3 non-technical skills you need to succeed in Product Marketing

Zach Roberts
Break Into Product Marketing
6 min readFeb 24


Three skills you can’t teach new product marketers.

Excited to introduce Chanel Chambers, as our first guest writer of “Break Into Product Marketing”. Chanel is an enterprise technology marketer, advisor, mentor, and coach. In this six-minute read, she looks back at her career and shares the three critical skills you can’t teach a new product marketer.

Great product marketers can’t be built through AI. Experiences teach what computers can’t. Before leading marketing teams, I studied music education and English at Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music. Product marketing was not even a career path (or major) back then!

My first jobs (and no, that is not a typo) had nothing to do with technology, but they were the building blocks of product marketing. I used my music degree to teach as a junior high band director, and outside of the band room I wrote for the local paper in Lorain County, Ohio. I researched and reported the facts as I saw them. I brought young minds together to make music people enjoy and to teach students the value of performance and grit. Unconventional training for any product marketer. Training I still use today.

I became a full-stack web developer and built out web infrastructure for 6 years before going back to business school for my MBA at UNC-Chapel Hill. Business school expanded my professional network and gave me exposure to many roles and many companies.

After business school, I moved to Washington state to launch Windows 7 as a product manager, and it was during this time that I realized that I enjoy many of the building blocks of product marketing: storytelling, evangelism, and building relationships with customers. After the launch of Windows 7, I followed the product “into the field” and moved into a product marketing role leading sales play development for the U.S. portion of the Windows Commercial business.

Fun fact: This photo ran on Windows XP (predecessor to Windows 7) and is regarded as the most viewed picture in the world, considering how many computers in the world operated on XP.

Since then, I have led multiple product marketing organizations ranging in size from 2–15 across early-stage startups to large public companies. And now I sit on the other side of the (virtual) interview table.

So how to stand out in your next product marketing interview if you *think* you have no direct experience?

Look back at your experiences, reflect on what you’ve learned, and build a case around them to prove why you’re the best candidate for the job.

As a hiring manager, I look for a few things when interviewing product marketing candidates. Here are some attributes that indicate likely success in a product marketing role:

  • Be comfortable with ambiguity
  • Have a “point of view”
  • Show impact and influence

And, here’s what you need to know to emphasize and impress upon in your next interview.

Be comfortable with ambiguity

The ability to make something out of nothing is a superpower in product marketing. There’s no “right” answer. There are “good” answers and “better answers,” but the world we work in is fundamentally ambiguous, and there’s no rule book.

To make progress, you must embrace the ambiguity and be curious. Ask questions to spark dialogue. Question your own assumptions too!

As a product marketer, your immediate goal from this exercise is to cultivate an informed opinion. Your point of view (POV) shapes how you attack your work. Which brings me to the second point…

Have a “point of view”

Have a thesis about what should happen. Stand for something and be ready to back it up with sound evidence. Don’t let indecision wreck your path as a product marketer. Imagine yourself as an investigative journalist. You don’t settle for what you see alone.

Someone writing in their planner with an overhead shot looking down at their workspace.
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Product marketers I want to hire must be curious and have enough confidence to ask the right questions. It’s a delicate balance you can’t teach outright. You learn through deliberate questioning, testing, and iteration. Reflect on what that looks like across your past experiences.

Have a thesis about what should happen. Stand for something and be ready to back it up with sound evidence. Don’t let indecision wreck your path as a product marketer.

What you ask informs your search for understanding the problem you want to solve. Your laser focus on the problem informs your opinion. Don’t muddle it with uninformed opinions. Everyone has one. But then again, not everyone is a product marketer.

Show impact and influence

Marketing is a craft of persuasion. Marketers create the foundation to persuade customers to buy something. And product marketers are often in the position of persuading internal stakeholders to accept their point of view when creating marketing strategy, campaigns, and assets. You must be able to win people over to your point of view to drive impact.

Imagine yourself as an investigative journalist. You don’t settle for what you see alone.

Winning people over isn’t always about being the loudest person in the room: You can use qualitative and quantitative data to make your points. You can build relationships internally and externally to earn credibility with your stakeholders. You can engage your colleagues and leadership team strategically as well. However you wield influence, do it consciously and with purpose.

How you can highlight these skills in a Product Marketing interview

Whether you’re new to product marketing or have several years of experience, it’s important to approach interview questions with a framework. By addressing interview questions systematically, you can highlight transferable skills in a way that is easy for the interviewer to follow. I personally like the STAR (Situation — Task — Action — Result) and PAR (Problem — Action — Result) frameworks, but it’s best to use one that works for your style, experience, and taste.

Also, how you communicate results matters as much as what results you seek to deliver. Connect them to business goals or key performance indicators (KPIs) where you can. For instance, let’s say you are asked to build a new message map. This task will dictate how the company talks about a new product launch. But your work does not stop there!

Ask yourself…

  • What is the context of this work?
  • What results will it influence across the business and for customers?
  • Where does this project fit within the grand scheme of it all?

Other teams benefit from what you do. And you do not give yourself enough credit if the impact of your work goes unmentioned or unmeasured. This is how you speak to impact. You can’t do this with everything you work on but, where you can, show you are aware of the environment you operate in and why the results you produce matter.

In closing

Don’t minimize the unique experiences you bring to the table. You can emphasize comfort with ambiguity, point of view, and ability to influence in many contexts. Self-awareness is your starting point to connect those dots.

Product marketers are problem solvers. To succeed in your next product marketing interview, uncover blueprints to your past wins and become proficient on how you speak to processes you built or used to achieve those outcomes.

My career took many twists and turns before arriving to product marketing. Music education, journalism, web development, business school, and product management. Reflect to unlock what you can deliver in your first product marketing job. Your potential sits in plain sight.

Thank you, Chanel, for sharing your expertise with our readers! Follow her on LinkedIn and share this article with someone who’d also benefit from what you read. Check out more of her bio below.

Until next time! 👋🏾

Fuse a musician’s mind with a technician’s hands and you have the essence of what makes Chanel unique. As an enterprise technology marketer, advisor, mentor, and coach, Chanel applies a deep curiosity and analytical approach to create stories that help people and organizations thrive.

A trained musician, Chanel completed the dual-degree program at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. She began her technology career at Red Hat and has led marketing teams at companies large and small, including Microsoft, Citrix, and Tanium. She holds an M.S. in Technical Communication from North Carolina State University, and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

When she’s not working, Chanel enjoys playing and watching tennis, although she admits that her passion for the sport far outstrips her actual skill.



Zach Roberts
Break Into Product Marketing

Demystify product marketing. 2022 Product Marketing Alliance Newcomer of the Year. Living in San Francisco.