Product Management - round-up

December 7, 2016

Welcome to the RattleBerry RoundUp. This is a weekly series where we select a topic of interest to our clients and panel members working in experience design, product management, marketing technology and digital transformation. We hope you enjoy it and we look forward to reading your feedback and comments! Let us know either way on LinkedIn.

Here at RattleBerry, we have built a panel of senior professionals focused on experience design and digital transformation in the connected age. Product managers are an integral part of our panel. For some time now we have received applications from candidates who aspire to become product managers. It is a very sought after and “now” position that most large enterprises prioritise and are looking to hire in. With this in mind we are often asked how can someone get into product management? So we wrote a round up to help understand how to achieve this in an in-depth way from some long read articles from the best in the business.

Let’s define the role:

First of all lets have a clear understanding of what product management is all about. This post by Martin Eriksson provides a good introduction in this domain. Eriksoon states that he “always defined product management as the intersection between business, technology and user experience. (…)  A good product manager must be experienced in at least one, passionate about all three, and conversant with practitioners in all”. Therefore, product managers “should be obsessed with optimising a product to achieve the business goals while maximising return on investment”. They should also understand how a product is going to be built, thus, understanding the technology stack and the necessary efforts. Last but definitely not least, product managers represent the voice of the users and should be passionate about establishing great UX.

Let’s talk about Product Management by Josh Elman is another interesting article that provides insights into the role of product management as a presentation with slides. We can conclude that it is a multidisciplinary role that needs a breadth of skills to be successfully fulfilled.

Getting qualified:

How therefore do you achieve these skills? What kind of qualifications should someone have in order to pursue a career in this domain? First, let’s put an assumption many have to bed, you do not have to know coding in order to be a product manager. According, to Jeff Bussgang Liberal Arts majors make great product managers as analysed in his post. He argues that the skills that can be acquired through these disciplines, such as “spectacular communication skills, leadership ability, product passion and business judgement “are those which are necessary for a product management career. “Yes, it helps to be technically proficient, but for that, take an online class or two at our portfolio company, Codecademy. Great product managers need to know how to talk to engineering, but that’s communication not coding. They need to be effective in evaluating decisions and drawing on business judgement, but that’s analytical thinking not analytical programming.” He concludes: “So stop telling folks they need to be former engineers or computer science graduates to become product managers. Hell, hire a Symbolic Systems major and watch what magic can happen”. Apart from the skills mentioned above Kevin Lee in his post also identifies empathy and the ability to understand everyone’s motives and emotions and primarily those of users and customers as well as organisation and prioritisation, to be essential.

Breaking in and landing a role:

The question however remains: How do I become a product manager? Kevin Lee provides beneficial insights in his posts on Quora. In his article How to Get a Job as a Product Manager, he suggests that the best way to show your interest for this career path is to work on a side project. He states that this “gives you the experience in shipping a product. A side project could be anything from a tangible iPhone app, wireframe, or even powerpoint case study. You could volunteer to help a non-profit or small business or you could just do some research on a company’s current product / service and show how you might improve it”. Having this kind of experience demonstrates that you actually have the necessary skills and that you can do the job. Moreover, he advises that in your current employment position you should try to get onto projects “where you are taking a lead role in managing a few people with different workstreams and where your team is responsible for getting a deliverable completed on a deadline. Ideally, you should try to get onto projects where you’ll be forced to work with cross-functional teams so that you can learn multiple “languages.” Good PMs know how to understand terms from different teams and convert them into the language of their current audience. For most employers, the next best thing to direct experience is demonstrating that you have relevant and transferable skills”. This will help in developing the relevant mentality and way of thinking. Additionally, he suggests that it is beneficial for a product manager to be tech-savvy and to develop their professional network by reaching out to other product managers and attending relevant events.

Getting Hired: How to Get a Job as a Product Manager slideshow and presentation by Jason Shah provides thought-provoking questions regarding product management, interview questions and advises on how to get hired.

Okay, I want to read more, where to?

 There are many online courses and training resources that someone could take in order to develop the necessary mindset and skills. Last month, we presented to you five online training resources which you can review in our relevant blog post. Furthermore, one of the top cited resources for this domain is the book published by Springer,  Product Lifecycle ManagementIt is definitely a resource that should be taken into consideration.

As always, the purpose of this weekly roundup is to offer some fresh perspective on our topic and keep you current. We hope you find something valuable from these articles, and maybe even share it with your colleagues.

Let us know what you thought by sending as a message on LinkedIn.

At RattleBerry, we recruit user experience, digital transformation and marketing professionals for both senior leadership positions and contracts. Programmes and project manager panel members are currently in demand for projects in Ireland, in the technology, retail, media, travel, financial and utility sectors. For information on joining our panel, click here, and for information about working with us on a digital transformation role or project, click here.

In category: Learning PMO Product