When it comes to how to become a product manager, know that good product management and efficient product managers have become a sustainable competitive advantage and are continuing to evolve. Product management has started using parts of marketing. It absorbs elements of User Experience and embraces agile and fluid processes that help product managers adapt ways of working that best fits the team, the product and market befitting customers’ demand.
To remain in the market and keep prospering will involve active product management. Product managers, therefore, are in good demand globally. Their roles will also evolve, keeping pace with technological advancement and growing customer expectations. Go for POPM training and further enhance your product learning and become a great product manager.
What is Product Management?
Product management is a business function that includes the discovery, planning, development, successful launch, and management of a product by overseeing every step in the product development life cycle. Innovation and business growth, keeping in focus the needs of the customers, are the goal of product management. It is a strategic effort that attempts to strike a balance between delivering value for a business and the customers or the end users while remaining within the realms of technical feasibility as well. It ensures that all concerned are aligned with and work towards a common goal. Below are some interesting statistical findings of the product management domain:
- 63% of consumers tend to buy products that have been in the market for a long time and only 40% of the product management companies tend to survive in the market. Because 21% of products fail to meet customers’ needs. It means companies that actively manage their products will have the advantage of thriving and prospering in the market.
- As per a survey report involving 280 group survey, respondents mentioned that 1 out of 5 products fail to meet customer needs. It means a well-performing product manager will be in ever-demand.
- 56% of the survey participants stated that the skills of their product managers leave room for improvement.
- The report, “Challenges in Product Management” mentioned that 56% of respondents stated their product managers’ skills as average or below average, stating that there is room for improvement.
Who is a Product Manager?
They are multi-skilled professionals who guide, facilitate, manage and oversee the entire product life cycle by gathering, managing, and prioritizing ideas for new products (or new features) keeping in mind both the user/customer needs and the broad business goals.
Product managers are responsible for defining success benchmarks for a product, building a roadmap to outline the product vision, and overseeing the product development processes keeping everyone aligned while working towards a common goal. They have a cross-functional role where they coordinate closely with the key stakeholders, designers, engineers, marketers, and finally, offer leadership to guide the product to success.
People often wonder and ask “how do I become a product manager”. This article will cover everything on how to become a product manager, how long does it take to become a product manager, as well as how to become a product manager without experience.
What Does a Product Manager Do?
The overall responsibilities of a product manager can be listed as follows:
- Understanding the needs and ideas of a customer/end user.
- Accumulating information and ideas from different stakeholders/departments.
- Ideating and developing an overall vision and direction for the product.
- Documenting everything about the product or writing a product specification that includes requirements of the product, what will be built and why, the features(s) of the new product, and success metrics of the product.
- Creating a road map or a strategic action plan for the product.
- Prioritizing the stages of product development based on the customer/user needs and business goals.
- Coordinating and collaborating with the design and development teams to oversee the development of the product.
- Monitoring a product’s development stages, running analytics and experiments to understand its performance and scopes for improvement.
- Collecting user/customer feedback.
How to Become a Product Manager [Step-by-Step]
Now we will discuss the steps on how to become a product manager with experience (that is how a person becomes experienced as a product manager) and also how to become a product manager with no experience (that is professionals working in other fields or departments taking a mid-career transition to becoming a product manager):
Becoming a Product Manager with Experience
1. Knowledge Building
If you want to start a career in product management, knowledge-building is of utmost importance. You can do this with the help of watching videos, reading books, and understanding in-depth the product development process, product lifecycle, fundamentals of product management principles and others that are related to product management. In a nutshell, you need to understand everything related to the product and its management.
Doing this will give you an idea about the subject and what product management is all about.
2. Skill-gap Analysis
A stock-taking of your current product manager’s competencies against the important skills that are required or the skills that the employers are mostly asking for in their job advertisements. Note the skills that are needed but you do not have at the moment to understand your skill gaps that need to be filled in, which can be done by attending POPM training.
If you are already in the field of product management, you can also find opportunities to gain product-specific knowledge depending on where you work. Even if you have in-depth product knowledge and essential soft skills, still you can keep updating yourself for the next level by getting some Agile training. You can use agile methodology in your company and observe the changes happening toward getter project success with shorter product development cycles and continuous improvement as the backbones.
3. Certification is Important
Even with all your independent reading, learning and research, you might have developed a good foundation of knowledge, to kickstart your career as a product manager you will need some practical exposure as well. Employers will not be satisfied with your foundational knowledge but expect you to perform. Formal certification is a way to achieve practical knowledge. There are many certificate courses available.
The advantages of undergoing such a course are:
- You will follow a structured learning path so that you will master all the essential concepts and skills within a specified time.
- Such a course focuses on project-based learning which will help you gain hands-on skills, way beyond theoretical knowledge.
- Support and guidance from experts in the field will solidify your skills and clear your doubts.
- Career counseling will help you focus on successfully applying for various product management vacancies.
- A certification from a credible institution will add value to your application and enhance your job application success.
Tips: While choosing a product management course (out of the plenty available in the market), ensure it offers everything you will need to actually get hired in the field. Because not all courses will cover everything and provide the same benefits.
The skill-gap analysis exercise that you did before will help you understand what exactly you need to learn and choose a course that covers the maximum of your requirements if not all. Of course, time and budget will be the other factors to consider such as the credibility of the institution offering the certification and how many students have attended the course plus their feedback will be of the utmost important factors to consider.
4. Building a Portfolio
Learning the required product management skills alone is not sufficient unless those are properly demonstrated to potential employers. This showcasing is called a portfolio and it can be best done by creating a website displaying the projects you have worked on in the role of a product manager. If making a website is not possible then your biodata should include the project details that you have gone through.
The advantage of having a website (even if it is a very simple and basic one) is that you can actually convert your project experiences into case studies and upload them there. In fact, a portfolio gives you a brilliant opportunity to advertise yourself – who you are and your experiences plus why you can put your claim as an excellent product manager. If you pursue your learning program from a good institute, during your course you will learn the details about how to create a portfolio.
Here are some good examples of product manager portfolios to give you more clarity on what we have discussed so far.
- Mark Progano’s product management portfolio
- Rian van der Merwe’s portfolio.
- Taylor McCaslin’s product management portfolio
Networking which is getting acquainted with others in the same field is a formidable tool everywhere including steps to becoming a product manager or (even if you are already one) exploring better opportunities.
Networking not only opens up new opportunities but also is an avenue of mentorship, advice, and industry insight. Though the concept might seem harrowing especially for the new entrants in the field or for not-so-outgoing personalities. But there are different ways to start, and all networking need not be getting involved in meetings and uncomfortable conversations.
Networking should be done the way it feels the most comfortable and authentic to a person instead of forcing oneself to follow a process that one feels awkward. The various networking ways are (you can choose any or many as per your choice):
- Connect with product management colleagues at work by taking them for a coffee break or online chat.
- Joining online communities is the best way for introverted people.
- Attending physical or virtual meet-ups, webinars, and seminars related to product management and getting connected with a few aspiring or experienced product managers.
Tips: It is good to start small but early and grow organically. This way you will gather enough courage and confidence and perhaps some good friends as well.
Some such Slack communities are there you can consider joining:
- Product Buds
- Mind The Product
- The Product Folks
- Meetup.com (a good platform for virtual socializing and product management events)
6. Applying for Jobs or Considering an Internal Transfer
The final step of your journey to becoming a product manager is to prepare your resume and also customize it to fit product management roles, highlighting all your skills and projects done or if you are already in the field, highlighting your past and current work experiences and responsibilities handled.
Especially if you are coming from a field not related to product management or a fresher, resume preparation needs special care and attention.
Tips: You can explore sites that explain in detail how to create a product manager resume and learn about transferable skills.
For applying you can register and upload your biodata to various job portal sites like Naukri, Indeed.com, Monster, IIMJobs and other national or international job sites.
Depending on your current organization and what opportunities it provides, you can opt for a transfer to a product management department to gain experience in product management.
Becoming a Product Manager With No Experience
Often product managers from different fields with no product manager experience person make a mid-career transition to product management and become product managers finally. This section will explain how to become a product manager without experience.
The keys that lead to such a transition successful are as follows:
- Acquiring soft skills while working in another field and then learning the specific technical skills a product manager needs. Such soft skills include communication, collaboration, leadership familiarity with the marketplace, empathy, problem-solving, and organizational and leadership skills (just to mention a few). These can be learned and practiced in the fields related to product development. For example, designing, project management, and others.
- Acquiring the needed technical competencies that are directly related to the product development process. The best way is to enroll in some good product manager courses or boot camps where the curriculum is tailored to cover all the basics, coming up with the latest information and a clear overview of the industry as a whole. Usually, such courses also cover customer research interviews and testing, pricing and revenue modeling, and other related topics of product management.
- Combining the already-gained experience with the new learning of the skills and project experiences covered in a product management certification course.
How to Become a Certified Product Manager?
All the while we discussed how one becomes a product manager. It is time now to talk about earning a certification. A certified product manager needs to finish an education/training program from an institution that meets all the requirements of a product management certification program.
It requires passing an examination that checks the business and technical product management competencies. Post that, one becomes a certified product manager or CPM. Such a certificate is a testimony to validate your skills as a product manager and helps you fetch higher-paying jobs.
Different Product Manager Certifications
The curriculum includes product lifecycle modeling, market planning, competitor research, and product specifications.
2. IIBA’s Certificate in Product Ownership Analysis
This program is meant for those who wish to establish their prowess in integrating business analysis and product ownership operations with the Agile methodology. This online course by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) takes ten weeks to finish.
3. Agile Certified Product Manager (ACPMA)
This course also establishes the certificate owners with the ability to manage the production process from beginning to end using Agile.
IIM Indore offers a 6-month online PG Certificate Program in Product Management in collaboration with Jigsaw. The course covers features like post-class exercises, Harvard Business Review (HBR) case studies and the hands-on Bring Your Own Product (BYOP). After the successful completion of the program, the school provides IIM Indore’s Executive Alumni Status to the participants.
Skills and Qualifications Required to Become a Product Manager
Product management combines business experience, user experience, and technology and calls for both hard and transferable soft skills.
Here is a list of the skills that present their product managers need:
1. Communication Skills
A Product Manager needs to communicate with both internal and external stakeholders, drive cross-team collaboration and present their ideas with clarity and confidence throughout the product life cycle by applying different communicative approaches. For example, talking like an engineer to the development team, as a designer to the UX team, and empathizing with customers to understand their pain points.
The manager needs to convince and sell the company’s vision and product strategy to the executive team, pitch a product to the marketing and sales team and present it to a large audience as a product leader. Therefore, such a person must be an excellent storyteller, presenter, and a master of non-verbal skills as well.
2. Technical Expertise
There are some basic technical skills that every product manager must possess to execute the duties and excel in product management. These are:
- Data Extraction and Analysis
- A/B Testing
- SQL (Structured Query Language) is required to access, communicate with, and manipulate databases
- Knowledge of coding basics to better understand and communicate with product engineers.
- Market Research Analysis
- Prototyping (making a rough sketch or sample of your intended product).
3. Business Intelligence
Product Managers constantly try to improve their customer experience. They do this by using data to understand a product’s performance and make changes to improve it. For this, they need to get intelligent insight from the collected data and then communicate the same to the stakeholders. All these require business intelligence skills. For example, creating the existing product’s performance story, metrics that are important to management and finance, metrics to forecast a product’s success, grow user engagement, customer retention, and various other parameters.
4. Research Skills
Strong research skills are required to synthesize data, interview and research customers, and gather necessary information from the right sources. It enables product managers to understand their customers well, and communicate with other team members in various formats like maps, usability testing, field data, storyboards, etc.
5. Analytical Skills
It is the next step in research skills. Research results in information or data gathering. Post that product managers must then analyze and use this data to make informed and actionable product decisions. The analytical skills help them know how to use the data found to address issues and develop solutions to lead to a successful product.
6. Interpersonal Skills
Interpersonal skills go hand in hand with communication skills to effectively influence and lead teams, stakeholders and customers. Interpersonal skills include presentation, emotional intelligence, active listening, collaboration and negotiating skills.
7. Marketing Skills
Product managers must know their markets inside out and develop ways to make their product the best marketable solution to their customers. It includes the ability to promote and deliver products and services in the most successful way possible after understanding the customer and the market pulse. Good marketing skills include the ability to respond to changing demands, develop marketing strategies for product launches and create pricing strategies.
8. Management Skills
Launching products to market takes tremendous coordination, endless lists of tasks and dependencies, important delivery dates to meet and heaps of other things which require the involvement of people and their management, time management and disaster management among others which could be overwhelming. Good product managers therefore must have effective management skills.
9. Strategic Thinking
A product’s development life cycle has various phases. Right from understanding the market to deciding how to launch a new product each of the phases needs strategic thinking that includes a good understanding of the product life cycle, audience segmentation, the project management process and forecasting sales. Furthermore, problem-solving skills, mind-map software, risk management and goal orientation are other elements that go inside.
They also need to be well conversant with the business metrics and KPIs along with a thorough understanding of the wider business goals of a company with the ability to think strategically as they are ultimately responsible for driving the business growth.
10. Prioritization Skills
Product managers must be able to objectively enforce prioritization to successfully complete tasks and meet goals and deadlines. Only proper prioritization skills can ensure that all the tasks are performed in order of their importance and the project moves ahead smoothly and is finished within the set timeline.
11. Negotiation Skills
Although most product managers do not get formal negotiation training, negotiation is half of the product managers’ job. Negotiation is the process of reaching an amicable agreement when two or more parties have some opposing interests. With all the strategies to create elements to plan, roadmaps to create and prioritize, speed to deliver, decisions to make, partnerships to explore etc., product managers negotiate everyday big or small, with almost everyone to arrive at the desired outcome that is speedy, comes at the right time and keeps the team morale high.
- Product Design and Development Understanding: This involves technical expertise and technologies that go into building your product and also some understanding of UX designing principles and processes.
- Problem-solving Ability: Not only user problems but a product manager is also required to solve internal problems and find ways to overcome hurdles and optimize processes.
- Dealing with Data: Product managers are required to research, collect, analyze and interpret data and do the analytics to meet the users’ needs and specifications and make decisions about a product.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Product Manager?
As the name suggests, a product manager is a managerial and not an entry-level position (though some junior positions do exist with two years of experience, we are not going to discuss that). Only after gaining experience with various elements of business and technology both, getting enough familiarization with product lines and industries and sharpening leadership, relational, business and management skills can one become fit to be a product manager.
Often the time to become a product manager also relates to the educational path taken. Product management boot camps for example offer a faster way of getting into product management vis a vis traditional degree and are time-consuming with gradual progression. Again, certain skills need time to develop.
However, roughly considering it takes around six years of professional product management experience to become a product manager (excluding the formal or traditional education time). It is important to remember that it needs time and patience with a focused long-term professional goal to become a product manager.
What Does it Take to Become a Great Product Manager?
Fresh graduates, who aspire to get into the profession of product management often wonder “How can I become a product manager” of how to get product management experience?
We have already discussed the skills required to become a product manager and later on in the article will also explain the steps to get into the product management profession. Before that, it is imperative to know the difference between a product manager and a great product manager and what sets them apart.
This section will disclose the fringes of how to become a good product manager. A great product manager shows several personality traits to stand apart from the crowd. Some of the essential qualities of a great product manager are:
A) They Prioritize Value Over Features
The focus of a product manager is to understand the pain points of the users and facilitate value addition. While many of them focus on the product alone instead of the problem they plan to solve (like what an engineer does). In doing so, they highlight the features rather than communicating to the users the value they may expect out of the product.
B) Focus on Outcomes Not Outputs
Effective product managers try to understand the needs of their users and not market or release products. Hence, they invest time in working with their user or customer personas, understand their problems, listen to their concerns, and think of solutions that would make the users happy. They have a customer-centric attitude.
C) A Leader, not a Dictator
Effective product management is all about guiding the people’s work and not dictating to them what to do. One way to do this is to develop excellent leadership skills that help to set a vision, persuade people, and motivate the team toward a shared goal.
D) Focus On Big Ideas
Product managers often spend much of their time on market research, usage data, development schedules, budgets, etc. But successful product managers know how and when to step away from their daily tasks, clear their heads from clutters, find the big idea, and also when to come back to the daily duties.
E) Always a student
Highly effective product managers never shy away from learning new things. They do this by:
- Understanding where the business or the product is struggling now.
- Determining the next level for the company.
- Find a weakness or a gap and turn it into a strength.
- Always curious about new things to learn next.
What Product Management Resources do you Recommend?
Good product managers always keep consistently upskilling themselves to keep their competencies growing. Below is a list of some good project management resources depending on individual preference one can choose the right one matching one’s taste.
- Best Product Management Certifications by KnowledgeHut
- Best Agile Certifications by KnowledgeHut
- Digital Product Management: Modern Fundamentals by the University of Virginia
- Product Management Online Course by Product School
- Software Product Management Specialization by the University of Alberta
- Brand and Product Management by ie business school
- Beginners Guide to Product Management by Prototype
- Introduction to the Product Management Process by Prodpad
- What is Product Management? by ProductPlan
- Creating Success - A Guide to a Product Manager’s KPIs by Toptal
- The Beginner’s Guide To Product Management by Jeff Whitlock
- The Essential Product Manager Career Guide by Hubspot
- Jira (by Atlassian)
- The Art of Product Management: Lessons from a Silicon Valley Innovator by Rich Mironov
- The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen
- Agile Product Management with Scrum by Roman Pichler
- The Practitioner’s Guide to Product Management by Jock Busuttil
- Build Better Products: A Modern Approach to Building Successful User-Centered Products by Laura Klein
- The User’s Journey: Storymapping Products That People Love by Donna Lichaw
- Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan
- Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
- Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value by Melissa Perri
- Product Leadership: How Top Product Managers Launch Awesome Products and Build Successful Teams by Richard Banfield, Martin Eriksson, Nate Walkingshaw
- Mind The Product
- The Black Box of Product Management
- The Art of Product Management
- Software Product Management
- Silicon Valley Product Group (SVPG)
- Product Strategy Templates by Aha!
- Product Roadmap Templates by ProductPlan
- Product Templates by Asana
- 7 Customizable Product Roadmap Templates by Roadmunk
- Templates for Product Management by ProdPad
- Free Product Management Templates by Smartsheet
Product Manager Salary and its Growth
As per AmbitionBox, in India, a product manager's salary ranges between ₹ 6.0 Lakhs to ₹ 35.0 Lakhs, the average annual salary being ₹ 16.4 Lakhs.
Experience-wise, in India, a product manager's salary with less than 2 years of experience to 13 years ranges from ₹ 6 Lakhs to ₹ 35 Lakhs, average annual salary being ₹ 16.4 Lakhs.
Product management is in high demand both in India and abroad with 20,000+ jobs posted on LinkedIn alone. As per a report in the Economic Times, “the average salary for a product manager is around 246% higher than the national average salary in India”. Due to the scarcity of highly skilled product manager professionals (a mere 20,000 only), companies do pay high salaries to product managers.
As per Naukri.com, product management jobs are among the most popular industry requirements and are expected to have 22 million job openings globally.
- As per Indeed in the United States, the average salary for a product manager is $89,536 along with an average yearly cash bonus of $8,000 for product managers, which is $40,000 more than the average salary in the USA which is around $53,490. However, there is regional or locational variation in the USA, which Indeed states as:
- The average annual product manager salary in Canada is $88,332 per year, which is $30,000 more than the national average salary of $54,630.
- The average salary for a product manager in the UK is £52,913 per year and in Ireland is €77,213 per year as per Indeed. Locational variations exist of course.
- In European countries, here is what Indeed shows: In Australia average annual product manager salary is $121,665 per year, which is over $50,000 higher than the national average salary of around $67,000 per year.
Kickstart your Product Manager Career
First, you need to assess whether product management is the right career choice for you. This is especially true for those coming from engineering backgrounds. The thing to keep in mind is, product managers are not problem solvers, they are facilitators. They facilitate in relieving the problems or pain points of the users/customers by understanding their needs and collecting actionable data. Then they help in visualizing and defining the product and product strategy, define the requirements and oversee the development and delivery of the products.
The product manager role is way different from the role of a problem-solving and code-writing engineer. With this clarity in mind, you can start taking the next step toward a career in product management. The steps are:
- Start small, find out the product managers in your company.
- Begin working with them.
- Take a leadership role in your engineering team or in your current department.
- Prove that you know how to persuade and influence others and not dictate.
- Improve your interpersonal skills by getting involved in cross-functional roles.
- Take some courses on product management. A certification would be very helpful in giving you the foundations of product management, learning the skills, and getting real-life project exposure along with guidance and mentorships from expert faculty.
- Create your resume highlighting especially the skills needed for a product manager role.
- Start applying.
- If your current organization is offering you a transition to the product management department, if it has one, or has a vacancy for a role of a product manager or similar then take a transfer.
The demand for product managers is going to remain especially with the advancement of technologies and increasing deployment of software products in the market. Businesses therefore cannot manage without skilled and talented product managers. The article hopefully is helpful to all of you who want to get into the field of product manager and most importantly how to become a successful product manager. You should go for KnowledgeHut POPM training to get in-depth learning on product management.