First Steps in Product Management

First steps in product management

How do you start working as a Product Manager? What are the skills needed for product management? What makes a good Product Manager?  In this article I will try to answer these questions while talking about my own experience.

How one becomes a Product Manager?

So what is it that you need, in order to become a product manager? well… That actually depends a lot on the product and the company. In each company a product manager must have a slightly different set of skills and knowledge. For that reason, most junior product managers grow from within a company and become product managers after gaining strong product, business and market understanding, on top of their own natural qualities and skills (personality, emotional intelligence etc.).

What “natural qualities” will help you become a good PM?

From my experience, a product manager must be a good listener and communicator above all. You should have a good amount of EQ (emotional intelligence) and patience in order to juggle well between all the different personalities you need to work with, take criticism well and manage everyone’s tasks while being no one’s manager (imagine that!).

Of course, you can always put aside all that patience and EQ and take the intimidating manager approach. Only problem is, by taking this path, you are narrowing down the channels of communication with everyone around you, and close your mind to many good insights from your team. Thus, rowing further away from successful product achievements.

Your team and your relationship with your team members is everything that stands between you and a good (or bad) product. You want to allow them to see your vision, encourage them to be part of creating things that will delight users and show them that you serve them, and not vice versa, by removing blockers and obstacles out of their way.

Sometimes, a product manager is the link between the development team and the rest of the teams in the company. Other stakeholders will also be happy to know what’s coming up in the pipeline and what are the challenges. They will surely have great insights and be more than willing to help pushing things forward. Be as transparent as possible and, if possible, get other team members to help you with anything they’re good at. By doing so, people will naturally feel part of something bigger and take pride in the product.

In smaller companies a product manager will most likely have a bigger pile of expertise and things to deal with, compared with bigger companies, where different areas of expertise are divided across relevant departments or fellow product managers.

Before you start your first position as a product manager, or even if you already are one, I really recommend getting yourself into a product management course. In the first course I took, I was part of the very small minority of those who aren’t already filling the role of a product manager! Shocking right? 🙂
Not a single active product manager in the course said the course wasn’t useful for them in some way, and everyone said “it really got things in order” for them.

The course I took based the world of product management on four building blocks:

  1. Definition
  2. Achievement (building the product)
  3. Marketing
  4. Strategy

Each of these building blocks unfolds a range of tools for analysis and decision making, and steps to take in order to create an awesome product. In reality, only very few product managers actually use all of those tools or deal with all four worlds. Only the first two are the domains of most, if not all, product managers.

Final words

As a general ongoing rule, always strive to learn and understand new technologies, methods and frameworks, in order to develop your skills. Understand how to communicate better with your team, and strive to create a better framework, that best fit your working environment and product.

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