If you’re a natural leader who can take ownership of projects, you’ll likely thrive in a product management career. From the initial idea, through production, launch, and to the maturity stage, you’ll own a product and drive it forward. You’ll need excellent research skills to understand the market and outmaneuver competitors.
Top product managers take calculated risks and reap the rewards. They can make the difference between a high flying, profitable company, and a struggling organization with no clear product goals.
There’s no fixed path to get started in this field. Some product professionals have a technical background while others are sales and marketing oriented. If you’re an aspiring product manager and not sure where to begin, read on.
We’ll explore the study options available, roles and responsibilities, average salary, and typical career path of a product manager. But let’s start by understanding some popular job titles in this space.
Product Management Job Titles
Some of the most common product job titles that you’re likely to encounter in an organization include:
Associate Product Manager: This entry-level job is usually assigned to graduates enrolling in an apprenticeship. Associate product managers are trained by organizations and can go on to become full-time employees. You’re required to be a good team player and have excellent communication skills. You’ll report to the senior product manager. This junior role provides a great opportunity to gain hands-on experience working on real-life projects.
Product Manager: The main responsibility of a product manager is to envision a roadmap or strategy for a new product. You’ll be responsible for the entire journey of a product, from the conceptual stage to the launch. Product managers collaborate with several cross-functional teams including design, production, marketing, sales, and support.
Senior Product Manager: As you gain experience, you’ll move on to become a senior product manager. You’ll perform almost the same duties as a product manager, but for more valuable products. A senior product manager must display a thorough understanding of the product, market, and competitors. Based on the experience you’ve gained over the years, you’ll be expected to make big decisions. You’ll also be responsible for mentoring junior product managers.
Product Director: At this level, you’ll no longer be tied to a single product. Product directors are responsible for guiding a team of product managers. Their main job is to direct product managers to achieve company goals. It’s a challenging and highly rewarding role where people, not products, are managed.
VP of Product: This job title is found in large firms and is responsible for the entire product range of a company. The position involves research and development, product set sustainability, team development, and management.
Chief Product Officer (CPO): In smaller firms, the CPO and VP of Product perform the same role. But in larger companies, there’s a difference. A CPO manages multiple VP’s and overlooks the entire product strategy. You’ll be responsible for the product vision, architecture, and how it aligns with the organization.
Products Operation Manager: This is a relatively new data-oriented position. Product operation managers collect, organize, and analyze product data to gain insights and help decision making. If you have a passion for big data and an analytical mindset, this role is perfect. You’ll identify product opportunities and customer friction points to improve and upgrade products.
Product Onboarding Manager: This role focuses on the onboarding process, a key aspect of the customer lifecycle. An onboarding manager ensures the customer experiences a smooth and hassle-free onboarding experience. This process is crucial since it directly impacts the customer retention rate.
Your interests will help chart the trajectory of your career. For people that love solving customer problems and coming up with product ideas, you should start with a junior product management position. If you prefer managing people and see yourself building great teams, look for a more managerial role, and work towards a product director position.
Product Manager Responsibilities
Product management is a highly rewarding field that offers unique challenges on a daily basis. Here are some typical responsibilities of a product manager:
- Identify customer needs and translate them into products that provide an edge over the competition.
- Perform research and analysis to understand market trends, competitors, and existing products. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll need to map out a path to achieve success.
- Build a solid business case to justify your product to company stakeholders.
- Understand finances, development budgets, and expected profits.
- Work closely with cross-functional teams like research and development, manufacturing, engineering, sales, and marketing.
- Overlook the entire lifecycle of the product from its conception to its release in the market.
- Provide training and support. Ensure customers understand how to use the product.
- Support product launch and sales efforts.
The success or failure of a new product rests on the shoulders of a product manager. You’ll need to create innovative products that not only achieve great launch sales but continue to deliver profits well into the future.
Skills Needed to Become a Product Manager
Here’s a list of skills that can help you become a successful product manager:
Planning and Organization: Product managers plot the product roadmap from start to finish. They should demonstrate knowledge of the market and overlook the product lifecycle. This includes understanding the market position, customer segmentation, and sales forecast. They should also be good problem solvers and know how to manage risks.
Research and Analysis: The ability to collect, organize, and analyze data is extremely important. Successful product managers know how to use data effectively to gain valuable insights. You’ll need to perform research to identify lucrative business opportunities.
Marketing: The success of a product can depend largely on the marketing strategy. Product managers must overlook the promotion, sales, and advertising processes to attract customers.
Business Acumen: While a degree in business isn’t required, a basic understanding of finances can go a long way. You should understand how the budget, cash flow, profit, and loss can impact product development.
Technical Expertise: A product manager should also possess technical expertise and understand the different technical frameworks, methodologies, and processes. Technical know-how is needed to work alongside engineers to develop quality, well-designed products.
Prioritization and Time Management: The product management process involves time-sensitive tasks and deadlines. To make it in this field you should understand how to prioritize work and organize your time effectively. You’ll need to steer your team towards the most important tasks to ensure development progresses smoothly along the planned timeline.
Soft Skills: This includes various social skills like teamwork, collaboration, communication, feedback, attitude, and motivation. Product managers never work alone. You’ll be constantly interacting with customers, sales teams, company stakeholders, finance departments, and engineers. It’s essential that you can work well with a range of different personalities, and communicate your ideas effectively.
The Growing Demand for Product Managers
A career in product management provides excellent job prospects and job security. In the last two years, there’s been a 32% increase in product management jobs in the US. According to another study, product management was ranked 5th in a list of best jobs in the country.
Product managers also enjoy above-average salaries. Depending on your experience and the specific industry you’re working in, you can expect to earn up to $150,000 per year.
This incredible demand for product professionals is not just in the tech sector either. Companies across the board need talented product managers to push their businesses forward.
This can be attributed to the rise in e-commerce and the digital transformation of brick and mortar stores. Banks and credit card companies are also becoming more digital as they drive forward a range of online products and services.
You Next Step: How to Become a Product Manager
Here are a few ways to kickstart your product-based career:
Research the Role: You should start by thoroughly researching the field to understand exactly what’s involved. This will help you decide if product management is for you. You can learn about the different product management specializations, industries, and processes. To get started read our product management blog where you’ll find plenty of helpful articles. You can also check out some product management books to gain further insight into the field.
Enroll in a Bootcamp: For an intensive, affordable, and laser-focused education program, consider signing up for a product management bootcamp. Unlike a degree, these courses put practical learning and experience first. They teach you career-ready skills to hit the ground running. You’ll learn how to think like a product manager, work in a team, and master the entire product lifecycle.
Find a Mentor: Another advantage of our online bootcamp is the one-on-one mentoring you’ll receive. Our expert mentors have many years experience working on real-life product management projects. We’ll support you through your education and beyond and help you land your dream product job at a top tech company.
To find out more about our online courses, schedule a call with our admissions team. We’ll be happy to discuss the product management course, or any other program we offer.
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