November 22, 2019

The Ideal Product Manager Career Path

Product Manager

Product managers are integral to ensuring that processes run smoothly and efficiently from beginning to end and are an essential component in the smooth running of any organization. The product manager's role is to guide cross-functional teams throughout the product lifecycle. This means from initial concepts and roadmaps all the way through to handing over to the client. The product manager must be able to solve not only their own problems but that of their colleagues, all whilst meeting deadlines and client objectives.

Product Manager Career Path, product manager career
Product Manager Career Path

How to become product manager ?

So, how does someone become a product manager? Should an aspiring product manager take a project management course? What is the ideal product manager career path?

Product Management Courses

Although it is possible to become a general product manager with any degree subject, if you think you want to go into this field then a product management course will be very useful. This a great way for individuals who think they will find this career fulfilling but aren’t sure which sector they may prefer.

For those who know which area they wish to work in, an undergraduate degree in related subjects such as engineering, for example, will provide incredibly useful practical experience and subject knowledge. Short training and vocational courses such as in Agile methodology will also help you progress your knowledge and practical skills as a budding product manager.

Product Management Skills

Courses and professional training are great – but they will generally be taught on-the-job for graduates. There are certain skills that you should be confident in having before you get to this stage.

Organization

Arguably the most important skill for any product manager is organization. Product managers not only need to organize their own workload but also their teams’. Product managers must be incredibly disciplined in their responsibilities – whether they are managing and setting up meetings or following the progress of a project.

Time Management

Similarly, product managers will also be managing their own time alongside their teams’. You must be able to assign and share workloads successfully and depending on the methodology you use this could be tricky. Kanban, for example, dictates a limit in the number of tasks that can be worked on at one time. This means that you need to be able to stick to your schedule and workload and be willing to say no to extra work at certain times. Prioritize your time well and you will be far more successful as a product manager.

Leadership

An incredibly key skill for any product manager is being able to take on a leadership role. You must be able to inspire and encourage your team under any circumstances, especially when deadlines are tight, and stakeholders want to keep revising their project vision. There are also certain methodologies that encourage product managers to create leadership from all team members at all levels.


How To Progress In The Ideal Product Manager Career Path

So, you’re working as a product manager – but how to make sure you progress in your career?

  • One way is to write weekly progress reports. This ensures you remember every time you tackled a challenge (and how), every achievement and what targets were met. It’s also an incredibly useful way to plan for upcoming projects and keep track of your learning. It will also encourage a crucial mindset of continuous improvement and constant critical reflection. 


  • Another great way to advance through the ideal product manager career path is to connect. Network wherever possible as this is crucial to making your way up through your chosen field. Don’t approach networking as though it’s a frightening conversation – think of it as pursuing shared interests and conversations with those who can further your career. Any product manager who focuses purely on KPI’s and metrics are not going to foster useful personal relationships with the very people who can advance their career prospects. 


Next Steps

You’re now successfully working as a valued product manager – what next? Luckily, you’ll have plenty of options. How about the Director of Product Management? Chief Product Officer? VP of Product Manager? The options are varied, and by now you’ll have all the skills needed to put you in a good position to move up. There are still plenty of skills you’ll probably need to do this, however. Can you code? If not, I’d recommend learning. Not only will it make you incredibly in-demand, but it will also help you to communicate more effectively with your team. 

What sets a brilliant product manager apart from mediocre ones? Understanding their clients. That’s why if you understand User Experience (UX) you can really understand the mindset of your customers which can, in turn, help you develop a more robust product. Another valuable skillset to have is analytics – if you can see the patterns and themes in data and use this to develop strategies, you’re already a cut above the rest. Use this knowledge to solve problems better.

Conclusion

One important thing to remember is that your journey as a product manager is not going to look like anyone else’s. In truth, there is no ideal product manager career path. Sure, there are steps you can take and methodologies that you can learn that will help you enormously – but this is the kind of career that some people just ‘fall into.’ There are some that know they want to become a product manager but have to go through multiple unfulfilling roles before finding the right one for them. Keep an enthusiastic attitude and stay open to learning – this will help you far more in advancing your career than strictly following a rule book. 

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