Product Manager & Data Enthusiast!
What’s stopping you?
Product Management is one of the most fascinating careers in tech right now and is also one of the hottest careers all over the world owing to the growth opportunities in this field. Product Managers grow to become CEOs, CXOs, and founders. Wonder why that is the case?
As a Product Manager, you get to work with designers, engineers, analysts, data scientists, finance, marketing, third-party vendors, customer service, and whatnot. The list is endless! Every day is different and you need to have at least a basic level of understanding in all the domains to understand the problems.
You learn technical, business, design, and communication skills in a very short period by interacting with so many different stakeholders daily and getting the work done without having any formal authority over anyone. These skills help PMs become great leaders who help turnaround the company by onboarding and motivating everyone to work towards a common vision.
It seems like a glamorous world to people who want to get into Product Management and to some extent it is! In reality, Product Management is a thankless job and you are constantly on your toes to work on the next big thing, solving customer problems, driving business growth, etc.
“All that glitters is not gold”
- William Shakespeare
Make no mistake, I love working as a Product Manager and I don’t see myself doing anything else. But if you are thinking to get into Product Management, you need to first ensure that it is the right fit for you. Ask yourself honestly the following five important questions:
1. Can you empathize with customers?
2. Do you love solving problems?
3. Do you like working with different stakeholders?
4. Do you have the attitude for getting shit done?
5. Can you handle a lot of meetings (a lot might be an understatement) and emails?
If the answer to all the above questions is YES, you are already one step closer to becoming a Product Manager and you have come to the right place. Now, let us see how we can get you there.
1. Starting your own company: Nothing can teach you Product Management better than starting your company. Reason? Because as a founder, you do everything on your own (at least in the starting). You’re your company’s Data Analyst, Marketer, Product Manager, Customer Support, and whatnot. You become a jack of all trades and master of none, which is exactly what is needed to be a great Product Manager because you interact with so many different stakeholders every day. It is a fun rollercoaster ride with great learning experience but it can be quite expensive if your ultimate goal is just to get into Product Management. However, if you get that opportunity and are up for the challenge, I’d recommend trying your hand at entrepreneurship at least once. I started my startup and learned so much in the process, especially things that don’t work, which brings you one step closer to things that will work.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
- Thomas Edison
2. Associate Product Manager (APM) Programs/Internship Programs: This route is most suited for fresh graduates. Big companies such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, etc. have APM programs that help people with no experience get into Product Management. These programs help you learn fast because of the well-designed curriculum, which includes working on live high user base products, access to mentorship and coaching, rotation within different product organizations, and the opportunity to build a network but are very competitive. You can find a list of all APM programs here and signup for the programs to get a notification when they do open up. The other route is getting a summer internship at a big company. You can find internships here.
Image Source: RocketBlocks
3. Transition within the company: This is one of the quickest ways to get into Product Management without spending a penny. It doesn’t matter which role you’re working in. There will always be something in your role that you can mold into Product Manager responsibilities or at least try to get closer to the product team within your organization. Meet Product Managers and try to understand their role, extend your help in any which way you can, and express your desire to join their team. I have seen people moving from Marketing, Customer Experience, Operations, Analytics, Engineering to Product Management. So can you! You can find more details on how to do that transition here.
“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”
- Jim Rohn
4. MBA: A lot of people also pursue an MBA to get into middle or senior level Product Manager roles at big companies, which pay handsomely to freshly minted MBAs. Fortune 500 companies recruit MBAs directly from campus for these roles and other companies are constantly looking for MBAs to fill up Product Manager roles. You might be thinking why? Some of the main reasons are that MBAs get to interact with a lot of people from different backgrounds during MBA, work with them on a couple of wide range of projects, give presentations and take mandatory courses such as Finance, Strategy, Operations, Data Analytics, etc. So, MBA is an overall package that is useful for the Product Management job. But it does come with a price, a hefty price! You can find more details on how an MBA can help here and the Product Management plan here.
“Get an education because no one can take that from you.”
- Nomar Garciaparra
5. PM Bootcamps/Programs: There are other Product Management specific programs/boot camps offered by companies such as Product School, General Assembly. These are comparatively less expensive than an MBA and are seeing a rising trend for Product Manager aspirants. These might also be helpful for people who want to transition within the company but lack some skills and don’t want to spend a lot on higher education. These boot camps help you with the skills and knowledge required for Product Management by building digital products, getting mentorship, teaching case studies, etc. The best part is that these courses are taught by featured instructors from fortune 500 companies.
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
- Benjamin Franklin
All of the above steps might take some planning and time to execute but no one is stopping you to start learning the ins and outs of Product Management. Check out some of the following well-known resources that will help you get a better idea of Product Management responsibilities and how to crack Product Management interviews.
In case you’re wondering how I got into Product Management - I started my own company and worked on e-Commerce products, developed and launched some products during my MBA, and worked in a Product role at my University.
Happy learning & Best of luck! Let me know if you find this blog helpful.