Summer School Alum story: “I feel fortunate to work on something that directly impacts so many people worldwide”

Jonathan Kahati from Israel took a leap of faith and worked hard to pursue his dream of becoming a product manager, one of the most versatile job roles in today’s product-driven organisations.
Jonathan Kahati wearing sunglasses and a backpack standing in front of Aalto Universitu School of Business building.

As a child, Jonathan wanted to be an artist and paint all the time; today he gets to express his artistic side through DJ:ing while he is leading the data area in the Excel team at Microsoft (and handing out Excel advice to his friends all the time). He is also an alumnus of Aalto University Summer School’s Digital Business course.

What has your career path been like?

While I was working with customer support, I truly found my passion for solving user problems – it made me determined to work as a product manager one day. Since there were no open roles where I worked, one day I simply decided to quit my current job and start looking for a product role. Luckily, I quickly found a junior product manager role that I applied for and ended up leading the mobile product team.

What defines your current role as a Product Manager at Microsoft?

To be honest, it is very busy! I am working on Microsoft’s Excel team, constantly developing one of the most used software in the world. Currently, we have dozens of product managers globally, solely focusing on Excel. As a product manager, you’re always like a spider in the web, creating new paths and pulling others together. Working with engineers alongside marketers and designers gives you a broad perspective on the business and the product; you truly need to be able to connect and understand the needs of various business functions.

I feel fortunate to work on something that directly impacts so many people worldwide.

What would you say are some of a good product manager’s key skills and abilities?

The world changes quickly, especially in the tech landscape. You need to be able to adapt to transformation and get used to it because change is constant in most industries today. It’s also essential to be able to explain certain decisions and scenarios in an easily understandable way, especially for leadership management who want a clear and quick overview of the core issues.

The role is highly versatile, and it is easy to get overworked if you don’t keep track of your well-being and work-life balance. My supervisor and my entire team have a passion for this area, and I am driving initiatives for work and life well-being in our team in Israel.

Have the Digital Business Master Class at Aalto University helped you in your current career? In what ways?

I participated in the DBMC in 2018 – it was a fantastic experience. The packed schedule with lectures and group work forced you out of your comfort zone in a good way, and the challenge-based learning approach with its practical learnings methods and bridge to working life was incredibly eye-opening.

What has been the highlight of your career thus far?

My career has had a lot of highlights, and it may sound like a cliche, but each time my work has made some kind of impact and I get feedback from a customer, I feel that I have succeeded.

Students studying at open study spaces in the hallways of Aalto University School of Business.

Jonathan’s top three learnings from Digital Business Master Class

Get out of your comfort zone
I could have easily completed my degree at my local university with popular courses. However, I chose to study abroad in an intensive program with people I had never met. The result was that I learned and enjoyed the process and came out with stronger skills.

Be humble
Accept that we all come from different backgrounds with different mindsets. I came with a certain mindset to the course but learned that many students had different ones. Still, we learned to co-operate. In addition, the mentality in Finland is different from the one in Israel. Being open-minded allowed me to learn a lot and better collaborate with my peers on the course. 

Don’t be afraid to be the driver
The course is very intense, and each participant usually has their life going on simultaneously (work, family, other studies). It’s easy to get lost and wait for others to do the job; however, I believe the true value of this program comes when you volunteer to take responsibility and support others when they need direction.

Students in front of Väre building of Aalto University campus

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