Misfits, Geniuses, and Ringleaders: Why Product Management May Be Perfect for You

This article is for recent graduates with an entrepreneurial mindset who are thinking about what would be the perfect job for them. It’s also for people thinking about moving into product management. I’m going to start with a question. Raise your hand if someday:

  • You’d like to start your own company?
  • Be your own boss?

I’m visualizing lots of hands raised out there. I mean, dang, who wouldn’t want to have their own company, be their own boss, and call the shots? For that reason, I’d like to introduce you to a job title you may not have heard of before, but that could give you some runway to practice the skills you might need to start your own company someday — while you still get a great paycheck, benefits, and learnings from a more established company. That job title is Product Manager. Here’s why product management should be your career choice.

You’re in great company. There are some famous people out there who were first product managers before they started being CEO. Here are just a few:

  • Jeff Bezos – Amazon
  • Kevin Systrom – Instagram
  • Marissa Mayer – Yahoo

Loosely put, the product manager sets the tone for a product, understands the customer’s pain points, leads a team, takes various forms of input, and ultimately makes the product-related decisions.

Ok, I’ve got you to this point and so you ask, “What companies need product managers?”

Kind of a simple answer, but any company that has a product or service needs someone to truly understand the needs of its customers and to set the vision and tone for the product and for the people who work on it. In a small company of 1-20, it’s usually the founders, but at some point, the founders have other things to do and may appoint a product manager. In larger companies, there’s almost always a need for many product managers.

See the list of top tech companies with product management internship and full-time opportunities.

Associate product managers will be responsible for prioritizing tasks with a defined set of constraints, not necessarily defining which tasks they’re performing, but making scoping and prioritization decisions around the tasks or projects they’re assigned. Associate product managers will work and collaborate daily with other members of the product team, as well as other adjacent teams like UX and engineering. During this work, they’ll regularly communicate the status of their product to all relevant stakeholders. Your job is to balance business objectives and customer needs, reconciling the goals of the business with benefits to the customer. You’ll need to ask yourself if a feature is needed, and if so, why? How is it solving a customer problem and moving the needle for the business? This last point introduces the importance of measurement. As an associate product manager, you’ll need to continually speak to the “this is what we’re doing and why we’re doing it” question, and you’ll rely on metrics to let you know if you’re successful.

So, when are you ready to move from an associate role into a full product manager role? You’ll be completely on top of the above activities. You’ll have established yourself as the “go-to” person for your product set and will have developed an excellent working relationship with engineering, UX, marketing, and other teams. You should be comfortable delegating some of your tasks to someone else and trusting in the process you’ve helped establish, and you should be prepared to speak to what is needed in the associate role in order to mentor your replacement.

Source: Two articles adapted from ProductPlan
Read the full articles at: https://www.productplan.com/product-manager-career-path/ and https://www.productplan.com/why-product-management-may-be-perfect-for-you/

By Kelli Delfosse
Kelli Delfosse Kelli Delfosse