Subomi Salami is not your regular woman in tech. You’re unlikely to find her engaging in the many social media conversations about “ecosystems” and other buzzwords. Instead, she spends a lot of her free time visiting new places and vacationing. You can tell there’s a socialite or travel vlogger in her somewhere. But that’s not what she is – at least not yet. She holds a full-time role as a product manager in the world’s largest social network, Meta (formerly Facebook), in London, U.K. It’s easy to assume she’s simply living the dream, but her career journey speaks more of relentless ambition than relaxation.
How it started
Tech wasn’t Salami’s first ambition. She wanted to be an accountant or at least work in finance. “I studied Economics at the University, and I was already taking ICAN exams,” she said. Then she interned as a Management consultant for one of the top auditing firms, KPMG. “Then, it seemed like my career would be in finance or consulting,” she said. However, her plan wasn’t to scale through the conventional ground-up ladder. “I only wanted to work for top consulting firms like McKinsey. I wasn’t going to settle for anything less. In retrospect, I think I was a bit of an overachiever. (giggles)”
Salami soon began to get bored with finance and disembarked from that journey. So she stopped taking exams to become a chartered accountant. “I just didn’t enjoy it,” she said. The only option left was to become a management consultant for a top firm.
But by the following year, she got another internship. This time, it was in the marketing department of Google. “I didn’t think I would be accepted for it,” she said. “I barely even knew what they did at Google that time. All I knew about was the search engine. I just applied boldly.”
At Google, the script began to change. Salami saw a work culture different from what she saw at her old job. “That was when I started liking tech for a career. I loved the company and their culture. I then started researching to know if I could have a career in tech without technical knowledge.”
The last straw happened when Salami wrote an aptitude test for a role at McKinsey, her dream company. “The tests were so difficult”, she said, laughing. “I don’t know how anybody passed those. I’m not very good with numbers, and the tests had plenty of them.” At that point, she realised that consulting at the level she wanted would be a long road. So she opted for tech, which posed a more flexible pathway.
After graduating from Covenant University, Salami was sure she wanted to work for a tech firm. However, she didn’t know where she’d fit in. “At first, the dream was to go back to Google and continue with marketing. But that didn’t happen.” So her new plan was to discover herself through experience.
Her first step was to reach out to the founders of a startup, Softcom, who were also alumni of her school. “At that time, I didn’t even know what I would be doing in the company. They (the founders) didn’t too but wanted us to figure it out together.” Salami then started trying out different departments that didn’t need coding skills. “I tried marketing, sales, and every non-tech role apart from operations,” she said.
Salami admired the product department but wasn’t confident to delve in at first. “It seemed too technical and complex. I saw it as another technical role, so I avoided it in the beginning. Even when people asked me to try it out, I declined.” While at work, she took courses such as LinkedIn’s Solving Business Problems and Business Process Improvement. But after close to two years, she still hadn’t found a well-suited role. “To be honest, at a point, I considered going back to consulting. But I just waved it off.”
Salami got better at sales but got bored in the department. “It was very monotonous for me,” she said. “Getting your bonus can be enough to motivate some people. But that wasn’t the case for me. I felt like I wasn’t being challenged anymore.” She then tried to learn to code but quickly realised it wasn’t for her. “It was even more monotonous than sales.”
So Salami decided to pivot to product management. But this time, she wanted to move to a different organisation. She knew that was going to be a difficult task. “To get a role as a product manager, you need experience,” she said. “I had never been in that department, but I kept looking around for options. I had my eyes on rotational programs because I knew that was the best way to get in without having experience. But I also knew they were very difficult and had low acceptance rates.” Nonetheless, she applied when the opportunity came and was accepted. “I knew it was an option, but I wasn’t sure that would be the way I’d break into product management.”
How it’s going
Life as a product manager is different for Salami. According to her, she’s now past trying to fit in. “It’s a great experience for me because I finally found a role that aligns with my natural strengths and skill set,” she said. “Being a product manager is a different thing to different companies. Even at Meta, the job varies with different teams. So it’s not monotonous any longer.”
Salami relishes her experience as a product manager, which allows her to “build something from the ground up, help the team get answers to their questions, and work on long-term strategy.” At the same time, moving between countries has helped her become more confident.
But she also acknowledges the challenges of the role. “I’m more like the team servant. Even when I don’t have the answers to their needs/questions, It’s still up to me to figure it out. I usually have to be the calmest person in the team. And even when I don’t feel that way, I’ve learned to fake it. I’ve also grown in the way I think about problems because the work is quite autonomous.”
Whether the dream was finance, consulting or tech, Salami has always been ambitious. She always wanted to work for the top companies. But now that she’s at Meta, she’s taking her foot off the pedal for a while. “I’ve been ambitious for most of my life. But for now, I don’t know what’s next, and I want to just focus on becoming a better product manager.”
Always go for what you want and go the extra mile.
“I know this might sound cliche, but going for what I want has helped me a lot,” she said. “Many times, when I speak to some friends about applications, they talk about how they won’t get the roles. But I’d always say there’s no point holding back since you already know the worst that can happen. That’s how I got into Google, and that’s how I’m here today. But I also don’t casually apply. On the contrary, I always go the extra mile with my applications.”