As kids growing up we picture the various things we would like to be when we grow up. Most of the time these are the positions in the limelight and front in center for all to see. As we get older and start planning out the end of high school and into college, we have narrowed down our view of the world and have more specific roles knowing a little better how the world works that we think we would like to try. After graduating and working for a few years we now know how the engine works and many realize there is a role called product manager inside of any product company and want to know how can I get a product management position considering my background is something completely different.
This is very common career path for product management because there is no real college education path or degree that sets you up as a product manager. There really isn’t a specific work experience that you can do that lends itself to a transition into product management. So how do people move into a product management role in a company? Let’s start with reviewing the responsibilities of a product manager:
- Conducting customer interviews
- Manage user testing to drive product feedback
- Organizing and driving design sprints
- Feature prioritization and roadmap planning
- Coordinating resource assignments across teams
- Completing competitor and market assessments
- Translating business-to-technical requirements, and vice versa
- Understand and be involved with pricing and revenue modeling
- Defining and tracking success metrics for business and product decisions
What you see from the list above is that the roles to do product management does not require you to be a developer, manufacturer or technical resource. The skills do not require to be an industry expert in the space you want to serve or to have senior leadership experience working in different areas of the product teams. The skills needed to accomplish the responsibilities above are much softer skills that anyone from any background can acquire over a career which include:
- Being great at working with people to get feedback and earn their trust
- Being able to coordinate across multiple people and projects
- Maintain communication across the various moving parts of your product and business.
- Being able to get invested in your industry you support to understand their challenges
- Being able to get invested in your business to understand the business drivers
If you are interested in moving into a product management position, the main thing you need to do is show off your soft skills and show that you can work with people to communicate, coordinate and care about the product growth. Product managers need to be passionate about the business and want to see it grow and figure out what needs to be changed to make that happen. There is no direct career path to product management however product managers work along the full organization so the more exposed you are to everything the better off you are. Some positions are about being deep in a skill, while product management is about being wide and not deep at anything but know enough about everything to drive the business forward.