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Five Product Professionals Share the Top Soft Skills Required for Success in Product Management

Chances are, when you think of careers in tech, you think of hard skills like coding, data analysis, or database management. While these skills are required for some tech jobs, they may not be prerequisites for certain product roles. Job descriptions for product managers tend to vary widely from company to company, however, there are certain non-technical skills that can help you be a rockstar product manager, no matter where you work. We spoke with seasoned product professionals from the Her Product Lab community who shared the soft skills they have found most helpful in their careers.

Being able to lead with influence

“I think a big part of being influential in product management is being a good communicator,” says Shilpa Singh, senior director of product management at ADP Ventures. She’s not talking about just being a smooth talker or a great public speaker. “I think the key is to really get people to understand you, because if people understand you, then they tend to buy into you, and then they trust you, and then they believe you.” Part of getting people to understand you, Shilpa explains, is knowing your audience. “The way you would talk to an engineer is not the way you would talk to your business counterparts, and it’s not the way you would talk to your executives.”

If you’re trying to please everyone at once, it could result in a feature-rich product that might not satisfy anyone.” — Beth Jagodinsky, Director of P M and Strategy at Centare

Being a prioritizer

As a product manager, you will likely be inundated with ideas from your coworkers about everything your product could be doing. “Don’t try to accomplish everything at once,” says Beth Jagodinsky, Director of Product Management and Strategy at Centare. “Try to solve that one problem, target one market, or address one customer need at a time.” Simply put, you have to prioritize. If you take on too much, you risk missing the mark completely, Beth explains. “If you’re trying to please everyone at once, it could result in a feature-rich product that might not satisfy anyone.” This can also help you better assess what is and isn’t working. “It’s much easier to measure success for one feature or outcome at a time.”

Being able to think and learn on your feet

Like many PM’s, Nina Foroutan, Director of Product Development at Forbes, did not begin her career working in product. “I started in local news and it was there I learned to think on my feet.” Quick-thinking is a skill Nina’s continued to use in her career as a product manager. “I didn’t have any technical skills when I pivoted into product,” she continues. “For the most part, I think you can learn all that experience on the job.” Nina’s tip? Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help. “I’ve worked with some amazing engineers and have gone to them and said ‘Hey, can I buy you coffee or lunch and have you walk me through what CSS is or what HTML is?’ Most of the time, they are so excited to share what they know.”

Being an empath

“Something that has worked well for me is being able to empathize and build human connections,” says Jackie DeJesse, a Product Manager at Google. This has two parts to it, Jackie explains. “One part is the ability for you to understand your users: What are their fears, what motivates them, what do they need?” But meeting your users’ needs isn’t a solo job — it’s a team effort. “Empathy is also critical to how you build relationships internally at your company.” Jackie continues. “Being able to connect with folks at work who can help you reach deliverables and negotiate makes a huge difference.”

“If you don’t have empathy for your teammates and can’t pivot based on their needs, how can you do the same for your product and customers?” — Hannah Bertiger, Walmart Product Manager

Being a team builder

“This is an inherently people-centric role,” says Hannah Bertiger, a Product Manager for Walmart. “The basic tenets for creating a product are based on research, testing, talking with your customers, and iteration. This should also be replicated in your connections and workflows with your team members.” What does this look like in practice? “I try to have transparency and open communication with my team and give space for consistent feedback or time to try out new approaches,” Hannah says. “You need to make your team feel heard and excite them about the future. If you don’t have empathy for your teammates and can’t pivot based on their needs, how can you do the same for your product and customers?”

Want to learn from more amazing product professionals? Check out our website where you can sign up for our monthly newsletter. For daily updates, follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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HerProductLab is a global community for women in and around product management. Through an incubator program, regular learning series, annual conferences, insight, podcasts, and much more HerProductLab strives to bring women who build, design, and create products together.

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Carlee Murray

Carlee Murray

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