👋 Hey, Pramod George here! Welcome to ✨ The Business Of Products Newsletter✨. Every other week I share insights about building products, processes and teams that work!
Here are the three steps you can take to become a product manager in 2022. (From the eyes of a product leader)
Step 1: Understand The Role In Depth
The first step is to get a very good understanding of the role.
The best way to understand the role is by understanding Agile and Scrum. I wrote about it in another post, linked below.
Next, make sure this is something that you really want to do because trust me product management is not for everyone and that’s okay! There is a lot of hype created around “Product Management”, most of which is fake and you need to clarify. For example, If you’re in it for the money, a senior software developer usually earns more, if you’re in it for the management position, the product manager doesn’t really manage anyone.
Product managers are focused on the process of understanding the customers’ needs and finding a way to fulfil those needs using the classic marketing mix – the right Product, in the right Place, at the right Price, using the right Promotion.
Similarly, I've always said that Software Product Managers live at the intersection of User Experience, Technology, Marketing, and Operations. A good product manager must be experienced in at least one, passionate about all four, and conversant with practitioners in all. The product manager works with different teams (Design, Engineering, Marketing, and other stakeholders) to clarify the vision of the product and align these teams on the product strategy. Why do you need this breadth of skills? Because the role itself is incredibly broad and varied and you’ll be using them every day. If you do not have sufficient experience working in these individual fields you’re going to find it tough to really hold your own as a product manager.
Spend time reading books, watching video courses, and speaking to other product managers in established product companies to understand the expectation of the role better.
Warning, most people with “Product Managers” in their titles, are actually “project managers”? How can you identify the difference? In my experience, the simplest way is to ask them to explain how AGILE their work is. You see, the role of product owner/manager was defined within the SCRUM framework for AGILE teams. If you’re not AGILE and don’t use SCRUM, then the function of the product manager gets diluted completely. For example, most product managers working in large enterprise-level companies are usually project or program managers.
To really understand the goal of product management the best people that you can speak to are non-technical founders or entrepreneurs. These are the people that espouse the true characteristics of the product manager/ owner as described in the scrum framework for agile teams.
Spend at least 3-4 months understanding the expectations, the skills, the mindset required, the network, development and prioritization frameworks required for the role.
There are 2 books that I recommend that you read.
If you want to touch base with me, please send me a message on Linkedin, and I will be happy to help in your journey.
Step 2: Fix Your Gaps
Now that you understand what the expectation of the role is, it’s time for you to ensure you have the right skills for the job. For example, you may be lacking expertise in a domain or a technology.
“A great product manager has the brain of an engineer, the heart of a designer, and the speech of a diplomat.” - Deep Nishar, SoftBank Group International
Make a list of the skills that you want to build up and talk to a senior product manager for advice on which skills to prioritize.
Work on fixing these “Gaps”. The best way to do this is to seek internships in companies that are working in the domain or sector that you want to be an expert in. Spend time working in some capacity (software developer, quality analyst etc) in great product teams to understand how products are developed and shipped! Actively look for opportunities to apply your learnings and keep moving if the role doesn’t offer you a chance to learn and apply new things. Now is the time to focus on learning by doing.
Step 3: Build Products On The Side
The final step of the process is to build products and show your work on forums and social media. Bring together a team of passionate individuals and publicly build a few solutions for problems that you see. Show them how you go about building products and share your thought process about how you make decisions.
When you do this you’re going to get the attention of executives who are looking for raw talent and somebody who can lead their product teams with creative passion.
Try these three steps in 2022 and let me know how it goes!
This is your strategy! First, learn about the role in depth. Talk to great product leaders to learn the expectation of the role.
Second, list down your gaps, and fix them. Work with product teams in any capacity so you’re close to the action and can learn and apply new learnings and fix your gaps on the job.
Thirdly, build in public. Take up an idea and showcase how you go about designing an idea and taking it to market.
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