Institute of Product Leadership
Close this search box.

Make the Shift: Mid-Career Professional to Product Leader

By Pinkesh Shah – Chief Product Officer, Qualys

Muthuraj Thangavel –  Product Manager, Intuit

Transitioning into the domain of Product Management can be highly challenging and confusing, but in order to navigate through it in a smoother manner, exploring the three crucial aspects that form the heart of product development: Desirability, Feasibility, and Viability tend to be highly vital. A successful product manager must address these key elements to drive effective product development. This blog also focuses on the order in which Desirability and Feasibility should be addressed. Furthermore, understanding the time allocation of Product Managers and evaluating whether the career is a right fit or not are also essential steps in preparing for a transition to Product Management. Let’s delve in!

Key Takeaways:

  • Product development revolves around three crucial aspects, guiding the entire process from conceptualization to market launch.
  • Successful product managers possess key skills within each of these aspects, making them adept at driving effective product development.
  • Transitioning to Product Management requires thorough self-evaluation, skill development, and exploring internal or external avenues for career growth.
In this article
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    The three crucial aspects of product development guide the way products are conceptualized, designed, and eventually brought to market. Even employers also actively seek candidates who possess essential key skills within each of the three essential ingredients. Let’s discuss each one of these in detail.

    The Three Essential Ingredients for Product Building

    1. Desirability (Design Skills): 

    The essence of desirability lies in understanding customer insights, validation, lean thinking, and prototyping, along with the concept of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). It also involves excelling in unraveling customers’ needs, emotions, and experiences to create captivating user experiences.

    2. Feasibility (Technology): 

    Feasibility involves a plethora of skills centered around agile methodologies, road mapping, and Scrum. For engineers, these concepts may already be familiar, as they work with given instructions and requirements. However, in Product Management, the role shifts to crafting those directions and setting the path for engineering and construction teams. Ensuring feasibility means being proficient in translating ideas into actionable plans and solutions.

    3. Viability: 

    Viability encompasses understanding market size, financial aspects, pricing models, sales acquisition, and funnel analysis. A product manager must assess the business-related challenges and opportunities, ensuring that the proposed solution aligns with the organization’s goals and can thrive in the market.

    These three pillars encompass the core skill sets required for successful Product Management. Whether aspiring to become a product manager or already in the role, focusing on honing these skill sets is essential for thriving in the dynamic world of product development. Remember, it’s not just about the role; it’s about mastering the skills that empower you to excel in the field of Product Management.

    There are different orders in which the ring of these three ingredients traverses and a holistic understanding of how it moves tends to be paramount in effective Product Management.

    Desirability or Feasibility Which Should Be Addressed First?

    When it comes to Product Management, an essential aspect lies in understanding the order in which desirability and feasibility are addressed. The process of building a product can take various paths. Often, companies might jumpstart their product journey with a feasibility discussion, leading to a proof of concept (POC). Here, the focus is on solving a specific problem using available technology, creating a working piece of code, and then adding an appealing UI before launching it into the market. Unfortunately, this approach can lead to challenges, with many products failing to make a lasting impact or garner customer interest. A plethora of mobile apps, for instance, fall prey to this trap, with a significant percentage facing quick uninstallation due to a lack of instant gratification and engagement.

    However, a more strategic approach involves starting with desirability – identifying a problem worth solving and evaluating its business potential. The suitability of a solution varies between individuals, startups, and established companies, depending on their unique goals, skill sets, and partner networks. By first confirming the right problem to address and then considering the appropriate technology (feasibility) and assembling the team to execute the solution, product managers can set their products on the path to success. By adopting this approach, product managers can create solutions that resonate with customers, align with business goals, and leverage technology optimally, ensuring a more successful and impactful product journey.

    With an understanding of the three aspects, it is equally important to explore the time allocation of Product Managers to gain an insightful overview of where they invest most of their time. This helps stakeholders and team members to better collaborate with Product Managers, align their efforts, and support their decision-making processes.

    How do Product Managers Spend their time?

    As Product Managers, their time is distributed across various crucial aspects:

    1. 2% Hiring and Talent Development:

    Hiring and retaining talented individuals while providing mentorship constitute a small but significant portion of their responsibilities.

    2. 28% Meetings:

    As you step into the role of a Product Manager, you’ll undoubtedly encounter a multitude of meetings that may seem unending, especially with various stakeholders. Hence resulting in a calendar filled with back-to-back commitments and a major portion of your time being spent on that. Mastering the skill of effectively prioritizing your tasks, handling diverse meetings, and delivering on commitments becomes paramount for defining your success and reaching the next level in your Product Management journey.

    3. 32% Research:

    In a Product Management role, a significant portion of your time is ideally dedicated to customer interviews and interactions. Working in a reputable organization emphasizes extensive customer research, including primary and secondary results, staying abreast of market trends, and comprehending market dynamics. 

    4. 14% Presentations:

    As a Product Manager, delivering presentations to both higher management and your team is essential, since you must build trust within your team, ensuring they believe in your ability to represent the customer accurately and meet their needs. Your success lies in steering experiments in the right direction, earning the team’s trust as their advocate for customers, despite not having formal authority over stakeholders.

    5. 24% Project Management & Execution:

    The project management aspect is crucial as a Product Manager, ensuring seamless collaboration among various teams to deliver the optimal experience. Often, different areas may lack understanding of each other’s workings, and you play a pivotal role in orchestrating these diverse experiences, fostering effective teamwork.

    So that’s what a typical Product manager’s time looks like. So by now, you have a clear understanding of the role of a Product Manager and how their time is allocated, you must actually ask yourself these three questions to determine if this career path is right for you and whether making this transition is the best choice.

    Should You Make the Transition?

    Before making the shift to Product Management, every individual should seek clarity by addressing the following three fundamental questions:

    1. Does it actually fit you?

    Often, certain trends emerge in the market, like AI and ML, becoming overused and discussed by everyone. Many developers feel compelled to learn and obtain certifications in AI just to stay relevant in their careers. However, it’s important to remember that this rush to follow trends isn’t always necessary or beneficial.

    Instead, it’s essential to recognize that various areas are experiencing changes, and anticipating those shifts can be crucial. For instance, if you’re in a quality role, many companies are rethinking their approach to quality as it becomes integrated into the product-building process through DevOps. In this case, you might want to consider transitioning into a different area, such as technology, where your skills could be more in demand. Similarly, in technology companies, project management roles are also being reconsidered. So, if you’re in project management, it might be worth exploring other opportunities for career growth.

    However, not all roles are affected by buzzwords and trends. Many positions still provide excellent opportunities for advancement, and you can focus on learning advanced aspects within those roles. Remember, your curiosity about a buzzword is entirely normal, but the key is not to be solely attracted to buzzwords but to take some time and understand the day-to-day responsibilities and work involved in the area you’re considering. This will help you determine if it’s genuinely the right path for you. Ultimately, the first question to ask yourself is, “Is this the right fit for me?” Understanding your passion and interests is the foundation for your career journey and success.

    Many engineering leaders find themselves transitioning into product management after accumulating 18 to 20 years of experience. However, this shift often requires starting from the ground up or at a more basic level in the product management domain. This can be challenging, but it’s essential to embrace this process to grow in the product management career. In the hiring process, someone with ten years of experience ends up becoming an associate product manager or product manager level one, causing a potential clash in roles. It actually depends on the individual whether they are willing to undertake the transition and embrace new challenges. Hence you must thoroughly evaluate and prepare yourself for this change. Let’s delve into how to prepare oneself for the role.

    2. Get Yourself Ready

    The following steps can help you prepare yourself for a successful transition into product management, which include: 

    a. EMBA/MBA courses:

    It offer incredible opportunities for learning and growth, with options like online certifications from reputable institutions like IPL. The key to making the most of these courses is to apply what you learn actively.

    b. Build a Portfolio:

    As a product manager, creating a portfolio of demand-stable assets is crucial. Apply your learnings to develop a portfolio that showcases your skills and achievements.

    c. Expand Your Network:

    Networking and personal branding are essential for any professional, especially in today’s virtual world. Building a strong network and positive online presence can significantly enhance your personal brand and career prospects.

    d. Develop a Product Manager’s Perspective:

    As you prepare yourself for a career in product management, start seeing things around you through a product manager’s eyes. Analyze products and experiences, asking yourself how you would approach them if you were a product manager. This mindset will better prepare you for transitioning into the role.

    e. Master Your Personal Brand:

    Take charge of your online presence and personal brand. Google yourself to see what information is available about you and work on creating a positive online identity that aligns with your career goals.

    f. Apply PM Thinking to Everything:

    Train yourself to analyze products and experiences from a product manager’s perspective. Consider why certain features were implemented, how user experiences were designed, and what you would have done differently if you were in charge. This approach will help you develop a product-focused mindset and make a smoother transition into product management.

    3. Transition to Product Management

    Making the transition to a product management role offers several avenues, each with its unique advantages and challenges, which are: 

    a. Internal Transition within Your Company:

    Transitioning within your current company can be highly advantageous, especially if you are at a later stage in your career. Having an established network within the company and a track record of accomplishments in your previous role can work in your favor. As you move into the new product management role, your past contributions and reputation within the company can command respect and provide a supportive environment for learning and growth. Furthermore, familiarity with the company’s context can be a significant asset during an internal transition.

    b. External Job Search:

    Exploring external opportunities can be more challenging, particularly when transitioning into product management. In your job search, you may encounter difficulty in effectively communicating your product management-related experience and skills on your resume. Recruiters might focus more on your current job title, which could lead to overlooking your potential as a product manager if your title is not explicitly related to the field. However, with the right approach and highlighting relevant experiences, it is still possible to overcome these challenges and succeed in an external job transition.

    c. Entrepreneurship:

    For those with a strong passion for creating innovative products and the determination to see their vision come to life, entrepreneurship is an enticing option. Starting your own venture allows you the freedom to pursue your dream product and build something truly unique. However, it requires a high level of dedication, perseverance, and a willingness to take on significant risks. If you possess these qualities and have a clear vision of the product you want to bring to the market, entrepreneurship can be an excellent path to pursue.

    It is generally recommended to consider internal opportunities as a first step, as it can leverage existing relationships and past achievements to support your journey into product management.

    About the Authors:

    Pinkesh Shah – Chief Product Officer, Qualys

    Muthuraj Thangavel –  Product Manager, Intuit

    Explore Our Programs

    Institute of Product Leadership is Asia’s First Business School providing accredited degree programs and certification courses exclusively in Product Management, Strategy, and Leadership.

    Talk to a counselor today and embark on your journey towards becoming an exceptional product manager.

    Whether you’re seeking advice on career paths, looking to enhance your skills, or facing challenges in your current role, our counselors are ready to provide valuable insights and actionable strategies.