How do I become a Product Manager ?

 

Here are some practical tips on becoming a Product Manager (PM) for a high-tech product. This is an excerpt of my Udemy course called – Transitioning to Product Management.

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How you can become a Product Manager depends largely on where you are coming from. If you are a fresher, the path will be different from someone who has work experience. Similarly, the path for someone with work experience in a technical role will be different than others from a non-technical role (ex. Finance, Operations).

Nevertheless, there are certain things you can do in your current role, no matter where you are coming from:

If you are just starting your career:

  1. Build your PM mindset – In our workshops related to helping technical people transition to Product Management, we have often talked about the need to have a PM mindset before you even decide to look out for a PM role. What is the PM mindset? It is about being able to think of the big picture. It will help you start with why a particular product should exist (the vision), how to go about building the product (strategy) and building the product and taking it to the market (execution).
  1. Join an Industry Organization: There are various industrial organizations that focus on the PM as a subject matter. Some of these started in the Silicon Valley and are now available in many other cities and countries. They bring in PM professionals routinely to talk about various PM related aspects – Building Products, Go-To-Market Strategy and execution, Sales, Marketing etc. Hearing the real-world experiences from professionals go a long way for the aspiring PMs. Often there are some membership fees to join these organizations, but the benefits far exceed the fees.
  1. Volunteer: You can volunteer in Product Management consulting companies. This will give you a chance to learn about the actual work that Product Managers do. During one such assignment, I leant about doing competitive analysis and did a real-life SWOT analysis.
  1. Build your own Product: The best thing you can do is build your own product. But since you are fresh out of college, you have to think through this and do it without a lot of overhead expenses. There are ways to build products with a minimal investment.
  1. Watch TV shows like Shark Tank and The Profit: They help in defining the value proposition of a product. You can understand how products are marketed, how are they sold, understand the basic metrics of any product. This will help you in overall improving your PM IQ.

If you have some work experience in a technical area:

  1. Volunteer at your company: You can volunteer at your company within the Product Management organization.
  1. Get into a role where it is easier to get into a PM role: Some roles are easier than others to transition into PM roles. Find such a role as your next move, if you are not into such a role yet.
  1. Become an expert: With more expertise, you get more opportunities into a PM role.
  1. Build your own Product: I have already covered this. Its benefits are applicable even if you are coming from a technical job.
  1. Join an Industry organization: Please look above for this as well. The benefits remain unchanged.
  1. Watch TV shows like Shark Tank and The Profit: Again, this has been covered previously.

If you have some work experience not in a technical field (ex. Finance): 

  1. Join an industry organization: Covered earlier.
  2. Build your own Product: Please refer to the previous section.
  3. Watch TV shows like Shark Tank and The Profit: Again, this has been covered previously.

One more way that I have not mentioned is getting an MBA. It may work or may not depending on where you do the MBA from. Due to its cost incurred, I have left it out from this discussion.

What was your path to a Product Manager role ? Your insight might help others…

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