The different types of ‘Product Managers’: which one am I and which one do I need?

Carlos Beneyto
Mar 21, 2018 · 10 min read

First Things First! What’s a Product Manager?

The Product Manager is a key piece of any company. Also known as the responsible for the product, this professional is in charge of managing the product’s life cycle, from its creation, co-design, improve its usability, sales, and increase the profits.

The job of this professional is to manage the functioning of the products, from their creation until their launch in the market, until they vanish, obtaining the best profits with its sales. Meaning, the job of the product manager starts with the identification of new business opportunities and in the transformation of concrete products.

In short.

“A Product Manager is in charge of the correct handling of resources, to plan, create, launch, commercialize, scale and close a product”.

The ‘Product Manager’ is commonly known as the intersection between three very different profiles. The businessman, technology, and UX, here are some articles written about this subject from Marty Cagan, Martin Eriksson, and this treasure by Dan Schmidt. And obviously the classic post of Ben Horowitz and David Weiden.

Types of Product manager… ¡Oh! ¿Are there types?

Obviously, we are before a multifaceted profile, that has gone through many fields and handles each one of them with ease, but, in the end, you can’t be an expert at everything.

“Apprentice of everything master of none”.

And this is the main issue, believing that the Product Manager is an omnipotent being and that it has all the answers about everything, of any field, be Business, Tech or UX. Marketing, etc.

As we are going to see, it isn’t like this because we need to differentiate the past and the training of each person, and from this, we will be able to see which ones exist because there are many Product manager profiles.

Many profiles? I know this can look heavy, but only by knowing the differences, we will be able to select those who apport greater value, according to the current phase of the company.

What types of product managers there are and what’s the difference between them? Ok, let’s go there!

These are common profiles, in theory, but rarely seen in a startup. With an ADE or MBA formation, they have certain knowledge about the product and they are in charge of handling the resources in an optimum way.

These are very traditional profiles (but remember, this isn’t a bad thing) and depends on the necessity and the time of your product, it usually gets along with Marketing, not so much with Technology.

  • 🔥 Superpowers: Great management capacity, finance knowledge (costs, productions, etc.) and great communication with the Marketing area.
  • 🚫 Kryptonite: Lack of knowledge of product development, low interpretative capacity and lower resolution skills for the design-tech problems (they lack the required knowledge).

When do I need a PM: Manager?

In my humble opinion, we have to be aware of the state, team, and situation of the product in each case that we will talk about, but in general, you need a manager when your product is already in the market and needs to be iterated at a communication, sales and service level, and the conceptualization and development of new functions isn’t the core. For example for a big company such as IBM. (Core=the most important).

These are also very common, due to their trajectory in technology (seniors) and knowledge of product, the team grows and the necessity for a “Product Manager” arises, you put in this position, the most senior member or the one with the greatest capacity of communication with other areas of the company (on development level). The technologist.

They are usually introverted profiles, with lower communication skills, but they are very methodical and disciplined. It’s rare that they get along with other creative people, because: “They ask things without knowing what they want or without knowing how expensive development can get”.

  • 🔥 Superpowers: Technical and disciplined, everything will be tested and the correct functioning is key for them. They want it all to be perfect. They can only understand technology.
  • 🚫 Kryptonite: Time, they take their time due to their methodic ways and all the tests they deem necessary, the communication with marketing and the creative team (design) is weak and their language, they usually speak and communicate in a very technical level, and in some occasions there’s a need for a tech>human “translator”. Also, they consider the business side of the company as the “salesmen”.

When do I need a PM: Technologist?

When a startup/company requires a big effort at a product development level, one closer to the software field, where the methodology is key and it requires lots of analysis and tests.

The most disruptive group and “chaotic” there is (Not saying that chaotic is something bad), they are a storm of ideas, they are always a step ahead at a conceptual level, and they always want to offer a great experience.

These are more extroverted profiles, the opposite of the technologists, they love to talk, they love to argue and talk about stuff, two possible fields inside the creative team, the design/UX and the Marketing.

  • 🔥 Superpowers: “Feature Creator” by nature, they are deep in the details of a great product user experience, good communication with the designers — marketing, they innovate and have an excellent communication and motivation capacity.
  • 🚫 Kryptonite: They usually have managing issues, from resource to time management, the prioritization isn’t their forte and technology communication isn’t their specialty either. “The technologist doesn’t want to do it as I want it”.

When do I need a Creative PM?

If you are in the inception or creative phase, your product is in a creation phase or you have an area in Research and Development, these are the “crazy” thinkers and they are always looking for new opportunities, styles, and types of communication.

We are now entering in the hard to find “zone”, where there is a specialization (technology) and (managing) experience, good developers who end up joining the dark side of management, for example, by doing an MBA (Master in Business Administration) or that have professionally evolved.

In the end, is quite similar to the technologist profile, but these profiles have managing experience (on their own or in another company).

  • 🔥 Superpowers: The same as the technologists, but they have improved their communication skills, are more extroverted and understand the financing world, and can talk about the business side of things with no problems whatsoever.
  • 🚫 Kryptonite: They are no longer in the development side of things and that’s why they have almost no knowledge of the basic functioning (the entrails) of the product. They keep the issues in the creative area, and now they also add the argument “I can’t understand this technology and it looks expensive”.

When do I need a PM: Tech-Manager?

Startups and companies who have already gone through a phase of uncertainty in their technology and need to settle at a sales and business level, but the technical part is still very important or the product is very technical.

And now we are in swampy areas, where one can’t remember how he got here, a type of paradise where the planets align. Yes, they are hard to find.

An example would be, a technical profile that has developed a creative phaset, be it for necessity or for personal taste, a developer who has touched the visual part (usually known in mordor language as Front-end).

Another example, a creative profile (designer) who has taken the effort to learn higher level programming languages (more simple) such as Javascript, to create a professional career or just as a hobby.

  • 🔥 Superpowers: More extroverted than pure technologists, and they also can understand (at least roughly) how the product is developed, so the technical-creative communication is secure and they also know the cost of development, they can get a little restrictive when asking for more.)
  • 🚫 Kryptonite: They are still developing their managing side, making them still a little bit unreliable when talking about management (especially with time), they also avoid getting into the lower levels of development (To make it clear, I mean, the Back-End, Big-Data, IA, etc.)

When do you need a Techno-creative PM?

When you need a fluid and direct communication with the developers and creative team (designers and marketing), where you have great time margins and want a great final product (Have I heard MAP?) In the end, they end up improving the resource and time management, the CEO, COO or other more managing profiles can help with this task.

The crux of the matter, the rough diamond, the arc’s stone, the legendary pokémon, the hardest to find. These are profiles rarely found in normal situations.

These are profiles that have gone through all the areas, they get along well in every area and the most important thing, they can speak all the “languages”, they understand development, they are creative and disruptive, and they also have managing skills.

Where to find or where do these mythological beings dwell? Well, for example, these are “techno-creative” profiles and they have also founded a company or startup and know the business and managing side of things usually required for this.

  • 🔥 Superpowers: Multiple languages, they can speak with all the fields of work and they can also understand them, be in the business, tech and creative side of things (design/marketing), they are autonomous and they are usually resolutive (because they have knowledge about almost every area and they can create solutions, be technical, managing or creative).
  • 🚫 Kryptonite: Dispersion, they can’t focus on one thing, they can get a little dispersed, but at the same time they can picture the “end-line” with greater anticipation, the main issue about these types is to keep one. These are sought after profiles by big companies/startups and they will do everything to get one.

When do I need an “All-terrain” PM?

Usually, if your idea is to have him from the start, a profile with these characteristics usually can solve more problems than they can create, and due to this, you want one in any phase of your company/startup (that’s why they are sought after and very hard to find).

So. How can we explain it? A final view? Here I’ll leave the following table which I call The “PM Selection Table”.

Everything depends on our needs and what is required at the moment, each one has their virtues and defects, but they all have something in common. Trust.

Trust in themselves, in their decisions, in their team and each member of it since the team needs to work as a team, and the Product Manager is also part of this team.

But let’s not forget, that in the end, the most important thing is that a Product Manager needs to know how to listen to his team, value their aptitudes and attitudes to work in the project and filter all the ideas and commentaries shared by the team to execute the most aligned with the purpose of the product and the company at this given moment.

“To start a new project, it’s necessary to think who will be in charge of project management, and make sure that he fulfills the position and above all, that he is the most suitable for the job”.

What type of Product Manager you need or you are?

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Carlos Beneyto

Written by

Entrepreneur, Soft. Engineer / Product Designer, enjoy marketing and promoting online businesses, applefan and rugby lover.

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