Why You Should Consider a Career in Product Management
I’ve recently talked to a few people who are considering a career in Product Management. It was a very insightful and enriching experience for me to say the least, and I felt the need to structure a little my advice and make it more accessible. If you are also a fresh graduate or someone looking to switch careers, keep reading. A few years ago, I was in the same situation. After more than four years in the field, here is why I think a career in Product Management should be high on your list.
And I don’t just mean in terms of work-life balance. Yes, you can work remotely and from your own home. You can also choose whether you prefer a corporation, a startup, or maybe you want to freelance. Relocating abroad is also a possibility. In short, you have options, and so you can indeed find what fits best your desired lifestyle. Product Management gives you that flexibility.
But what is uplifting is that as a Product Manager, you get the ultimate flexibility — you get to define your role. It’s expected of you to come up with your backlog of things and then to prioritize it. Because the role itself is different from organization to organization, there are plenty of Product Management flavors out there. Lucas Didier’s aptly named article The 99 Types of Product Managers is an eye-opener. You get the point.
You’ll learn a lot
Being a Product Manager, one thing that I am grateful for is the endless learning opportunities. Product Managers get to collaborate with several other roles daily, and while challenging, this also means we get to learn tons of new things all the time. Think engineering, design, research, marketing, sales, support. Overall, the variety of domain knowledge you’ll acquire in the Product Manager role is indeed remarkable.
Besides, you’ll hone quite a few soft skills as well. You’ll become a better leader. Your communication skills will improve. You’ll get more comfortable with making decisions since you’ll have to make a few every hour. You’ll sharpen your problem-solving and collaboration skills since that’s pretty much the essence of your role. All these easily come handy also outside of the office. Think about it; it’s a robust skillset to have.
No need for a specific degree
I spent a few years working in Research and Strategy before I realized it’s not a fit. I thought I need to spend time and money for another degree so I can switch career paths. Not so fast. Product management does not require a specific degree. It’s inspiring to see how people from very diverse backgrounds such as Engineering, Design, Data Science, and more end up in a product role. You can do it too.
To get your first job in Product Management, you’d still need to demonstrate several skills, though. Brent Tworetzky did a thorough job at listing these skills in his brilliant article Product Manager Skills By Seniority Level — A Deep Breakdown. The good news is that some of these skills you might already have. The reality is that as long as you have the right mindset and soft skills, you can learn all of the rest pretty fast on the job from your team, your fellow Product managers, mentors.
Hands down the most crucial reason why you should consider becoming a product manager is it’s utterly satisfying. It’s currently in demand, and so it’s well-paid, plus you have a rapid career progression unless you go to one of the multinational companies. Not to mention, due to the nature of the role, you get exposure to top management all the time, which has its perks.
But that’s only a part of the story. What is truly rewarding is observing how a user interacts with your creation, and you realize you’ve solved one of their problems. Whether it’s helping them do something faster, cheaper, in a more convenient way, or it’s a ground-breaking one-of-a-kind innovation, you helped create something that had a positive impact on someone’s life. The better you get at product management, the more often you get to experience this. It’s addictive.
Beware the cost
If I convinced you and you’re already browsing PM jobs, that’s great, but please stay with me for a little longer. While I love my role, and it’s the only one I can imagine myself doing with a smile, many of my fellow Product friends will agree that mentally, it’s a very demanding role. You can read my honest take in The Mental Cost of Being a Product Manager and also make sure to check out this brilliant article by John Cutler on some of the challenges you’ll face.
While all this could sound very compelling, you have to be honest with yourself. This role, just like any other, is all about personal fit. If you’re looking for a well-defined, structured role with little uncertainty and no improvisation required, if you prefer to work alone, then product management is not for you. There are plenty of other excellent roles that would fit, keep looking.