Spotlights

Job Description

Product managers help business leaders figure out what software products to make and why. They then work with engineers and designers to design, build, test, and deliver those solutions to customers.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Problem solving – given the company’s mission, a limited time, team and budget, what should be the main focus to help customers?
  • Working with a team
  • Hands on projects
  • Testing and building ideas
  • Putting prototypes or finished products in front of users to see what they think
$108,978
The Inside Scoop
Day in the Life
  • Every day is different
  • Either spend time analyzing business opportunities and discussing strategy with other product managers and company leaders, or working with engineers and designers to figure out what’s being built and test versions of it with our users
  • Also spend time hiring, mentoring, and improving processes to best support the team
  • Click here for a product manager’s day in the life
Skills Needed
  • User research
  • Wireframing (basic design)
  • Data analysis
  • Strategic thinking
  • Strong communications (speaking/ writing, and listening/ reading)
  • Project management
  • People management
  • Decision making
  • Technical understanding
Different Types of Organizations
  • Tech companies of any size (startup or established)

Expectations/Sacrifices Necessary
  • Have to gain experience at an entry level position in either the technical or business world before becoming a product manager

Current Industry Trends
  • Create modular offerings for products
  • Find relevant vendor partnerships
  • Develop and share APIs to make software more useful in customers’ actual workflows
  • Automate more of the customers’ workflows with products
  • Leverage data to create more value
  • Add focus to customer value
  • Within Product Management (PM) there are typically a few specializations:
  • Growth – someone with a quantitative background who figures out how to get people to initially see and use your product online in the most cost effective way possible
  • Core product -- people of diverse backgrounds who help drive how engaging the product is
  • Platform – non user-facing products that are more technical and behind the scenes
What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...
  • Observed how others interact
  • Played with different types of products and thought about what they liked/ didn’t like about them
  • Teamed up with people of different backgrounds – those who knew things they didn’t, and came together to experiment and create new things
  • Ran their own mini business
Education and Training Needed
  • A Technical Product Manager position generally requires a bachelor’s degree in a technical field such as engineering or computer science, however business courses are important, too
  • Some employers may look for MBA graduates with real work experience in IT, engineering, or marketing and sales
  • Coding experience can be helpful, but isn’t needed for all positions. Common languages to be familiar with are HTML, CSS, C#, Python, and SQL
  • Communication and soft skills are very important, as many PMs deal with teams, customers, and stakeholders to discuss features, roadmaps, and product strategy
  • Familiarity with Agile/scrum methodology may be handy
  • Certifications can help boost your credentials. A few popular options are:
    • AIPMM - Certified Product Marketing Manager and Agile Certified Product Manager And Product Owner
    • University of Alberta via Coursera - Software Product Management
    • Boston University via Keystone - MicroMasters Program in Digital Product Management
    • Advanced certs include ones offered by the American Society of Quality and Six Sigma
Top Universities for Software Product Manager
  • NYU Stern
  • Tepper School of Business
  • Harvard Business School
  • MIT Sloan
  • University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business
Things to do during high school/college
  • Stock up on classes such as writing, public speaking, marketing, business, math, IT, and computer programming
  • Research companies you’d like to work for. Check their job postings in advance to see what the requirements are
  • Don’t wait to get started on your certifications. The more you can do, the more you’ll stand out among the competition
  • Volunteer with school organizations where you can gain leadership, management, and teamwork skills
  • Find part-time jobs in sales and marketing to get real world experience for your resume
  • Hone your persuasive and technical writing skills by reading different types of writing, such as website copywriting and technical manuals. Find ways to combine these styles so you can explain technical features in a compelling way!
How to land your 1st job
  • Technical PM jobs require a mix of business, technical, and people skills gained outside of the academic environment
  • Many PMs are hired internally after serving in other positions within a company. Some gain experience by starting their own companies
  • Sometimes Product Manager internships lead to full-time jobs. They are also valuable for gaining practical experience
  • Holding relevant certifications can put you ahead of the curve when it comes to job-seeking
  • Visit your school’s career center to get tips on resume writing and mock interviews
  • Attend job fairs and use LinkedIn to connect with recruiters
  • Talk to your potential references before listing them on application materials
  • Build profiles on job portals such as Monster, Indeed, Glassdoor, and Zippia. Keep an eye out for jobs that you have all the qualifications for
  • Check out Technical Product Manager resume templates for ideas
  • Prep for interviews by reading Technical Product Manager interview questions
What it really takes to make it and succeed
  • Must have high empathy for users and for team members and business leaders (business leaders and your engineering team)
  • Strong communication and people skills need to be strong
  • Must have a deep business sense and problem solving abilities
  • Organization skills
How to Find a Mentor
  • Product managers can find mentors organically through their company
  • Industry meetups and events where you can get to know or volunteer with other product managers
Recommended Resources

Websites

  • AIPMM
  • Product Development and Management Association
  • Silicon Valley Product Management Association
  • The Association of Product Professionals
  • Follow well-known product managers on Medium, such as Julie Zhou (Facebook Product Design leader)
  • How to Prepare for a PM Interview: https://medium.com/pminsider/preparing-for-pm-interviews-how-to-get-there-in-15-20-hours-193f6fcbf606
  • Firstround Review

Books

  • Cracking the PM Interview: How to Land a Product Manager Job in Technology, by Gayle McDowell and Jackie Bavaro  
  • Product Management For Dummies, by Brian Lawley and Pamela Schure
  • The Product Manager's Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know to Succeed as a Product Manager, by Steven Haines
  • The Lean Startup
Plan B
  • CEO of their own software company
  • Any business related job due to the cultivated skill set
Words of Advice

“The best way to know what a product manager role is like is to work on a product team. See if you can do this by pairing with a friend who is trying to build something online or in an app, and figuring out the ways you can help or collaborate together.” - Beverly Chung, Lead Product Manager, Lumosity

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