Everyone has at least one gadget they love—be it a smartphone, tablet, mobile app, or bluetooth device. But have you ever wondered how these products were designed and developed? Product managers guide various teams to coordinate and work together as they launch and promote new tech solutions.
This article takes an in-depth look at the field of product management and how to pursue a career in this exciting new tech track.
What Is Product Management?
Product management is the practice of researching, planning, and implementing strategies to develop, launch, and promote products, all while also managing their distribution. This wide array of responsibilities is delegated across teams and processes that coordinate throughout the product cycle.
The majority of product management professionals 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.
What is a Product Manager?
A product manager’s job is to identify customers’ needs along with the larger objectives of the business, and incorporate them into products. They work through the process of transforming the vision of a product into reality. The product manager is the go-to person for any decisions related to the product.
What Does a Product Manager Do?
Key tasks performed by product managers include:
- Defining the product vision
- Examining challenges and trends in the market
- Developing competitive analyses of the data gathered through research
- Ensuring that the product vision aligns with stakeholders’ expectations
- Understanding users’ needs and incorporating them into the product design
Skills of a Product Manager
Being a product manager requires you 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.
Getting Hired as a Product Manager
Product management is a rewarding career path filled with new opportunities. As companies and businesses launch new products, they require product managers to oversee the product life cycle. There are several ways to begin your career as a product manager, depending on whether you’re just starting out or a professional transitioning into this field. Traditional paths include getting a bachelor’s degree in business, economics, statistics, or other related discipline. Other paths include taking online courses and programs. While there’s no single correct way, below are some paths to follow to get hired as a product manager.
A product manager’s job requires a lot of technical expertise, skill, and knowledge. 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 bootcamps. 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, Thinkful’s 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
You’re unlikely to find a role in product management with no 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 if you follow this path.
- 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, you can 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 apply for the position of product manager whenever there’s a vacancy.
- Startups – You can 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 – You can opt for an associate product manager role if you’re just starting your career and are willing to work for a tech company.
Certifications expand your knowledge and skills, enhance your professional credibility, and provide you with an edge over others in a competitive job market. Through certifications, you can learn:
- to detail, implement, and analyze the success metrics of the products;
- to research the market and assess what customers need;
- about product development and the lifecycle of a product;
- to prepare a product roadmap; and
- other technical skills required in product development.
Create an Outstanding Portfolio
While a resume provides a recruiter with details of your educational background, skills, and certifications, a portfolio gives them a deeper understanding of your work and how you implement your knowledge and skills. A product management portfolio should consist of the project case studies that you’ve worked on. Each business has a goal, and through your case studies, you have to show the recruiter your potential contribution to achieving that goal.
To create a product management portfolio:
- State the goal – State the goal of your project clearly in the beginning, keeping the customer’s needs at the center. Follow it up with a brief description of the project’s relevant features. The key point you have to get across to the recruiter is how you made the decisions regarding those features. Describe the problems that you and your team solved and the strategies you applied. This will show the recruiter your problem-solving approach.
- Show your work – Every product goes through a process, from being an idea in the creator’s mind to a fully formed and functioning product. You need to show the process of how your team researched, synthesized the ideas, communicated, and finally developed the product. For example, if you did thorough user research, then demonstrate how you conducted it and what you learned through it. If you’ve built any functional prototypes, you can also include their links.
- Explain your thinking process – This is a crucial part of the portfolio. Here you have to explain to the recruiter the reasons behind your decisions in the product lifecycle.
- Share the results – If possible, share the results of the changes made in the process. Sharing and explaining the actions that you took to fix certain problems and overcome challenges provides strong insights to the recruiter. Build a portfolio that includes your best work and substantiates your core skills and qualities. Add relevant case studies that align with job requirements.
Nail the Interview
Interview preparation is a crucial step in the process of getting hired. Ensure that you have researched the company or organization. Prepare in advance and research commonly asked questions—and practice your answers.
When you get an interview call, you should do in-depth research about the company and its products. Some commonly asked questions in a product manager job interview include:
- What’s your decision-making process behind what to build and what not to build?
- What comprises a good user interface?
- How do you know if a product is well-designed?
- How would you describe our product to someone?
- Suggest some improvements to our product. How would you redesign our product?
- Suggest an improvement that you would implement for our product in the next six months.
- Describe your understanding of how we came up with the price for this particular product.
Careers in Product Management
You might find yourself in many different roles throughout your career as a product manager. Some of those roles could include:
- Associate Product Manager
- Product Manager
- Senior Product Manager
- Director of Product
- VP of Product
- Chief Product Officer
But every Chief Product Officer started with an entry-level role. Once you perfect your portfolio, ace the interview, and get hired in your first product management job, you’ll be well on the way to a long career. If you need a little motivation before hitting up those job boards, read our guide to careers in product management (and how much they pay).