5 easy ways to move up in Product Management
By Pia Marsh
When it comes to a career in product management, the opportunities are limitless.
A product management team is often regarded as the talent pool from which a company’s future executives are drawn, and rightly so, as few roles force an understanding of the full business as much as a product manager.
So what exactly is a Product Manager?
Product managers manage every moment of the product’s lifecycle, taking the idea from the executive level and guiding it through conception and development. Boasting impressive market and customer knowledge, PM professionals are perhaps some of the best seated in the house to assume leadership roles. Add to this the ongoing collaborative work and exposure to the worlds of sales, finance and marketing, PM’s are well equipped with the multi-disciplinary skills that are required for a promotion.
While the career options available to a product manager are constantly evolving and expanding, a product manager typically progresses in four stages:
- Senior Product Manager: managing and grooming one or more junior PM.
- Head of Product: Manage a portfolio of products and PM/Senior PM’s.
- VP of Product: Senior responsible for the rest of the executive team, representing product/market/company success rather than a measure of one specific function.
- CEO: Head responsible in charge of leading cross-functional teams from a product’s conception through to its launch. Usually experienced and expert in all aspects of the business, from strategy to ideation and market analysis.
Here are 5 easy steps to help you advance in the industry:
1. Master your trade
Good product managers know their market, the product, the product line and their competition extremely well. They work in confidence and with a strong skill set behind them, based on well founded knowledge and experience. A good product manager measures themselves in terms of the success of the product rather than counting losses. Often considered “a jack of all trades”, a good PM has a unique value, based on an all-round expertise. When it comes to product management, no knowledge is invaluable, so take the opportunity to learn new skills with elation.
2. Be the boss of the product
Live and breathe your product. Use it yourself, test it out on other people, ask for feedback. Be passionate in a way that is both convincing and inspiring. Better yet, be genuine. Anticipate the flaws and build solutions. Practice the company pitch until you know it better than anyone. Recruit talent when needed, and give credit accordingly.
3. Skip the excuses
A good product manager takes initiative. A bad manager has a lot of excuses. Volunteer your help for the hard stuff, even if it isn’t directly transcribed in your job description. Manage the product team and give formal direction.
4. Work on leadership
A key factor in moving up the product manager career ladder is how you manage people. Are you an experienced people person? Do you have a track record of leadership and can you coach people to work better than they already do? The career progression of a product manager naturally points to leadership roles. Managing large portfolios comes with greater responsibility, so the ability mentor, communicate and hire executive talent effectively is crucial.
5. Ask for feedback
Perhaps an obvious one, but important nonetheless. Seek out your peers, VP’s, customers and other stakeholders and ask them where you can improve. Address your weaknesses and build on your strengths. Share your ambitions and then ask for advice on how to achieve them.
Where to start?
Larger companies with one or more large product portfolios usually offer the most progression. However, with the start-up industry booming, many junior product managers choose to head in the direction of a start-up they are passionate about. Passion speaks wonders, and picking a product you adore can make all the difference. If you’re just breaking into the industry, or developing an existing skill-set, formal training in product management best practices can really help.
A career in product management can see you doing anything from liaising with customers to determining creative strategy. Be explicit in your actions, project positivity and focus on what’s important and you’ll be well on your way to a promotion.
We are launching a new Product Management course next year for the first time to help people understand what it takes to drive the product vision from ideation to reality.