So you want to be a Product Manager…?

I was recently scavenging Quora for questions on Product Management…and I came up with the same old pattern of questions on how does one become a Product Manager anyway!

Questions are mainly focused on a “stupid’s guide to product management”, and go like this:

How do I become a product manager?

I am a tech project manager. How can I become a product manager?

What qualifications are required to become a software product manager/team leader?

Is it possible to become a product manager after I graduate?

You may go through the answers given by fellow quorans, and I am sure you’ll find a lot of useful advice, tips and relevant resources. I do too from time to time…

But I would like to offer another form of advice with this post. One that is best depicted with this answer:

“One of the best ways to demonstrate your interest in product management is to work on a side project that gives you the experience in shipping a product …” by Kevin Lee

It’s true, you know. Product management like any principle has its rules, principles and structured approaches, but when it comes to becoming a PM and not just faking the role, you’ve got to go down head first…

So it’s simple. Work for a startup. A PM has to be aware of the full lifecycle of a product. And believe you me, you won’t get that in a corporate environment. It’s a startup that can offer you the thrill of dealing with all aspects of creation and commercialisation of a product.

that WILL be you!

And just to help you not get ahead of yourself…it will take its toll. You’ll be working with a small team which will be looking to you for: guidance, mockups, user stories, flowcharts, personas, market research, roadmaps, being the tie breaker in product development bottlenecks, setting up launch checklists, setting up marketing guidelines, ensuring the viral loops are there, ensuring they are double viral loops, customer support, customer research, documenting, PR material, PR coverage, funding resources, …and a ton of other things.

To say this mildly, you’ll be the startup’s “bitch”. A valuable one at that, but the team’s bitch nevertheless. Sure you’ll be able to bring out the “management” card, but make no mistake that you’ll be the artist in this…your value will be evident if everything falls into place after launch.

However for you success or failure doesn’t matter…that much. Most startups fail anyway. What’s important in picking a startup for your first product management “gig” is only one thing…to be asked and thus expected to deal with everything that has to do with the product. You might have in depth knowledge in one field, eg android development, and that’s cool. But it won’t be enough if you are looking into becoming a successful product manager. You will be expected to have an opinion or know how to form an opinion about all aspects and justify it when it comes down to it. That’s why a startup, for me, is the perfect environment to help you lay the foundations for those PM skills you’ll need in the future.

So ask away on Quora or what have you…but while you do that, get your butt out there, find a startup and sweat equity the hell out of it. I can promise you this…it will be difficult and taxing, but you won’t regret a single moment!

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