Digital product management is one of the fastest-growing business roles in 2020. As tech-driven businesses continue to grow, they hire product managers to oversee their existing products and help launch new ones.

But what does a product manager do and how much do they make? We’ll help you figure out if product management is the right career path for you, and list out the skills required to get hired as an entry-level product  manager.

This article is going to give you the answer to all of these questions and more, so that you can decide if you want to take the leap and pursue a new role in product management or not.

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What Is Product Management?

Product management sits at the intersection of design, business, and technology in a company. Tasks such as planning, marketing, and distribution of a product fall under product management. It’s a broad definition, but these aspects are crucial to understanding this role.

Product management focuses on business concepts to help create new and valuable products and validate product lifecycle. These products have to meet the company’s goals and be useful for customers. Product management also takes care of updating the existing products to meet customers’ needs.

Considering customers' requirements and growing technology, a product manager aims to:

Skills Every Entry-Level Product Manager Should Have

Let’s dig into what skills you’ll need to become a product manager.  

  1. As a product manager, you should have a solid understanding of the dos and don’ts related to the following:
  1. If you want to be a product manager, you should have a strategical and analytical approach when you make decisions.
  2. You’ll also need good communication skills because you’ll need to relay ideas and collaborate with development teams, marketing and sales teams, engineers, and stakeholders. You’ll need to communicate strategic plans to executive stakeholders and keep those stakeholders informed. Additionally, you’ll need to be able to coordinate and prioritize different tasks.
  3. It would also be good for you to have the technical knowledge or some familiarity with the engineering side of things.
  4. One of the most important characteristics you’ll need to have is good business acumen to ensure the financial success of a product. So, you need to understand concepts like revenue and profits. Product managers use these metrics to make strategic decisions that are based on data.

What Tools Do Product Managers Use?

Today, there are various tools in the market to help with product management. Some tools help to divide major tasks into sub-tasks and coordinate between team members. Other tools can be used to collect data, monitor user behavior, and execute tests to determine which strategies work best. Some examples of product management tools include Jira, GitHub, Mixpanel, and Google Analytics.

What Does A Product Manager Do?

If you’re interested in becoming a product manager, it’s useful to know what a day in the life would look like. With that being said, the daily work of a product manager differs from company to company. Product managers could work as a product marketing manager responsible for marketing strategies and product release tasks. They could also work as a project manager who distributes resources and follows up on schedules.

Regardless of your specific role, as a product manager, you will usually start with a vision for a product. The vision for a product will depend on the company’s goals. At this point, the PM has to carry out market research and understand customer needs. This step itself is very time-consuming, especially if the PM’s working on a new product.

With a product vision in mind, you’d set a product roadmap to be followed by everyone. The roadmap is a step-by-step plan to reach the vision and make it a reality. This is a repetitive process wherein the teams have to constantly come up with improved code, better designs, as well as enhanced performance and life of the product. It helps to fix a schedule and to manage product expectations.

As a product manager, you’ll need to help everyone be on the same page with respect to the product roadmap. When the roles are set and their expectations are made clear, the process can be a lot more consistent.

It’s also important to prioritize tasks and define the scope for the roadmap. This means that you have to set parameters to decide what features are to be included. Also, as a product manager, you’re responsible for making a lot of decisions. Due to this, you’ll find yourself attending a lot of meetings. Meetings with clients can be a good source of ideas and feedback that you can take back to the product team.

After the product launch, you’ll still be very busy. Product managers have to find ways to attract new customers and increase revenue. Additionally, product managers need to recognize the best practices that worked for the product and what areas need improvement. This includes tracking what the users do with the product and how they feel about it.

How To Get Hired As A Product Manager

It’s only recently that people are pursuing product management as a separate role. Previously, people from design, marketing, or finance departments would go into this role. Even now, it’s people from these areas that fill the role of a product manager for the most part. This is your first option. You can gain work experience from any of these domains and work your way towards product management.

If you’re looking to take a course, you can search for specialized training in product management. There are online schools like Thinkful that have created in-depth courses that are intended to help you land a job you’ll love post-graduation. Taking a course gives you an opportunity to build a portfolio specific to product management, all while learning everything you need to know to succeed long-term. Thinkful has a Product Management course that takes 6 months to complete and guarantees that you’ll be able to start your career when you’re done.

Otherwise, you can pursue an MBA. Before pursuing this option, people generally gain 2-3 years of experience in the business field. If you combine your work experience with an MBA, and you have the necessary communication and leadership skills, you’ll have a good chance of being hired as a Junior Product Manager. But, choosing an MBA program is an expensive and time-consuming option. Furthermore, you don’t learn the specific tools and skills required for a product manager in the MBA courses.

Regardless of your background, in an entry-level role you’re expected to demonstrate an understanding of product management. You’ll likely be asked to prove your ability to create clear action plans and implement them. The prospective employers may also check your communication and decision-making skills. Also, you should understand the tactics to find the product-market fit so that the product is financially and strategically successful. Recruiters want to see your thinking process; from there they’ll be able to determine if they see you as an asset to their company.

Types Of Product Managers And Their Salaries

There are different product manager titles you’ll find when looking for jobs. Here are some of the common ones:

Technical Product Manager

As the name suggests, a technical product manager is more inclined towards the technical aspects of a product. If you’re moving from a development team to product management or you have an engineering background, this is the best role for you. You still need to have all the skills a product manager requires but you can provide more of your expertise to the development teams.

A technical product manager can earn on average $128,702 per year.

Product Marketing Manager

If you’re in the marketing division, you can move to the role of a product marketing manager. Even if you’re not, you have the option to start with marketing and transition to product. As a product PM, you’ll be focusing more on case studies, press releases, web content, and testing. You’ll spend more time with the marketing teams rather than the development teams.

A product marketing manager earns on average $123,801 per year.

Analytics Product Manager

This is a great role for someone who wants to work with data. Analysis product managers could work with data analysts and data scientists for a more data-driven decision-making process.

On average, an analytics product manager can earn $129,284 per year.

Growth Product Manager

Growth product managers are responsible for refining a specific business criterion. They can be in charge of any step of the product lifecycle. As a growth PM, you have to perform multiple tests to improve that particular criterion.

A Growth PM can earn approximately $108,992 per year.

Start Your Product Management Career

Product management is a fun job and a rewarding career if you’re interested in defining a product’s success and helping build better solutions. It requires you to understand technology, design, and business concepts. If you love to strategize and communicate your ideas clearly, then this could be a rewarding career for you.

Everyone’s journey towards becoming a product manager is different. And there are so many related titles you can earn depending on your unique set of skills. Companies are realizing the need for product managers in their organizations more and more these days, so the time is now to take the leap and pursue a career in product management.

If you’d like more support on your journey to becoming a product manager, Thinkful’s team is here to guide you.

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