I'm Thinking About a Career in Product Management. What Do I Need to Know?
What does a product manager do? What are the qualifications for a career in product management? How can I break into this field and what should I know before starting my journey?
This article will answer these questions and more.
No college (at least not yet) offers a degree in Product Management. It’s not a “technical” skill in the traditional sense. Product managers can come from any major, with some studies showing that STEM majors have a slight edge. But they need the following skills:
- Solid analytical skills to understand user needs and product offerings
- Excellent communication skills to articulate business strategy
- A knack for translating high level ideas into tangible deliverables
As a first step to beginning your career in product management, it’s most important to understand what it is all about. Becoming a student of the craft, so that you are well-versed with the concepts of product management is most useful, even if you already have a background in technology.
Once you have a good understading of the concepts and the scope of product management, the best next step is to develop your “product thinking” skills. The best way to develop a product thinking mindset is to start proactively asking yourself these questions:
- “What kind of products do I use regularly, professionally or personally?”
- “In the products that I use regularly, which ones do I like and which ones I don’t?”
- “What problems does the products I use solve?”
- “What could be improved in the products that I use regularly?”
- “If I were creating this product from scratch, what would be the most valuable set of features I would want to include in the first version of that product?”
This is just a small list of the possible questions you could be asking yourself. A strong product mindset is built from being curious about products you use and like (or don’t like).
The next most important thing is to be invovled in building or improving a product. It’s key to understanding how products you use are designed and built. If possible, “getting your hands dirty” by trying to create something is necessary to hone your skills. These days you don’t need to be a web developer or designer to create products. You can get creative with various no-code solutions or even simpler sketches on paper that can go a long way in bringing to life an idea you want.
Finally, it’s about knowing what makes a product good or bad, but more importantly- why? The number one key to being successful in the field of product management is that deep interest in your own craft. The questions you ask yourself can give direction for which areas to explore within the field, including strategy (who are our customers?), research (what does the customer need?), design (how do we make this happen?)
In summary, there is no set path or degree that you need for a career in product management. The most important thing is having deep interest in the craft of creating and improving products and coordinating and collaborating with others.
Product Management is an art as much as it is a science and something where more you practice, the better you get. Check out the 30 Days of Product course, and join a community of aspiring product managers learning real-world product management skills by creating their own social photo sharing app.