Tech companies have emerged as some of the most valuable brands in the world. The competition for loyal customers is cut-throat as each company tries to outdo the other with successive iterations of their popular products. Product managers have been an integral part of the success that these companies, and many others of varying sizes, have attained over the years.
This article looks at the Who, What, How and Why of product management, and how you can pursue a rewarding career managing the products that have come to captivate the global marketplace.
What Does a Product Manager Do?
A product manager's role is all about creating a vision, and constructing, troubleshooting, and managing all aspects of developing a new product—all within defined timeframes. But the strategies and fundamental responsibilities of a product manager may look slightly different from one organization to another. They tend to sit at the intersection of the tech team, the client, and the business itself. Most project managers spend their time on:
- Researching the company’s market, consumers, and competitors for valuable insights.
- Making strategic plans for products based on detailed objectives, timelines, and the product overview.
- Presenting the product roadmap to stakeholders.
- Coordinating with teams to execute the plan.
- Analyzing feedback and incorporating it into product development.
Skills of a Product Manager
Product management is a big job. It requires you to master a broad range of hard and soft skills that are important to help you navigate the obstacles that might arise in the journey of creating a new product from scratch. You’ll need to be able to deal with multiple teams, manage the process of developing a product and launching it, work under pressure, and multitask. The skills required to succeed in this role include:
- Excellent interpersonal, communication, and project management skills.
- Attention to detail and the ability to remain calm under pressure.
- The ability to collaborate with teams and be a team player.
- Strong leadership skills.
- Ability to use diplomacy and tact wherever required.
- Team-building abilities to help you work with internal and external parties like engineers and stakeholders.
Product management will be the ultimate test of your leadership abilities, as it’s one of the most demanding and complex roles you can pursue. A product manager shoulders the responsibility to lead and plan the entire lifecycle of a product, including the initiation, planning, execution, control, and completion of all phases in the product lifecycle.
Some of the more common recurring responsibilities and functions that a product manager handles include:
- Leading multiple teams through the entire product lifecycle.
- Managing product expectations, both internally and externally.
- Reporting on progress to seniors and escalating issues whenever necessary.
- Forecasting projected revenues and resources required.
- Ensuring all communication channels work perfectly and everyone knows exactly what their contribution should be.
- Organizing team meetings, so that any new challenges or constraints may come to light.
- Organizing workshops and training for people who need to be upskilled.
- Keeping tabs on the budget, billings, and accounting for the product.
- Tracking the progress made across all core teams and making sure everything progresses in sync.
- Forging strong business relationships.
- Prioritizing tasks as the product evolves.
- Ensuring that all of the client expectations are met to ensure maximum satisfaction.
- Functioning as the main point of contact for clients.
- Elaborating on the scope and range of the product.
- Documenting progress across all working components toward the final product.
Product managers are expected to excel when working in and with all teams involved in the developmental phase. They need to have a great knack for directing people, ensuring they function to the best of their abilities, and ensuring they gel together as team players when required. Most product managers learn to cultivate a flexible mindset, which comes in handy when eleventh hour solutions are needed to work through a problem. And of course, they must do all of this while handling the reins of the operation and keeping everyone headed towards the same goal.
Product managers are skilled to handle both formal and informal business environments. Like a psychologist, they often have to cultivate the required intuition and cunning to read both their employers’ and clients’ unspoken desires, challenges, and expectations. Your team members will look up to you, expecting answers for all of their problems. So you have to be the sort of a leader who thrives on the process of finding solutions.
How to Become a Product Manager
After reading all of the above, you might still have one burning question left on your mind—How do I become a product manager? The first thing you’ll need to do is make sure this career track is your cup of tea. Learn from the experiences of others, check out our must-read advice, and scope out careers in product management (and how much they pay). If you can, reach out to someone who is already in the field, and ask for advice and tips. You could even choose to do a product management internship, which will give you good exposure to the job and the lifestyle.
Once you’re sure that this is the path you want, the next step is to earn some qualifications. There are a few different ways to get develop the skillsets needed to become a product manager, and your choice will probably be dictated by your available time, funds, and prior experience.
Study Options for Product Managers
Below are some of the options for earning the educational qualifications required to become a product manager.
You can enrol in a bachelor’s degree in business, computer science, or economics. Related disciplines include statistics, public relations, marketing, and management. Some employers prefer specialized degrees, depending on the types of products they create.
You can go for an MBA program, which will help you develop your skills in leadership and product vision. Although, you won’t learn tools like Agile and Scrum in an MBA program. Plus, they’re expensive.
You can opt for an online course, program, or bootcamp. This mode of learning will give you hands-on experience with the foundational knowledge, skills, and experience required to be a product manager. You’ll also learn how to use product management tools. For example, our Product Management Bootcamp will teach you:
- How to think like a product manager
- Product discovery
- Building projects
- Launching and iterating on products
Learn on the Job
This is the kind of role that definitely requires some degree of prior experience. You have to look for opportunities to gain relevant skills and experience, which can be done while working in a company. Below are some options to consider for learning on the job.
- Junior product manager position – Land a junior product manager role (or as an intern) and gain foundational skills and knowledge.
- Internal transfer – If you’re a professional in a tech company, express your interest in a product manager role. You can volunteer to help with ongoing projects in product management and learn important skills through observation and practice. You can then apply for the position of product manager whenever there’s a vacancy.
- Startups – Follow the aforementioned strategy in a startup. You’ll get more opportunities to work as a full-time product manager once you’ve proven your skills.
- Associate product manager role – Opt for an associate product manager role if you’re just starting your career and are willing to work for a tech company.
Further Tips for Product Managers
Don’t rush into the industry and accept the first job that comes your way. Take your time, think it out, and proceed wisely. Compile a list of all the qualities you want from a prospective company or employer. Also list out what you want and don’t want in your new career so you have your priorities set out.
Ideally, an entry-level product manager needs to be given some leeway to learn from co-workers and learn progressively to take on more challenging assignments and responsibilities. There is no bigger advantage than finding yourself a good mentor. A senior product manager, with years of experience under their belt, would make for a valuable mentor and teacher to help you grasp the complexities of the job.
Online learning platforms like ours offer one of the best ways to fast-track your transition into product management. With one-on-one mentorship alongside a thoughtfully curated curriculum stacked with industry know-how, you’ll have everything you need to succeed. We even stick with you for six months after graduation, with dedicated career coaches to guide you through your job search and the hiring process. Read more about our Product Management Online Bootcamp.
Launch Your Product Management Career
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