I’ve taught product management to 10,000+ students in 121 countries. Here are the most common questions I get asked from students who want to become a product manager:
- I don’t have a technical background, do I need to know how to code?
- I don’t have any experience in product management, do I still have a chance of landing a job?
- I don’t have any domain knowledge in the company that is hiring me, will I still have a shot?
Answering those three questions begins with debunking the 3 biggest myths about becoming a product manager, using data from one of the most comprehensive reports on the product management industry: 2017 Product Insights published by Alpha.
Myth 1: You need a technical background to become a product manager
I’ve been a product manager for 10 years. Most of my peers didn’t have technical degrees. My manager (Director of Product) at Ticketmaster had an economics degree. His manager (SVP of Product) had a Political Science degree.
According to the PM Insights report, 76% of product managers held a non-technical role before becoming a product manager.
82% don’t have programming as a core skillset.
I see lots of aspiring product managers burn thousands of dollars on coding courses, because they believe this myth. Don’t be like them. Invest your time and energy in skills that matter.
What are the top 3 skills you need to become a rockstar product manager?
I put together a 1 hr webinar explaining each skillset in detail. You can view it for free here.
Myth 2: Years of product management experience to become a product manager
Many job listings include the sentence: “x years of product management experience required.”
A lot of people look at that sentence and are instantly held back. They don’t think they can quickly gather the experience. What the employers really means is: “we’re looking for someone with experience managing several products through their entire lifecycle.”
There’s an abundance of options today that let you quickly acquire the product management skills you need to become a product manager, and also so many side project opportunities where you actually gather product experience and build a product portfolio.
Here are 3 common paths that people take to get PM experience and land a PM job:
Slow path (3+ years): Get internally promoted into a PM role, gather experience, land a PM job.
Faster path is (2 years): Get an MBA, gather experience from school projects, land PM job.
Fastest path is (< 1 year): Take a specialized PM course, gather experience from hackathons / startup weekends, land a PM job
My purpose in life is to grow people. I believe education is one of the fastest ways to help people transform themselves.
Taking the right product management course from the right instructor will accelerate your journey into landing your first PM job.
Myth 3: You need to have lots of domain knowledge to become a product manager
I’ve had students come to me and ask: “I was working in oil and gas and now I want to work in consumer products. Will people still want to hire me as a product manager?”
The answer is absolutely yes.
One of the best sources of innovation is to apply proven patterns from a different domain.
Speaking from my own background, I went from working for NASA’s education department, designing NASA’s first iPhone app, to Apple, a consumer products company, over to a small startup called Getaround, which was in transportation, and then later to Ticketmaster, which is online ticketing and live entertainment.
Because I didn’t have deep domain knowledge when I first started each job, I was free from “domain biases.” I could look at problems with a fresh set of eyes.
Because I had a strong foundation in the core product management skill set, I was able to do the same thing that I do in every product management job and immediately start delivering value. Because I came from a different industry, I was able to take proven patterns and proven business models and apply it to the new industry.
Companies love that.
The best product managers try to move away from biases. They look at the world as a laboratory. They run experiments and test hypothesis.
When you come in from a different industry, it forces you to look at a problem with an unbiased viewpoint and rely on data.
This clean-slate mentality is super helpful when you’re a product manager.
How to Become a Product Manager
So those are the 3 biggest myths of becoming a product manager. Your takeaways are:
- You do not need a technical background to become a product manager
- You do not need years of experience to land a product management job
- You do not need lots of domain knowledge to get hired as a product manager
Time is valuable.
Focus on the right skills.
Charles Du is a product management coach and founder of productcharles.com. His students have landed offers and interviews from Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Yelp.
Charles designed NASA’s first iPhone app (10+ million downloads, 2+ million hits per day, NASA’s Software of the Year Award), Ticketmaster’s mobile apps ($3+ million in sales per day, 2 patents), and the Airbnb for cars (Techcrunch Disrupt Award, 1 patent).
He has taught Product Management to 10,000+ students world-wide (US, India, Nigeria, South Korea) and have led workshops at 20+ education institutions (Stanford, General Assembly, Shanghai Jiao Tong, Singularity University).
Sign up for his free training at productcharles.com.