Making a case for a career in Product management

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To make a case for a career as a Product Manager, it helps for one to really understand that having a firm grasp on the workings of technology, business, and user experience goes a long way as being a product manager is a position of great responsibility.

Much as Product management is one of the most lucrative jobs in tech today, getting to that sweet spot in the profession doesn’t come easy. A product management position often demands proficiency in a number of different areas, both technical and social as a product’s entire lifecycle, from ideation to launch and beyond, can rest on a Product Manager’s shoulders.

To be a Product Manager requires one to be seasoned and well informed on the latest trends and developments in tech as they unfold. It’s a role that necessitates continuous training as well as disciplined learning on the job. Most Product Managers often begin working in a different field before transitioning to product management mid-career. A Certification can come in handy as it helps you to master key skills in the space, but will also give you the confidence to feel comfortable overseeing the product management process.

But if you are like me at the time of this posting, and don’t immediately have the financial resources to level up with a certification then learning on the job experience is a holy grail. After all, the end sometimes does really justify the means, right?!

Whether, through a certification or on-the-job experience, gaining specific technical skills like; how to develop a go-to-market strategy/plan, defining a minimum viable product (MVP), how to positioning and price a product, create competitive analyses and status reports, writing use cases, writing and building roadmaps, product launch metrics, A/B testing, version control, standard measurement platforms, familiarity with wireframing, UX design, project management and software development lifecycle methodologies like Scrum – all are things a Product Manager must be comfortable doing or overseeing depending on the “Job assignment”.
Anyways, a deep understanding of your marketplace (ability to identify market opportunities) and your customer base (customer research), product design knowledge, frameworks like agile, great leadership qualities, having empathy, spotting new opportunities, a strong creative, and the ins and outs of usability testing, a data-informed mindset is also key in excelling at product management.

Being able to manage a product lifecycle, exhibit excellent leadership skills across diverse teams is key in product management as a product’s success is entirely linked to how smoothly its development team operates. Remember product management exists at the intersection of Design, Business and Technology.

Ultimately a clear sense of purpose is essential to the Product Manager’s success: with their attention constantly pulled in a dozen different ways, it’s crucial to keep the overarching product development framework in mind.
As you learn each of the steps in the product management process – beginning with strategy and developing your product roadmap, moving through to building out the product’s features backlog and user stories, and eventually the post-launch product analytics – you’ll gain a greater understanding of how these steps add up to create a greater whole, and how the decisions you make today can affect the way the future steps unfold in the future.

Product management means more than simply knowing how to create a product. Every product must fill a market niche, and to find that niche, you first need to know your market in an intimate and detailed way. Experience in many different areas of tech can be a great asset to a Product Manager in fact the role leans heavily on a broad set of transferable skills that you can pick up in related fields, with being able to work cross-functionally among the most important to develop not only your technical skills but also the high-level thinking it takes to identify market opportunities and user needs.

By the time you’ve finished your training, you should have the experience to simulate an entire product lifecycle, manage diverse teams, and creating a distribution plan. Being a Product Manager almost requires one to achieve technical goals using social skills like facilitating collaboration & communication between different people.

Connecting with like-minded people in the space will help you develop some of the most important skills a Product Manager should have like communication, collaboration, and especially empathy. Product management is ultimately about making connections between people or departments tackling different tasks, effectively bringing them together in support of a common goal. It’s a role of great responsibility, but it’s ultimately about supporting a team, not telling it what to do.

Remember to create/put together a great portfolio. your portfolio is your primary tool in showing off your talents to potential employers. There is no bulletproof template/blueprint for creating a perfect portfolio, rather use your portfolio to highlight your strengths as a Product Manager and then make sure your portfolio presents each piece in a coherent way.

Your portfolio should communicate what contributions you made, the obstacles you faced, and the solutions you innovated to overcome those obstacles. Think of ways to highlight your strengths in a way that walks your employers or prospective client through your flow process to nicely demonstrate how you approach your work.

To become a Great Product Manager here are a few things to get well at; –

  • Being able to manage yourself, both on and off the job is key before you begin to manage a product’s journey. Keep in mind that realistic self-management is a valuable skill that will guide the trajectory of your career as you’ll need to be a self-starter outside the office in much the same way you’re leading your own team members inside of it. Nobody else is going to motivate you to keep learning and growing, therefore keeping a cool head, honing the ability to work under pressure, and a clear sense of both your own priorities and your company’s/project’s goals is key all through.
Creative Problem Solving;
  • A product manager among other things solves problems, an important step in product management. Having a creative mindset approach to problem-solving helps in identifying and defining a need within the marketplace while being able to innovate a product or feature to address that need.
  • To be able to solve problems and nurture a high level of creativity, curiosity underlies one of those intangibles every product manager needs to possess. Curiosity drives a Product Managers’ interactions with users at the early phase of development in the product management lifecycle process when open questions are under discussion. Curiosity motivates research, in-depth analysis, A/B testing, and the experimentation with new ideas among other things which is crucial to the technical aspects of a product manager’s field, the changing landscape of the marketplace and the constant learning required to stay up to date in the field.
  • The product management field is collaborative by nature where you’ll be leading a team, or possibly managing across diverse teams, as well as liaising with company top leadership, presenting to investors and other stakeholders, and even sitting down with test users and clients to gain a better understanding of their needs. As a Product Manager, an ability to listen, understand and convey what’s important back and forth is paramount, as you’ll be connected to everything a company does, from engineering to sales and marketing to product implementation, essentially acting like the go-between market, development teams, and business while routing information between all three.
  • Product Managers don’t often have direct authority over the teams are leading or working with and need to inspire. As such most often, there is a need to rely on leading by example to keep everyone focused on achieving a common goal through meaningful and positive influence, persuasion, and even charisma. Having a vision and a clear sense of what needs to be done is a big part of the job, but not necessarily enough as you’ll also have to share that vision with your teams and motivate them to reach it.
  • Having good emotional intelligence, social awareness, or “good people skills”, goes a long way to making a Product Manager’s job easy. There is really no way around this in today’s job market. Product managers’ roles involve a lot of customer interactions and engagements as you build authentic relationships with your customers and within your own team. Product development is all about real human beings—your clients, co-workers, and your company’s leadership. Therefore being in tune with all the needs and desires of your team and other stakeholders is the very fabric and foundation of successfully bringing a product to market.

Obviously, there is a lot more but this is a great start if you are working towards a successful product management career. Personally, taking on roles in different areas of the IT industry has helped me understand how I want to grow professionally at this point in my career. But it has also prepared me adequately for an opportunity towards a Product Management career.

From the soft skills of negotiating the dynamics of a team to the hard skills of analytics and prototyping Product Managers are expected to have a wide range of interchangeable skills to better manage the lifespan of a product, which begins before development and continues even after launch.
For now?! Only time can tell.


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