Dozens of people are involved in product development, from designers and developers to marketers. Product managers bring all of these disciplines together and coordinate the delivery of a new product to the market.
If you aspire toward product management, you better be ready to solve difficult problems, come up with ingenious strategies, and work with other teams to deliver the product. The upside is that product managers have access to strong career prospects and high salaries.
So, how exactly do you become a product manager? In this guide, we’ll answer that question, and give you all the information you need to decide whether a career in product management is for you. We’ll also give you resources on product manager salaries, training programs, and tips on how to find your first job as a product manager.
What Is a Product Manager?
A product manager is responsible for overseeing the development and launching of products and services. This entails working closely with development and marketing teams and creating plans and deadlines during product development. The product manager’s role doesn’t end with the product launch.
S/he oversees the maintenance of a product. This involves tracking the performance of a product after launch and taking notes on the successes and failures of the project. A product manager is also responsible for considering whether any updates should be released to older products or a new version could be launched.
Types of Product Managers
Because product managers are present across industries, they also come in different shapes and sizes, so to speak. These roles range in seniority, from “junior-level” to “senior”, and represent a specific type of product management. The more experience you acquire, the more responsibilities you will be given over the product development process.
Technical Product Managers
Technical project managers have a background in computer science and are involved with the delivery of tech products, such as IT software and development tools, to the market. They analyze market trends, identify product requirements, and work closely with the engineering and other development teams to ensure such requirements are met.
Internal Product Managers
Internal product managers work on managing products for internal use— that is, the products your co-workers will use. Internal product managers play a key role in maintaining core technologies that employees need in big companies.
Consumer Product Managers
Consumer product managers work on consumer-facing products. They evaluate customer pain points and determine how to reduce those pain points with a new product.
Product Managers: Essential Technical Skills
Below are the technical skills you need to achieve a successful product management career path.
As a product manager, you’ll be in charge of setting the strategy for product development. This will outline your target market, buyer personas, and how you plan to launch and scale your product. This strategy will guide the entire product development process and give team members an idea of what their role in the product development process will be. You should be able to craft an effective strategy and work with other team members to ensure you cover all essential bases.
You don’t need to have technical design skills to succeed as a product manager, but you should know the fundamentals of product design. You should be able to put together a rough plan for the design of a product, which can then be shared with the design and development teams.
The product lifecycle is composed of four main stages: introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. You should know what these stages mean and how to allocate resources based on the stage a product is at.
As a product manager, you will need to have an understanding of value propositions and customer pain points. You should know how to define a value proposition and explain to your team how the value proposition relates to the main development goals of a product. You should also be able to conduct basic market research.
Product management is metric-driven. You must know how to use data analytics tools such as Mixpanel, Google Analytics, or Tableau to analyze a product’s performance data. You should also be able to use that information to make better decisions about product updates. While you may have a data analyst who performs this role, you’ll still be in charge of assessing KPIs.
Product Managers: Essential Soft Skills
To be a successful product manager, you’ll need to have good interpersonal (“soft”) skills, as well as technical skills. Below are several of these.
The main goal of a product manager is to ensure a product solves its target market’s specific problem. To do so, you must experiment with different solutions until they find one that works. You should also be able to solve any problems that arise during the implementation phase to ensure everyone remains on track.
Communication and Teamwork
As a product manager, you’ll communicate with other members of your organization daily to manage other employees and share information about deadlines and priorities. As such, you must work well with others in your team, delegate responsibilities correctly, and ensure everyone is on track to meet the team’s goals.
Product managers often need to come up with creative solutions to difficult problems. Although you’ll have to follow certain processes during product management, you’ll need to think creatively when coming up with the design and feature set of a product.
How to Learn Product Management
There are many paths available if you’re interested in learning product management.
Attend a coding bootcamp specializing in product management.
Earn a degree in business management or computer science (for technical product managers) from a traditional university.
Learn product management through self-study.
In the past, product management roles were reserved for people who had earned degrees in business management or a related field. Other product managers have taught themselves about a specific field and advanced up the ladder to a role in product management.
Over the years, other learning platforms that specialize in product management have emerged. One model that’s growing in popularity is the coding bootcamp model. In a coding bootcamp, a student spends several months learning the practical skills they need to pursue a career in a specific field.
Rather than spending four years in a university and shelling out thousands of dollars, aspiring product managers can attend a coding bootcamp. Several of these help people break into a career in product management, such as Product School.
No matter which type of product manager you want to be, Career Karma is here to pair you with the right training program that matches your unique needs.
How much can you earn? (source: Glassdoor)
Senior product manager
Middle product manager
Junior product manager
How to Become a Product Manager: Step-by-Step
Below are a couple of steps you’ll need to follow to get started on your journey toward becoming a product manager.
Choose a product management career path.
Learn about product management through a bootcamp or university.
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track the job outlook for product managers, other job sites do. For instance, LinkedIn reports over 109,000 open product manager jobs. Technical product management jobs are also expected to grow as companies develop more technology-based projects.
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How Much Do Product Managers Earn? (source: Glassdoor)
Should You Become a Product Manager?
Product managers are serial hat wearers. They work with development teams, marketing teams, sales teams, and the management to deliver a product that meets the needs of consumers. The downside to this is that no two days are ever quite the same; there’s never a relaxing day at work. The upside is that no two days are ever quite the same; there’s never a dull day at work.
If you’re on the lookout for a career that offers growth and continuous learning, consider a career in product management. Career Karma is here to help you along every stage of your journey to becoming a product manager. We’ll pair you with a coach who can help you navigate your new career in product management, and introduce you to a community of your peers who can hold you to account for your progress.
We’ll also help you prepare for and get accepted to one of the best product management bootcamps. If you are looking to start a new career and enjoy thinking about products, a role in product management may be for you!
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