A product manager’s career path is not always a straight line. It can be a little more complicated than that. But if you want to become a product manager, there are some things you need to do in order to make it happen.
In this blog post, we will outline the steps you need to take in order to become a product manager and have a successful career in this field. Let’s get started!
1. What Is a Product Manager?
A product manager is the CEO of their product. They are responsible for all aspects of their product – from conception, brainstorming, and planning to updates, new releases, and marketing. Being a product manager is about understanding what people want, figuring out how to deliver on that need, and then actually doing it. Product managers drive the entire process of bringing a product from ideation to market and, hopefully, success.
In an actual business setting, a product manager will typically oversee a team of developers, designers, and other stakeholders in order to bring their product vision to life. The role varies from company to company but sometimes also includes responsibilities such as sales, marketing, or customer service. Product managers are often measured on how much revenue their product brings in.
There are several different types of product managers based on various approaches to the role. There’s the data-driven PM who obsesses over customer research and metrics, the creative PM who inspires through design thinking, the market-focused PM whose focus is firmly set on what customers want and need, and a more traditional business-driven PM.
2. Who Needs a Product Manager?
Pretty much any company that has an idea or wants to create something on the web, mobile, wearable tech, or virtually anything else.
Some companies have a dedicated product manager who looks after all their products from conception to release, while others give it to the marketing department to take care of, but in almost all cases, there is someone who has responsibility for their product.
3. What Are the Skills Needed to Be a Good Product Manager?
The ability to understand exactly what your customers want and need before they do – this is where listening to them comes in very handy. Then you have to be able to figure out how to bring that idea to life.
Being an effective communicator is key. You’re constantly working with everyone in the company, so you need to be able to get your points across clearly and easily – whether it’s through email or meetings or one-on-ones with your team members. As a product manager, you almost always have to coordinate multiple projects at once, so being able to juggle that is also important.
You also need to be an excellent decision-maker. You can’t ever make the wrong choice – it has to be the right one because, ultimately, product managers make or break a company.
As you can see, there’s much more to this than just coming up with ideas and making decisions. A product manager also needs technical skills such as usability, design, and analytics. But perhaps the most important skill is the ability to synthesize information. Being able to take all of these different pieces of data, come to a conclusion, and make informed decisions is key for success in this role.
4. What Are the Qualities Needed to Be a Good Product Manager?
There are so many different types of PMs out there… but some common qualities include:
Being an obsessive learner – Product managers need to learn constantly. About what their customers want and need, about the market they’re operating in, about their competitors, about new technologies… you name it.
Having the ability to prioritize – although your team wants everything done now (and probably yesterday), you have to be able to make decisions on which projects will bring the most value to the company. You have to be able to say no.
Being a leader – Product managers are the CEOs of their product; they have complete responsibility for it. This means leading by example and driving projects forward with confidence, trust, and enthusiasm even when you’re stuck in the trenches with your team doing some actual work!
5. What Are Some Common Misconceptions About Being a Product Manager?
Being a good product manager takes lots of time and effort, but it’s also very rewarding. However, people often say that you can’t be both successful in your career and have a life outside work at the same time – but if you’re passionate about your job, then you’ll find ways to do both well. Product management is a great career choice because it’s constantly evolving, technology is moving fast, and there are always new tools and techniques to learn. However, some people think that you’re just supposed to pick a tech stack or framework and stick with it – but in reality, necessity is the mother of invention, so having the ability to adapt quickly will come in very handy.
6. What Are Some of the Biggest Challenges You Face?
Product managers deal with a lot of responsibility and make many tough decisions – but we wouldn’t have it any other way!
The biggest challenge is balancing the needs and requirements of different stakeholders within your team and company. You’ve got to be able to juggle what your teammates want (they all want everything NOW!), what the wider company wants, and what the customers want. Keeping everyone happy can be tough, but it’s one of the most important parts of the job.
Speaking of customers, it’s a challenge making sure you’re doing what they want and need – but it can also be quite rewarding. There’s nothing better than hearing that your work is making a difference in someone’s life.
7. What Job Titles Should I look for when Applying to Product Manager Roles?
There are no set requirements for becoming a product manager, but the most common ones are Business analyst, Marketing executive, Technical project manager, Product marketing manager, UX design, or research professionals.
All of these roles aim to do pretty much the same thing – figure out what customers need and want, then make sure that your team provides it. It’s an incredibly broad field with lots of cross-over between different types of roles.
8. What Is the Average Salary for a Product Manager?
Salaries vary depending on where you are in the world and whether you work at a startup or larger corporation. However, as a guide:
Entry-level: between £20k to £30k Experienced: between £40k to £55k Highly experienced: between £65k to £80k
Again, if you’re working at a startup, your salary will generally be less than if you’re working for larger corporations.
9. What Are the Educational and Experience Requirements to Become a Product Manager?
The educational requirements to become a product manager are pretty low – but being a PM takes a lot of experience… so in reality, you’ve got to have worked in many different roles in order to get there.
You don’t necessarily need a degree in computer science or engineering, but having a technical background will help when it comes to understanding the problems that your team is facing when they’re building something. Other useful backgrounds include business, marketing, design, and law.
You also need to be able to understand the market that you’re operating in – so if your company’s main product is a website, then it will help if you’re familiar with the principles of web development and content management systems, etc.
10. How Does Your Role as Product Manager Influence the Team You Manage?
As Product Manager, I’m closest to our users, and I take their needs into consideration when making design choices, feature prioritization decisions, etc. My team takes this data and information and builds what we’ve decided on – so, in a sense, it all comes full circle.
There’s also a lot of cross-over between PMs and designers, so you should be able to speak their language in order to get your point across.
11. What Are the Responsibilities of a Product Manager?
The responsibilities of a product manager can vary from company to company, but generally speaking, they include:
- Coming up with ideas for new products.
- Prioritizing features and managing roadmaps.
- Working closely with developers and users to help guide the product in the right direction.
- Ensuring that a product is actually fit for purpose and solving a real problem – this means understanding your customers, what you’re building, and why you’re building it.
- Some companies have individual product managers for each product – but there are also other people in the company with ‘product’ in their title (e.g., Chief Product Officer).
- Coming up with new ways of doing things, improving existing products, and general brainstorming.
12. Top Recruiting Companies for a Product Manager
It really depends on what kind of product manager you want to be – the companies listed here are all good places to start:
13. Best Colleges to Study Product Management
The best product managers were usually the ones that studied engineering and computer science first, then learned about product management and marketing on the job. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rules – if you’re good at what you do, you can break into any industry.
That being said, here are some of the top colleges in North America:
- University of California: Berkeley.
- Stanford University.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
A product manager’s career path is full of opportunities to learn and grow. If you want to become a product manager, start by looking for positions that will give you experience in the areas you need most. Get involved in your company’s product management community, and never stop learning. The more you know about your field, the better equipped you’ll be to manage products that meet customer needs and drive business results. What are some things you would like to do in order to further develop your skills as a product manager?