never set foot in before: Manchester. Being from the US, I lived in London for a few years but had never even visited Northern England (a fact that I’m terribly regretful of now that I’ve been here). It’s been exciting to be here working on a new Manchester-based product and I thought I’d share the experience so far as an tech-outsider coming in.
In 2016 I began working as a product manager at an agency in my native Minneapolis, MN. I was able to work with dozens of founders from all over the US who were experts in their own industries, but lacked the skills to build or scale a product. Fascinated by the exercise of shifting ideas from defined problems to engaging digital solutions, I started my own company to work with software founders more directly in 2018.
During my time as an entrepreneur, I worked while I traveled and eventually my British partner and I settled in London. Such a big city presented unique opportunities, but over many months I struggled to find the community identity of the UK tech scene in the way I hoped.
I saw a job posting for a Product Manager role in Manchester, for a new app looking to support local businesses. Manchester? 🤔I had never been. And although I wasn’t planning to take on a full-time role, my interest was thoroughly piqued by the product’s vision and I applied. After a few inspiring conversations with John Jackson, a historically successful entrepreneur and the founder of Chalkboard, I had been offered the job and was no sooner scanning RightMove for flats in Ancoats.
In August I officially started my role at Chalkboard while still living in London. Meeting the team which was small and entirely remote at that time, it was clear we were gathering people who were both skilled enough to build a solid product, and truly inspired by the larger vision of changing the game for local businesses. I officially moved to the North in October - in fact, the exact day we launched. Sitting on the M6, boxes tumbling around the boot, laptop tethered to my mobile hotspot, we clicked the button to put our reviews product live on the app stores 🎉.
My tour of our work space at Beehive Lofts in Ancoats was on the morning of my first full day in the city. Being no stranger to collaborative, ping-pong-table-filled startup spaces, I was expecting a similar set up. Instead, I stepped into a tech-hub meets beach-side-bungalow-converted-mill. The kitchen smelled like cinnamon, digital teams scribbled away on whiteboards, and the amount of tea and coffee flowing was matched only by the number of live plants sprouting from every corner. Oh, and a lovely Beehive employee delivered a warm pastry to my desk around 11am. After working from my couch or crowded coffee shops for the previous 2 years, I was embarrassingly speechless.
I left London after two years and while certain parts were fantastic, the vibe of the community remained uncertain to me. My first 72 hours in Manchester felt like catching up with an old, familiar friend. I could feel the personality bursting from every local business I stepped into and each tech-company I’d met at Beehive. Turns out shifting up North dropped me squarely within the community I had been looking for. Thank you for such a warm welcome, Manchester!
We’re looking to quadruple our team in the next year. Interested in what we’re working on? Check out our vacancies.
Just want to know about Chalkboard? Drop me a line! firstname.lastname@example.org.