How to Become a Product Manager

IPL’s Product Manager career guide is intended to help you take the first steps towards launching a career in the product management function. From the skills you need to the certifications required, career paths, and responsibilities, this in-depth blog includes it all and more for your convenience. 

Keep scrolling to learn more. 

Who is a Product Manager?

A product manager is a professional role in an organization responsible for the development of products, from concept to launch to its improvement. Product managers are responsible for developing the business strategy behind a product, specify its functional requirements, and generally manage the launch of its features. 

The scope of a PM’s role depends a lot on the organization’s size. A product manager will have a great deal of input from early research to quality assurance and even marketing efforts in a start-up. A product manager is usually responsible for user research and execution in a large organization. Several product managers work parallely on narrow bands of a single product’s development in even larger firms. While one may focus on collecting and analyzing user feedback, the other may help develop the technical features.

While product managers are laser-focused on developing the best products for an organization, they should respond to the following questions.

  • The profitability of the product model
  • The possibility and limitation of a technology
  • The functionality of a product

These three pillars are at the heart of a product manager’s job function. But there is much more to the role than what meets the eye

Roles and Responsibilities of a Product Manager

The key responsibilities of a Product Manager includes:

  • Set up the product vision, roadmap and strategies
  • Gather market information, industry trends and determine customer requirements
  • Provide insights on product planning
  • Review product requirement and specifications
  • Evaluate new product ideas
  • Work in liaison with other teams like sales, marketing, engineering to ensure that business objectives are achieved
  • Analyze competitors by understanding their products
  • Collect user experience data
  • Define marketing communication objectives of the products
  • Prepare short and long-term product sales forecast
  • Determine product price by analyzing similar products

The Career Path of a Product Manager

Often referred to as the “glue that binds user experience with business requirements,” product managers have become integral to organizations. 

Most product managers come from a wide range of educational and work backgrounds; therefore, there is no single path to this profession. Being a senior position, most professionals migrate to this job function mid-career. According to a survey by BrainStation Digital Skills, 88% of product managers start their careers in a different field like marketing, engineering, or business analysis. 

There is no hard and fast rule to becoming a Product Manager. Although to become a Product Manager, you need to demonstrate exceptional skills in either UX, tech, or business. However, you can leverage any experience as long as you supplement it with the additional skills a Product Managers require. 

Responsibilities of a Product Manager at Google

When it comes to conceptualizing, scaling, and launching a product, no other tech company does it better than Google. With a wide range of products, from Gmail to Google cloud, the product managers at Google have huge responsibilities. This role is often highly challenging and can draw massive competition. 

On the surface, the job description of a Product Manager at Google is pretty much similar to the others. Since Google has a culture akin to that of start-ups, the Product Managers have greater control over the entire lifecycle of a product. Also, each Product Manager in Google is responsible for different products. 

To further elucidate the role of a Product Manager at Google, here are a few of their responsibilities. 

  • Conceptualize New Products: The primary responsibility of a Product Manager is to collaborate with other stakeholders and come with new product ideas. For this particular function, they are expected to identify potential opportunities and have a vast knowledge of the latest trends in the industry. 
  • Create Product Roadmap: After identifying an opportunity, the Product Manager should pitch the idea to the executives. If approved, they need to develop an in-depth product strategy. From product vision, budget, team, and other resources, every crucial detail must be included in this strategy. The roadmap should also provide a step-by-step visual representation of what needs to be done to develop, launch and test the product. 
  • Conduct Market Research: A Product Managers at Google, like others, have to conduct extensive market surveys to understand what the end-user wants. They will also have to keep an eye on the competitors. Additionally, a PM has to analyze the different trends in the market to make the product relevant. 
  • Collaborate with Other Teams to Execute Strategy: Product Managers at Google collaborate with other teams like engineering, sales, marketing, and finance to achieve the product vision. In a large enterprise like Google, these teams look up to the Product Manager to guide them to success. Thus, regular collaboration is essential. 
  • Test Features of The Products: Before product launch, the Product Manager at Google will have to test those out. The standard procedure is to find volunteers worldwide who will test developing products. The Product Manager then gathers feedback about the functionality and user experience, further fixing any bugs or issues. 
  • Develop Marketing Strategies: Product Managers at Google are also responsible for developing and executing marketing strategies. They identify current market trends, figure out ways to introduce the product to the market, and create a sustainable marketing plan. The Product Manager collaborates with the Product Marketer to execute the plan. 
  • Gather Feedback: As a Google Product Manager, you are supposed to gather feedback for the users, analyze the data and improve the product. This is a constant process and is vital to the job role.   

Skillsets of a Product Manager

As a product manager, you are a central knowledge hub. From critical information about the product to the market, you are responsible for various constituencies. To grow in this role, you need to develop specific skills. These include: 

  • Be Transparent: The primary task of a Product Manager is to explain the “why” of the product to the different stakeholders. Questions like “Why focus on a particular feature?” or “Why choose a particular theme?” are frequent for Product Managers. Therefore, it is essential for Product Managers to be clear with their roadmap. Be transparent with your strategic thinking to ensure that everyone is on the same page. 
  • Make Evidence-based Decisions: Rather than relying on a random “why”, Product Managers should make evidence-based decisions. Use real-time data, metrics and customer feedback to make informed strategies. You can also study your competitors to gather enough latest industry trends. Product Managers should have the ability to make compelling arguments when required. And gathering evidence should be a legit skill. 
  • Be able to PrioritizePriotitize Ruthlessly: Product Managers should learn to prioritize. Be it the number of team members or the budget, you will have to face limited resources. This means you need to prioritize and weigh in on competing factors, only to pick the things that you absolutely need. You can use the Kano model or similar features to score and prioritize the resources. 
  • Be an Empathetic Leader: A lot of people in a company looks up to a Product Manager for answers and guidance. This automatically puts you in a position of authority. A Product Manager should be able to guide team members and be empathetic. Thus, leadership skills should be inherent to all Product Managers. 
  • Have Business Skills: Product Managers are known as the CEOs of products. Though this statement might not be completely true, Product Managers should know how to generate profits for the company by developing a profitable product. Hence, business skills are imperative. 
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