Getting into product management is a lucrative career choice with high competition and demand in the industry. McKinsey & Company believe that the growing importance of data-driven decision-making and increased UI-UX focus is steering the demand for product managers (PMs).
Great PMs have the potential to improve a company's growth trajectory single-handedly with a dedicated quality product. Product managers hail from diverse backgrounds, but efficient PMs have expertise in a few skills – ensuring customer satisfaction, extraordinary collaboration skills, and the ability to tap all market opportunities. Great product managers go beyond these core expertise to carve their own niche.
Product Management - Do You Have All The Skills?
There is no established career path to get into product management. Pursuing this profession warrants great dedication as an effective product manager has to prove expertise in diverse areas like research, finance, technology, communication, leadership, etc. You never know what skill a company seeks in their product manager, but there are a few qualities that every successful product manager exhibits. Some of these include that PMs:
- Can develop a coherent strategy to solve any problem.
- Build a roadmap to align all team members and achieve targets within deadlines.
- Have excellent communication skills to facilitate discussions and creative brainstorming.
- Successfully blend qualitative and quantitative data to make product decisions.
- Experiment with user research methodology to find all market gaps and create one product that touches several pain points.
- Add a layer of sentiments to the product so that people resonate with its usability and ideology.
- Focus on the customers to know that their product will be valuable.
- Understand the "why" behind customer needs and can ruthlessly prioritize building the right things.
- Openly seek approval and feedback to update their product for better results.
- Are product-obsessed and focus on solving problems beyond industries, be it design, engineering, or analytics.
- Share their learnings with the company instead of hiding their mistakes to take a better approach next time.
- Can distinguish between preventable concerns, problems that don't need solving, and solvable problems that require a product.
- Are hardworking leaders who know when and how to delegate work.
- Define what is success for a product and pitch it as the end goal for the team. This success can be in user acquisition, target revenue generation, or problem-solving.
- Lead their team as mentors and don't impose authority.
Getting Into Product Management - What To Expect?
Product management seems like a great career option for all the fans of proactive planners with a knack for leadership. As a great product manager, your daily tasks can include:
- Performing market assessments
- Allocating resources
- Designing product features
- Conducting user research
- Translating technical to business requirements and vice versa
- Creating and revising product designs
- Building a pricing and revenue model
- Defining and tracking success metrics
How To Break Into Product Management?
It can be perplexing to start from scratch despite your strong determination to break into product management. Other careers have defined courses or schools to attend but there’s no specific curriculum for product management. Here are the four key ways of getting into product management, according to Jackie Bavaro, a product manager with 15+ years of experience:
For fresh graduates
Keep your updated résumé ready and visit university career fairs and placement drives. You can also ask companies listing other openings if they have any separate vacancies for product managers. You’ll be amazed how many opportunities can get lined up simply because you dared to ask.
Take some time out to talk to people at career fairs and candidly express your interests. Sell your profile to them by explaining how your background can help you be a great product manager. You can also connect with other product managers on professional social networking sites like LinkedIn and ask for their referrals. Do try your hands on sending personalized cold emails to the HRs and PMs of various companies seeking opportunities to contribute.
For graduates open to internships
Start from a junior position in a renowned company to carve your path to the PM position. This approach is increasingly becoming famous with MBA graduates pursuing internships to move on to more prominent roles. Although, you don’t have to be an MBA graduate to be a product manager.
Look for other growth classes and develop your skills to land an internship in your dream company. Demonstrate that you are focused, driven, and competent and bag a better opportunity with internal growth.
For experienced professionals
Professionals can leverage their experience to get into product management through their specialized fields. As you continue climbing the promotional ladder, the easiest path is to transition internally to the product manager’s role. Demonstrate your product management skills to your internal product manager or superiors to get started.
You can also tap on uncharted territories by creating solid product management strategies and showcasing them to your leaders. Everyone supports an enterprising team member, and you might just make it as a product manager within your company. The best way is to venture into product management at your current workplace. Meanwhile, work towards aligning your present expertise with product management vacancies at other companies and opt for a job switch.
For the visionaries
Let's say you are a marketer and feel the need for a product to make your work easy. Pitch that idea to your superiors. Chances are that other marketers are looking for a similar product and you can be the product manager after conducting market research. There are several examples of people shifting from one branch to product management, such as:
- engineering to product management
- design to product management
- analyst to product management, etc.
This approach applies to professionals with a vision who can pitch their ideas to a startup. Most startups have urgent requirements for product managers, and the companies focus on skill sets over experience. You can smoothly transition into the job role here and gain experience to create your product manager profile. Having a growth mindset is the key to recognizing and grasping extraordinary opportunities.
For the entrepreneurs
When none of the methods work, you can always choose to be your own boss. It’s the most work-intensive and demanding approach, but it works for people with an entrepreneurial spark. Start with a side job to show off your product management skills and build a portfolio. Build a product or service that you are passionate about.
If you can score well with your side-project, add it to your résumé and start applying to product management jobs. Meanwhile, leverage social media and professional platforms to grow your network. Talk about your experiences with creating a product, your approach to product management, and tricks of market analysis. Put in the necessary work to yield great results.
In Summary: How To Get Into Product Management?
The job of a product manager ventures beyond just product management. It is also about relationship management, self-management, social awareness, self-awareness, technical competency, and emotional intelligence.
To grow these skills and get better at product management, you can find helpful resources here:
- Applying Leverage as a Product Manager by Brandon Chu
- Making Good Decisions as a Product Manager by Brandon Chu
- A Product Manager’s Job by Josh Elman
- Building Products by Julie Zhuo
- Product Management Skills NO ONE talks about by Taruna Manchanda
- Top 11 Frameworks Every Product Manager Should Know by Abhishek Sharma
- What distinguishes the Top 1% of product managers from the Top 10%? by Ian McAllister
- 10 Traits of Great PMs by Noah Weiss
Consider adding the following resources to your top priority, too:
- Cracking the PM Career: The Skills, Frameworks, and Practices to Become a Great Product Manager (Cracking the Interview & Career) by Jackie Bavaro and Gayle Laakmann McDowell
- Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love (Silicon Valley Product Group) by Marty Cagan
- My Product Management Toolkit: Tools and Techniques to Become an Outstanding Product Manager by Marc Abraham
- Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz
- Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
- Master of Scale
- 100 PM Podcast
- The Product Podcast
- This is Product Management
- Global Product Management Talk
In the lack of a defined career route, believe in upskilling and showcasing your talents. You are bound to ace your portfolio as a product manager with a vision, business sense, and growth mindset. Make sure to take note of all your learnings when you fall and stand tall again.