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Career Path: How to Become a Product Manager

You have chosen your career path and are ready to become a Product Manager. Companies big and small are in need of individuals that will help guide the success of their products, as well as launch new ones. With an increase of startups around the world, you can assist businesses with their marketability and growth.

Getting Through the Door

While seeking a job as an entry-level/associate product manager, you have to know some basic skills. You will need to understand product allocation, as well as production procedures. Being familiar or well-versed with how a p...more

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Career-building content for Product Managers

We've collected tons of information on salaries, compensation, negotiation and more. See even more on our blog.

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Career Path: How to Become a Product Manager

You have chosen your career path and are ready to become a Product Manager. Companies big and small are in need of individuals that will help guide the success of their products, as well as launch new ones. With an increase of startups around the world, you can assist businesses with their marketability and growth.

Getting Through the Door

While seeking a job as an entry-level/associate product manager, you have to know some basic skills. You will need to understand product allocation, as well as production procedures. Being familiar or well-versed with how a product is made is also important whether the item is software-related or not. You also need to comprehend the user interface and interaction design, scale and growth, data extraction, analytics, conflict management and domain knowledge.

Other technical skills that can give you an advantage include knowledge of Microsoft Office Suites like Word and Excel, or G Suites like Adwords and Analytics. Some of the other minimum requirements that you will need to qualify as an entry- to junior-level manager include:

  • Managing a product's lifecycle
  • Assist in leading cross-functional teams
  • Gather and analyze market data and customer requirements
  • Able to break down complex problems into concrete deliverables
  • Evaluate competitive threats, strengths and weaknesses
  • Work with business leaders and stakeholders to define service positioning, pricing strategy and differentiation
  • Comfortable operating in a fast-paced environment
  • Strong empathy for customers along with being a team player that's willing to learn
  • Excellent problem-solving, interpersonal, verbal and written communication skills

Degrees and Experience

Companies usually look for product managers to have a degree in business, management, computer science or other related fields, although most individuals tend to have an MBA. Internships can help you to gain hands-on experience, which will make your résumé attractive. You can learn needed skills through online courses and boot camps on platforms such as Udemy and BrainStation. Employers will also look for you to be highly knowledgeable about project management methodologies.

Working as a Junior-Level Manager

As a junior-level manager, your main responsibilities will be to manage the entire product lifecycle. You will drive the development, engineering and marketing teams through positioning, requirements and contracts. A junior-level manager will help troubleshoot issues, maintain analytics and reports, as well as provide relevant product metrics and build a roadmap. You may also assist with promotions, create user stories, prototypes and test plans.

Moving Up the Ranks

You have acquired more experience as a product manager and are ready to move up a level in your career. Staying up-to-date on the latest technologies in the field is a wonderful way to acquire the knowledge needed to grow. Expanding your management skills, as well as becoming certified will help you achieve your goal. There are the CMP (Certified Project Manager), CIL (Certified Innovation Leader) and the ACPMPO (Agile Certified Project Manager and Product Owner) certifications by AIPMM that will catch the eye of employers.

Advance Your Career: How to Become a Senior Product Manager

Senior Product Managers have a leadership role. They will help develop and implement product strategies that are consistent with the company's vision. Leading product managers and coordinating with marketing, engineering and other teams is part of the job. You will analyze and collect feedback from stakeholders along with customers to shape features, requirements and end products. Ensuring that products and releases are launched on schedule, as well as producing and reviewing requirement documents are also something the senior product manager is tasked with.

Study the Core Fields

To be an expert product manager, you have to be skilled in your field. This involves being knowledgeable of agile methodologies and product management strategies. Ratcheting up on your analytical and problem-solving skills will help in this field. Senior product managers are able to multitask and take ownership of the tasks at hand. The ability to perform competitive analysis, identify market trends and monetize opportunities are also required.

Invest in Yourself

You have proven your expertise in the field as a senior product manager. You have solid written, verbal, presentation, and interpersonal communication skills. You can manage business priorities with a scaled agile approach, as well as balance technical challenges. Managing concurrent projects and driving initiatives in a cross-functional environment is also part of your job. A good understanding of B2B SaaS, UX design, development best practices along with agile tools like Basecamp and JIRA will give you an advantage. Employers also like to see experience with managing consumer-facing products.

Don't Stop at Manager

Expand your knowledge by taking advantage of educational opportunities while on the job. There are organizations where you can gain valuable insight like the PDMA (Product Development and Management Association) and the AIPMM (Association of International Product Marketing and Management). You can join online communities on sites like Slack, LinkedIn, Roadmap and Facebook. There are also meetups going on around the world for product managers to attend, such as ProductTank and ProductCamp. All of this can further accelerate your goals by keeping you up-to-date with industry trends and help build a strong network of skilled individuals that may offer access to potential employers.

Product Manager Job Description

We’ve done the research for you. After evaluating numerous job descriptions, we’ve written our own representative job description for a mid-level manager with between two and five years of relevant experience.

As a product manager, you will define business objectives and consumer needs to translate them into viable products. You can multitask and work efficiently in a team environment on critical projects to get them completed on time and within budget. Our product managers are self-motivated and display leadership qualities. We welcome diversity and encourage healthy debate and discussion.

What We Need Your Help With

  • Define product and prioritization strategy
  • Ensuring product success, including design, engineering, content, analytics and marketing
  • Using data to guide the short-term and long-term roadmap
  • Provide product forecasts and propose cost improvements
  • Evaluate market research on competitors, markets and technology trends
  • Support development by managing the product backlog and prioritizing problems
  • Ability to work collaboratively with stakeholders, as well as cross-functional teams in development, project management, sales, marketing, finance and partner channels to successfully drive business objectives

What We Look For

  • 3+ years of product management experience
  • 2+ years of business analytics or software product management
  • Experience with web and mobile applications
  • Experience with Version One, G Suite and Microsoft Office
  • Experience with Java, Python, C++ or JavaScript
  • Knowledgeable of data management platforms
  • Proficient with project management tools like JIRA and Trello
  • Experience performing user research, market/competitive research and soliciting customer feedback
  • Experience working with engineers in an agile environment
  • Strong technical, time management, interpersonal, organizational, analytical, problem-solving and communication skills
  • B.S. in computer science, business, engineering, economics or other related fields or experience

THESE WOULD ALSO BE NICE

  • Experience with e-commerce technology and platforms
  • Experience with user storyboards and stack ranking methods
  • Familiarity with APIs, SQL and web analytics frameworks
  • Certifications in project management

Senior Product Manager Career Paths: Where To Go From Here

You have acquired 10 years of experience and are ready to embark on a new challenge. With technology advancing at a fast pace, companies are looking for experts to handle all phases of the production process for successful results. Being able to lead and have a strong business acumen, as well as make sure a product meets client requirements is what you are able to do.

Senior Product Managers may work as a Product Management Director where their responsibilities consist of overseeing the creation of strategic plans to ensure the sale and profitability of products lines and services. They will focus on the quality of a finished product and the efficiency of the process. From this point, you can transition into the role of Senior Product Management Director in which your main goal is to increase the success and awareness of the product on the market, as well as provide vision and will delegate tasks to other departments. There's the position of the Chief Operating Officer (COO) who will execute the daily operations for the company and improve operating procedures to increase profits. The next step on this career path is that of the VP of Product Management where their main responsibilities are to work with product and project managers to ensure products meet the need of the customer. There's also the executive roles of the Senior VP of Product Management, the Executive Director and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) that may suit your late career goals.

The positions listed generally require a bachelor's degree with a master's being an employer's preferred choice, such as an MBA in some cases. Managerial and industry certifications along with years of expertise in the field are a must-have on this journey. You will also need to possess not only excellent communication skills but be able to work independently, lead effectively and make important decisions for the company as a whole.

"Agile Methodologies" or "Agile" are ways of describing an iterative approach to software development. Often adopted as an alternative to waterfall and other traditional sequential development practices. It is meant to help teams work quickly to i...

Python is an object-oriented programming language notable for its clarity, power and flexibility. Python is an interpreted language, meaning that an interpreter reads and runs the code directly, rather than compiling down into static lower level c...

Java is a statically-typed, cross-platform language. It is concurrent, class-based, and object-oriented. It has minimal implementation dependencies and compiled Java code can run on all platforms that support Java without the need for recompilat...

C++

C++ is an object-oriented language derived from C, and invented by Bjarne Stroustrup, while working at AT&T's Bell Labs. It is widely used for systems-level programming, and building applications on Windows and various Unix operating systems (Lin...

C

C is a widely used low-level, static-typed, compiled computer language known for its efficiency. Developed in the late sixties, C has become one of the most widely used languages of all time. It provides direct access to memory and due to its de...

SQL

Structured Query Language (SQL) is a highly popular domain specific language (DSL) used to communicate with relational database management systems (RDBMS). SQL is a standard that is based on the "relational model", defined by professor E.F. Codd,...

Adobe Photoshop is the mode widely used photo editing and image manipulation application in the world. It is used by designers and hobbyists worldwide to design products, advertising, applications, websites, art, and more.

R is a language designed for data manipulation and visualization. It is capable of doing various statistical computing and graphic generation (including linear and nonlinear modelling, classical statistical tests, time-series analysis, classificat...

PHP

PHP is a widely-used open-source scripting language that has seen wide use in web application development. PHP code must be processed by an interpreter like the Zend Engine. With a strong open-source community and large adoption world-wide, PHP ...

Top industries hiring Product Managers

eCommerce

The retail landscape has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Retail was once a brick-and-mortar industry, comprised of small, independently owned-and-operated businesses and large chain stores with multiple outposts throughout the c...

Education

The education industry involves working in an environment that implements and teaches various skills and applicable material. Formal education typically involves various levels of education, including preschool, primary, secondary, tertiary, vo...

Analytics

Analytics and Business Intelligence roles are often confused but are also directly linked. Data that is collected when a user interacts with a system is then cleaned and stored. That data is then accessed using reports and graphical dashboards. Th...

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