3 years ago I’ve changed my career path, from Software Development to Product Management. From time to time people approach me and want to know how I made it. They ask the same question in different forms: How to become a product manager? What do I need to learn in order to become a Product Manager? 3 years in, I can answer this question for myself and help you get an answer for yourself.
Based on my own experience and journey, I will share with you what did work for me. I am certain that there are other ways to become a Product Manager, and I urge you to keep reading and searching for the best way for you.
I’ll cover 3 topics:
- Why do you want to become a Product Manager? A look inside
- Learning resources (books, podcasts, online reading, and more)
Start with Why?
Why do you want to become a Product Manager? This is a personal question that you have to answer to yourself.
The following questions might help you to answer it for yourself:
- Thinking of your career for the next 10 years — which type of decisions do you want to make? Which type of assignments do you want to do?
- If you’re like me, becoming a Product Manager means that you move from the producing circle of the organization, i.e. code, design or test, to the decision makers circle. Are you fine with that as a person?
If your reason for becoming a Product Manager is that you want to be the CEO — unfortunately, you’re in the wrong place.
As for me, these were my reasons:
- I wanted my focus to be on solving problems for the users rather than solving technical problems
- I wanted to practice and master soft skills, including speaking in front of people on a daily basis, convincing and managing to make a difference with no real power, building consensus around an idea and more
If you’re still interested in making this move, continue reading for getting the best online materials for becoming a Product Manager.
Continue with learning
In the following part, you can find some materials for learning about Product Management. These helped me understand some of the basics in Product Management, including onboarding, UX (which stands for User Experience), UI (which stands for User Interface), prioritization, data-driven decisions, and marketing.
In this section you will find recommended:
- Books for Product Managers
- Podcasts for Product Managers
- Online reading for Product Managers
BTW, if you’re into reading (like I am), Amazon have 30 days free trial for kindle books and audio books you should take a look at.
Product Management for Dummies by Brian Lawley
Product management plays a pivotal role in organizations. In fact, it’s now considered the fourth most important title in corporate America — yet only a tiny fraction of product managers have been trained for this vital position.
Link to book in Amazon — https://amzn.to/2FFb3wy
Cracking the PM interview by Gayle McDowell
Learn how “PM” role varies across companies, what experience you need, how to make your existing experience translate, what a great PM resume and cover letter look like, and finally, how to master the PM interview questions.
Link to book in Amazon — https://amzn.to/2S9Qo5e
Hooked — How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal.
How do successful companies create products people can’t put down?
…A four-step process embedded into the products of many successful companies to subtly encourage customer behavior.
Link to book in Amazon — https://amzn.to/2zpjJSe
Zero to one by Peter Thiel - This book really inspired me.
In Zero to One, legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create those new things.
Link to book in Amazon — https://amzn.to/2DJR8KA
Don’t make me think — A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability.
..Usability guru Steve Krug’s guide to help understand the principles of intuitive navigation and information design.
Link to book in Amazon — https://amzn.to/2r4MK0X
Intercom on onboarding — you don’t have a second chance for the first impression they say.
User onboarding is the most important step in scaling a product company — it helps you convert new signups into successful users.
Link to book in Amazon — https://amzn.to/2RaWEJZ
Explore these online materials, which will help you master your skills as a Product Manager:
UX and UI:
- User onboard — Samual Hulik teardown onboarding processes for the best and trendiest apps.
User Onboarding is the process of increasing the likelihood that new users become successful when adopting your product.
- Interaction design about UX —interaction design website writes about UX
- Good Product Manager bad Product Manager — Written 15 years ago by Ben Horowitz from a16z VC
- The product book by the product school — https://amzn.to/2FPfrJM
- The Hardest Lesson for Startups to Learn — this piece written in 2006 by Paul Graham, co-founder of one of the best startups accelerator Y-Combinator
- Mixpanel blog — Signal — Mixpanel, which is a product analytics tool for product people writes and interviews Product Managers and other industry leaders
- re:Work with Google — re:Work is a collection of practices, research, and ideas from Google and others to help you put people first. Inspiring reads on management
- What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build The Perfect Team — a great read on a research task Google conducted on why some workgroups thrive and others falter
- The ultimate guide to interviewing a Product Manager
- The PM interview — A virtual PM interview questions, and also a promotion for the book “Cracking the PM interview”
- 90 PM questions — 90 questions arranged to fit your background
I use to listen to podcasts on Product Management to get inspiration and to learn about the industry. Find the time to listen to podcasts to get inspired:
“How I Built This” podcast by Guy Raz
How I Built This weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists — and the movements they built
Guy has another great show called “Ted Radio Hour”.
“This is Product Management” podcast by Mike Fishbein:
Join 15,000 weekly listeners to learn from the brightest minds in product management.
Conversations with practitioners from the worlds of product management, design, startups, and marketing.
Being a Product Manager requires practice, and you should invest approximately 20 hours before deciding if Product Management is for you. I want to share with you an exercise that I’m doing all the time and taught me a lot.
From a bird’s eye, when working on a new product (vs. iterating on existing product i.e.) your routine includes 7 major steps, which we will cover next.
Before we begin — Select a product
Start by choosing a website or an app that you want to be the Product Manager of. Examples — Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Google calendar.
Did you choose? Here are the steps:
Step one — Find problems
As a Product Manager, problems are all around you and you just have to know how to search for them. Some examples of how to find problems:
- Investigating the metrics of your product, think of hypothesis on why the metrics are not as great as they can be
- Reading user feedbacks — support tickets, social mentions or store reviews
- Interviewing your customers, either directly or through people in your organization (customer success managers, business developers, etc.)
Step two — Prioritize and validate the problems
Being a successful Product Manager requires prioritizing the problems you will focus on and finding the ‘best’ problems.
The ‘best’ problems are problems that can have the biggest positive impact on the users and can be solved in the shortest time.
Step three— Find solutions
Come up with solutions to the problems you found, 3 solutions for each problem will be a great start. Some tips for making sure your solutions are valid:
- Explain yourself why this solution will solve the problem
- Back your solutions with data
- Challenge yourself by being your idea’s biggest criticizer
- Don’t get emotionally attached to your solutions
Step four — Research for competitors, adjust your solutions accordingly
Other Product Managers invested time and efforts in solving the same problems you are facing. You should use their wisdom by researching their product. Take screenshots, videos, and understand their rationale. Finally, remember that they are humans and can make mistakes as well.
Step five — Draw
When creating your designs, think about how your designs will convey your message. Designs will help you explain your idea even to the most technical people easily.
Step six — Define MVP
MVP stands for Minimal Viable Product, and you should read about it (Here’s a great book by Eric Reiss). As a Product Manager, you want to meet the clients as fast as possible to validate your problem and the solution. An MVP doesn’t have to include one line of code, doesn’t have to include any designs and doesn’t have to validate both problem and solution.
I.e. this article is an MVP for validating that the problem of developers that want to move to Product Management jobs and don’t have guidance is real.
Step seven — Present
In order to polish the problems and solutions you found, present your thinking process to others and observe — where was it hard for you to resonate your decisions? Did you get new ideas? Improve accordingly.
Repeat the exercise with another product, until you feel comfortable enough with the process.
If you like this one, be sure to clap, share and follow me — it means a lot to me!