Marcus Rountree | From Teaching to Tech

June 26, 2023

Q: Hi, we're thrilled to learn more about you and your story today. Let's jump right into it. Can you start by briefly telling us about yourself?

A: What’s good family, I’m Marcus Rountree. Born and raised in North Carolina. I am a black husband, brother, friend, son, entrepreneur, and product management leader. 

I broke into tech in 2019 as a Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Amazon, after 10 years of marketing experience. I am currently a Sr. Product Manager at Nordstrom. 

Fun Fact: I started my career in 2007 as a 6th grade science teacher and basketball coach at Oberlin Middle School. I coached Devonte' Graham for two years who now plays for the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA.

Q: How did you make the decision to pursue a career in tech? What was your biggest motivator?

A: I decided to pursue a career in tech back in 2010. While in business school at North Carolina State University, I read several case studies on tech companies - I was fascinated by how tech companies used data to make decisions, the innovation, and really the meaningful work you can drive in a tech company. 

Building generational wealth was also a big motivator for my tech career. My mentor told me as I was pursuing my MBA - “if you are going to spend 50-70 hours a week away from your family at work, make as much money as you possibly can” - after doing my research on the compensation packages in the tech industry(base salary, sign-on bonuses, annual bonus, restricted stock unit) - I knew this was the game I wanted to play in.

Q: Can you tell us a little about any challenges you faced and lessons you've learned throughout your journey?

A: It's truly been a journey - I don’t have a traditional tech background - there is no computer science degree on my resume and I don’t know how to code. 

I am a former 6th grade science teacher and basketball coach that is now a Sr. Product Manager in tech, one of the most desired jobs in the world. But there were several challenges and lessons learned along this journey. 

The biggest challenge I faced early in my career was being viewed as “just a teacher” in the business world. While in business school, I’d go to career fairs to get internships or jobs and be turned away by recruiters - all they saw on my resume was “Science Teacher”. 

So here’s what I did - first, I changed the format of my resume to list my teaching experience at the very bottom. Secondly, I added themes in my resume that communicated the valuable skills I had as a teacher(interpersonal skills, communication, multi-tasking, public speaking) - once I made this change, I started to get more interviews and ultimately launched my career after business school. I learned that it's important to accentuate your skills in each role and tell a better story on your resume.

Moving to the next level in my career was also a challenge(from individual contributor to manager) - I wanted to build and manage teams but was not able to land those jobs or get promoted early in my career. 

So I decided to move across the country to Texas and then Seattle to become a Marketing Manager. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith in your life and career to walk through doors that have your name on it. Those doors are rarely in your comfort zone.

Q: So, we would love to hear a bit more about the work you are doing to inspire others. Tell us about that.

A: My superpower is coaching and mentoring others. In my heart, I will always be a teacher and coach - after speaking on the product management panel during the THRIVE 2022 conference - several people were waiting for me as I left the stage and asked the same question - “How do I break into Product?” 

I was inspired to create a coaching program to help others get Product Manager jobs in tech - its a 1-3 month program that includes: 1) resume revamp, 2) linkedin revamp, 3) mock interviews, 4) offer negotiation, and 5) one-on-one coaching 

More details can be found on my website: and I am currently taking on new clients.

Q:How do you balance work-life, while maintaining maximum efficiency within your career and community involvement, business, etc.

A: Working from home in tech actually improved my work-life balance, as I’ve created routines that allow my wife and I to stay connected throughout the day. It also allows us to travel while still working remotely. 

But I think the game-changer for me happened 2 years ago when I developed a new perspective - my job is what I do, not who I am. Earlier in my career, I put too much pressure on myself in jobs and allowed the job to consume my identity - which created an imbalance for things outside of work. I’ve realized now that I have interests and value I can bring to my community and businesses. In order to do that, I block community events or speaking engagements on my calendar to start the year. I’m also actively coaching and mentoring others within the tech space.

I set daily goals for myself that focus on each area of my life to ensure I’m growing as a human, husband, product leader, and businessman.

Q: Thanks for sharing that. What advice would you give to someone who is looking to start or advance their tech career?

A:My advice to anyone looking to start their career in tech is to focus on getting in the door. Everybody is after the tech bag and it's real but I think the first goal should be to get in the door. Once you get that first role in tech, deliver results and pivot to the “dream job” you truly want. For example, I spent 10 years in marketing - becoming an expert on the customer and how marketing works. I got into tech as a Sr. Product Marketing Manager but my end game was Product Management. 

I moved to product management to solve marketing use cases or problems - my domain knowledge as a marketing manager in previous roles allows me to understand the pain my stakeholders and customers are feeling each day. I also understand their language which helps me get alignment and move faster. 

If you want to advance your career in tech, keep growing. Stay a student of this game, attend conferences like THRIVE 2023, and network with peers within and outside your company via LinkedIn. Don’t be a gatekeeper, there is enough money for all of us in tech - if someone reaches out to you on LinkedIn, respond and give them some game. That’s good karma, it will show up when you need it to advance your career.

Lastly, keep your pulse on the market by reassessing your value every 18 months to ensure your compensation is competitive and that you continue to challenge yourself by working on new products/services.

Q: One last question – how can our readers connect with you, learn more or support you? Website, Instagram: Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, etc.

A: 2023 is the year of elevation for my brands - here’s how you can support me and also get more of my content:

Coaching Program - 
Interview Prep Course -
IG - @coachrountree07
Tiktok - @coachrountree 
YouTube - I post career advice and interview tips weekly -