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Your Roadmap to a Thriving Product Management Career | Product Management Career Path

By Arun Vijapur – Senior Product Manager at Nutanix

At some point in our careers, a lot of us wonder- What is the path to a thriving career in product management? This path can be both challenging as well as rewarding. It is possible to explore a multitude of roles and responsibilities as you progress in your careers. Let us first look at the career path. Professionals usually start as associate product manager or product owners, then move to senior product manager, then you can continue to be an individual contributor in product management or you can take more of a managerial role like director or vice president, eventually chief product officer and some of them also end up taking coveted roles like Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of the company.

Key Takeaways:

  • Having a formal education is one way to become a product manager.
  • It is helpful to volunteer to help existing product managers and be enthusiastic about being a part of their team.
  • Networking with existing product managers and aspiring product managers can help you get an entry in the field.
  • One of the most important ways to become a product manager is finding a mentor who has done it all and can advise you on the same path.
  • Preparation for the role, especially the hiring process and interviews is of high importance and should be taken very seriously, no matter how experienced you might be.

In this article, we will discuss the various ways of entry into product manager roles such as:

1. Formal education

2. Demonstrate skills

3. Networking

4. Mentoring

5. Preparation is the key

Contrary to the popular belief, there is no rule that you need to come from an engineering, technical, marketing, etc. background to enter inside the product management world. Though there are many companies that are heavily engineering, sales, or marketing oriented and they might prefer hiring candidates with that background, the majority of the product manager openings don’t really care as long as you have certain crucial key skill sets. Basically there are diverse entry points in the product management world, which does not follow a certain predefined or linear path.

How did I break in?

1. Formal education- To explain the diversity of entry points, consider the speaker who holds a formal MBA in product management. While this is one way of entry into the field, it by no means is the only way. There are many companies  that do not focus on your education or background during the hiring process.

2. Demonstrate skills- One of the key ways to enter into this domain of product management is to volunteer, and get in touch with existing product managers who you look up to. They have a lot of responsibilities to take care of. There is no problem with you going up to them and saying that you are aspiring to be a product manager. You might show willingness and enthusiasm to help them. If they are impressed, they might help you a lot. 

You can also write and demonstrate your thought process on a lot of forums like LinkedIn and medium. Just take any product, dissect it, talk about its value proposition, go to market strategy, or how they can make their product better. That might catch some eyeballs and you can explain that in some of your interviews also. 

3. Networking- Networking is another invaluable pathway of entry into product management. Networking can be done both in person and on linkedin as well. It is especially helpful to attend some events in product management.That is a great opportunity for product managers to get to know who you are . 

4. Mentoring- Mentoring is one of the best ways to break into product management. If you can find a mentor, who has gone through that path and can provide you direction, train you, motivate you and give you advice, you can do wonders for your career. Learning from someone with real-world experience can significantly enhance your understanding of the role of a product manager and accelerate your career growth. 

5. Preparation is the key- Regardless of where you are in your career and what your preferred way of entry into product management is, preparation for the role is paramount. You need to be prepared for the process and interviews and familiarize yourself with product management frameworks. You need to be able to demonstrate to your hiring team on how you are going to approach the product solving problem given to you in interviews and other hiring processes. 

It is safe to assume that no matter where you are in your career, you can break into product manager roles using many tried and tested ways. These can include having a formal education, demonstrating skills, networking, mentoring and preparation for the various steps involved in the hiring processes.

About the Author:

Arun VijapurSenior Product Manager at Nutanix

Frequently Asked Questions

Entering into product management does not have an established path. It needs a combination of skills like education, mentoring, networking, etc.

There are multiple ways in which you can become a product manager like having a formal education, mentoring, networking with other product managers, preparation for interviews and demonstrating skills.

Though a formal education in product management might be helpful, it by no means is a necessity to get into product management roles. There are a lot of companies that do not focus on your education or background during the hiring process.

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