Want to get into product management? Here’e exactly how to do it…
There has never been a more exciting time to become a product manager in the digital or technology industry.
The tech industry is booming with more access to capital, information and people than ever before.
If there were ever time to build, measure and learn in the product world, it’s now.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking “how can I get into product management?” The great news is that you do not need any specific or technical knowledge to take the plunge.
You simply need one personal trait…
A passion to create something from nothing, a passion to work with a team of people towards a common cause and a passion to constantly improve.
If the above sounds like you, then read on! Here are four golden ideas to take control and venture into a career of product management.
Focus on the company, not the position
Let’s look at a classic career move, represented by a fictional character, Bill.
Bill is a mechanical engineer, and he has decided that he needs to change jobs. First off, Bill looks up job openings based on his own credentials as a mechanical engineer.
Then, Bill looks at the package — how much he will get paid. When all seems well, Bill continues to inspect the job description and then finally turns his attention to the most vital detail of them all… The company…
The problem with the above, is Bill is basing his whole career movement on what he does, rather than why he does it.
Instead, let’s reorder this decision, starting with the company.
Whether defined or not, every company has a purpose and a set of values which drive such. You, as a human being, also have a purpose and values (if you have not defined this, then you should probably start with this…) If your own purpose and the purpose of a given company align on some level, then this is what we call employee/employer synergy — The first ingredient to work place enjoyment and professional success.
Now, if you start working for a company that you already align with, the work that you produce will naturally be at a higher level. It does not matter if you enter said company as a business analyst, a developer or as a sales rep — if you align with the company then you will improve your work output, without really realising it.
Ok, so how is this relevant to getting into product management?
Executives generally want proven individuals in product management positions. So, prove yourself in another role for the company that you align with, and you will be in a position to request a role change to a product manager.
Learn the development process and brainstorm ways to improve it
Every organisation has a particular development process that they adhere to. Whether it has been created to maximise efficiency or increase quality of delivery, every organisation will have some sort of process in place.
Your job is to learn this process and figure out ways to make it better, so when your time comes, you will shine!
Now, if you’re completely new to development processes in the tech world, I suggest you brush up on the following:
- Waterfall methodologies — kind of old school, but still used in certain situations and worthwhile understanding
- Agile methodologies — the new way to develop digital products
- Scrum — named after the beautiful game, rugby. A group of people working towards a common cause with set objectives
- Sprints — A component of agile, but still worth reading further into the depths of sprint optimisation.
There are a number of great publications which can help you with the above points. Here are a few:
- The lean start up — build and measure products quickly
- Sprint — Solve big problems in just five days
- UX Strategy — How to devise digital products that people want
Learn how to manage different personality types effectively
As represented by the graphic at the top of this post, product management is the intersection between customers, technology and business.
While this is theoretically correct, there is a fourth element which you’ll need to become a great product manager — people management.
As a product manager, you have a very high involvement with a team of software developers. In all cases you are in charge of their work and in some cases you may even be their direct manager.
You see, as a product manager, it’s your job to prioritise the most important features that need to be developed. You need to be able to communicate such priority effectively with your development team, so they understand why such priority exists.
Every person is different (if you’re familiar with the tech industry, you’ll know first hand about the different personality types that can exist in a product team!) and given that your whole job is to communicate development expectations based on business outcomes, then you better know how to communicate and lead different personality types.
Again, there are a number of books that you can read which will help with your development in this area. I personally recommend the following:
- Start with Why, by Simon Sinek
- Leaders eat Last, also by Simon Sinek (I’m a bit of a fan)
- How to win friends and influence people in the digital age, by Dale Carnegie
Some people suggest this is the first point of call — that to show off your skills, you should develop something. While this can sometimes be effective, I suggest this as nothing more than the icing on the cake.
However, showcasing your ability to learn and your passion may not always be enough, in which case you also need to show a project that you have delivered with a team.
Now, for those who are not technical, it can be hard to know where to start. You do not want to sink a whole lot of money into developing an ‘app’ just so you can get a job as a product manager.
Rather, look for a small project to make at home. Something as simple as a personal website could be the deciding factor that lands you a product manager job.
So there you have what I believe to be the most effective approach to getting into product management — choose the right company to work for, help them improve their development cycle, become a company leader and develop something yourself, then you will be in an excellent position to excel as a product manager.
While on this journey, always remember why you started, and the passion associated with such. Stay true to that and you’ll end up in the right place.
If you have any questions about this, I’m happy to help out. Leave me a message, and I will be sure to get back to you.
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