How to Become a Great Product Manager
Defining Product Management
Project management is rooted at the core of a company’s product development and delivery. But what does a product manager do? PMs supervise a team’s product development, from start to finish, to reach their company’s goals.
This role entails:
- establishing a vision for a company’s product
- researching and formulating a plan for your team
- guiding the product to reach the customer with efficiency
- analyzing the delivery’s success metrics.
A product manager’s responsibilities may differ from company to company, but essentially, the product manager considers the scope and scale of a product and ensures a team reaches its goal on time.
Product management touches every facet of a product’s lifecycle. A product manager will use analytic thinking and technical skill to build relationships and spearhead business goals. If you become a product manager, you will need to:
- Research market drivers and customer needs
- Strategize plans
- Use soft skills like empathy to communicate with the team and customer
- Receive feedback to make informed decisions
- Establish and track metrics of success – adjusting accordingly
- Acting as the point of contact between the team and customer
- Document the product’s progress
- Evaluate the product’s delivery and customer response
Establishing competency: what do you know?
A great product manager understands the product. Great PMs see a clear vision of their company, its goals, and how their team’s contribution – the product – champions those goals. This is where product management aligns with engineering: PMs recognize the product as one feature of many moving parts.
There is no one set way to become a product manager, and you can use this to your advantage. A great product manager will fit into their company in unique ways because they come from a variety of backgrounds, like engineering, communications, design. They’re well-rounded, engaged problem-solvers. The type of experience future PMs earn is not as crucial as the competency they develop in those roles.
The main competencies come from the challenges they’ve faced in their professional and personal lives. Product management requires you to have developed interpersonal skills and a level of confidence in business and research. You can elevate your core strengths by leaning into an experience! Then, you can build an analytical approach to using that experience. These core strengths can be elevated by leaning into an experience and building an analytical relationship with that experience.
In product management, you integrate strategic thinking in day-to-day planning. A great product manager understands the purpose behind their main competencies, which include:
- Identifying market opportunities
- Product modeling
- Conducting customer research and user testing
- Running design sprints
- Assessing the market
- Revenue modeling and pricing
- Establishing and tracking success metrics
Developing acumen: What do you need to know?
In addition to a sharp business sense and adept management style, a great PM develops technical skills with a variety of tools, techniques, and methodologies needed to make a product succeed. Product managers need an understanding of engineering, business, technology, and user experience. It’s a lot to keep up with if you want to stay on top of your game.
Technical understanding often begins in a structured environment, like a course, where you can get familiar with new tools and techniques and practice discussing them with others. This ensures you’re confident that you’re knowledgeable of everything you need to be a crucial fit for any company, socially and professionally.
Management is growing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 1 million new jobs in management will be available by 2030. As of May 2020, the median wage for managers was $109,760, the highest out of every occupational group.
As companies find new uses for product managers, it’s a requirement for PMs to sharpen their research, delegating, and technical skills. Future technical product managers should definitely take note.
Product managers are expected to use tools like Excel to conduct research, prototyping, A/B testing, and performing market assessments. Data collection can serve more than one purpose: great PMs know how to gain fresh perspectives from the information at their fingertips. A course with immediate feedback from your instructor will teach you when to use which tool or technique – and how to get the most out of it.
How do product managers juggle teams, customers, and meet strategic goals? They create a foundation they continually build upon, and they reflect on the success or failure of a product to advance in an ever-evolving business.
How do great PMs optimize their skillset?
Building a strategy
A great PM should be strategic in their day-to-day role and in their product execution. Product managers must display competency in decision-making that produces optimal benefits with minimal damage. They optimize the long-term success of their team and company while making choices that impact the present.
Great leadership styles can be honed within a learning environment. We know it’s a requirement for a product manager to oversee the lifecycle of a product, but what does that mean?
Product management demands that you use hard and soft skills to create a strategy for your product. You have to be comfortable with Scrum, road mapping, version control, standard measurement platforms, UX design, wireframing, and more to make informed decisions.
Managing and executing
Strategizing for success means considering team objectives, the timeline, and the scope of the product. What you learn in theory is put to the test here! PMs must learn how to see the big picture without missing out on the details that make a product work or fail.
Although your title may be Product Manager, you’re managing more than your product. You’re managing expectations, constraints, and modes of delivery without having a direct say in some of those things. In addition to knowing what to do, a great PM knows the order in which to accomplish their team’s tasks.
A product manager’s job requires you to facilitate collaboration within your team and outside of it. You won’t know what is needed of you until you’re in that environment. For example, some positions require you to consider marketing in your decision-making, while others don’t. Are you prepared?
Using data-driven evaluation
What you learn in theory is applied in practice before and after your product reaches the customer. You’ll learn to use data to make the most informed decisions for your team, and you’ll learn how you can use what you discover to evaluate the product’s development.
Ahead of development, PMs figure out how to enhance the product to best serve its purpose. After development, PMs conduct product analytics to monitor the product’s use and customer response. Great PMs know they can look for areas of improvement and new opportunities even after they finish getting a product on the market. They know what data to skim or study and what elements they can take to develop into best practices.
Harnessing strengths: What makes a great product manager?
Soft skills are underrated. Because their presentation can be subtle, you may not know someone is adept at soft skills. But you definitely know when they have none.
Soft skills are the emotional and behavioral skills that characterize your relationships with others. Collaboration, communication, and empathy play a big part in harnessing your strengths. Teams respond best to leaders when leaders demonstrate they’re hearing their team’s ideas and concerns. Your soft skills will come into play when:
- you’re conducting customer interviews
- you need to remain calm under pressure
- you need to make tough choices
- you need to infer what someone is not telling you
Like hard skills, soft skills can be learned.
Honing talent and taste
Great PMs know that good product taste is directly tied to research. Having product taste means using all of the insight you’ve earned from past experience and putting it toward customer needs.
It’s easy to lose sight of the core needs of those outside the company when you’re meeting expectations within your team. While you’re studying the market, you need to know what information is the most insightful for seeing your product or product line from the perspective of the customer. Taste is more than knowing what are “good” or “bad” ideas for a product, and more about understanding why those ideas would or would not work.
A product manager knows when an idea is or is not working and considers team members strengths to find solutions.
Product managers communicate every day.
As a PM, many things about the role depending upon the company. The common factor among all PMs is they’re constantly updating people. The role of a PM demands you to process information that you communicate to customers, your team, and the higher-ups within the company. A great product manager has a clear command over their decision-making because they’re confident in their knowledge base.
Communication is where your soft skills can shine.
The analytical mind never rests. With all of the deadlines, revenue targets, prioritization conflicts, and constraints on research, product management is made for the ambitious.
However, it takes more than business acumen to excel in the role. In coordinating with a team you lead and your customer, empathy is one of your most valuable tools. Learning how to listen and observe your surroundings will stabilize you in a fast-paced environment, and it will aid you in every decision you make.
A PM does not break down when things go wrong. They expect things to go wrong, and they know they will adapt. Being emotionally stable, even when they feel the pressure, is how great PMs keep operations running smoothly. This maintains confidence in their abilities.
Awareness of market trends is valuable, but social awareness cannot be ignored. PMs need to make everyone feel heard, and you can’t do that if you don’t understand what needs your team or customer has met, has not met, wants to meet, and why.
Honing your social awareness skills will provide insight into how a company operates. This is so important for relationship-building! Social awareness of yourself provides insight into your strengths and weaknesses and how you can use them in any given situation.
A product manager’s role is at the core of a product or product line’s vision. When they oversee a product’s lifecycle, PMs hold the weight of the success of a product on their shoulders. A great PM needs to develop the technical and emotional skills to get – and stay – ahead.