Getting a product management job requires experience, but you cannot get the experience in the first place without having been in a product job. This is one of the many challenges people face when they tell me they want to be Product Managers. I decided to look into the typical journey of someone who wanted to become a Product Manager. In preparation for this book, I surveyed those who had previously reached out to me about my journey. I wanted to learn more about the different steps they had taken to understand what they found valuable. Some were fortunate to be in their first product role, while others were still on their journey to secure their first product role. Through these conversations, I was able to observe the pain points from the common activities they did and the emotions they felt. I broke down the stages of the journey into consideration; The moments leading up to what prompted them to search for a different career, which resulted in the discovery of product management. The Decision phase; They learn about the reality of the role and the ways of possibly breaking into product without any formal experience. And lastly, preparation; the final phase, once they have decided to do whatever it takes to get a job as a Product Manager. By understanding all these steps, you can identify where you are and figure out the best way to proceed to achieve your goal of becoming a PM.
Before the discovery of product management, people start by questioning what else they can do to have a meaningful career that best fits them. They proceed by searching for alternatives, and it is common to read through job descriptions to provide clues on what could appeal to them. Once they learn about product management, they are excited about a potential fit since the job summary fascinates them, which prompts them to learn more.
During the decision stage, people outside of tech (Shown as B in the table) had a more demanding journey than others already in tech (Shown as A in the table). The major burden was at the point where they all began to network and reach out to Product Managers. It was one of the most extended steps in the process, which commonly had the most influence on whether they were going to move forward with their search. Mainly because it was a way to learn about the reality of the job. Some were familiar with Product Managers and decided to reach out, but they also wanted diverse opinions, which meant reaching out to others they didn’t know. It was especially difficult for those outside the tech industry who had very few people in their network to assist them in finding a PM to meet.
At the preparation stage, my findings revealed that most of the steps for best product management practices had sufficient documentation available. The main pain point in this phase is finding that opportunity to get a foot in the door as a Product Manager.
I decided to embark on this project, to replicate the feeling of what it would be like if you could sit across 25 Product Managers to learn about what they do and how they got into their role. I interviewed candidates with diverse educational backgrounds to break the myth about the mandatory requirement of having a technical background to succeed in the role. This book aims to draw parallels to where you might currently be in your journey and provides stories that you can easily follow to help motivate you through your process. I made sure to highlight defining moments in their careers, including challenges and breakthroughs that gave them the clues they needed to proceed in their journey into product.
A commonality I found in Product Managers was the strong presence of an active imagination, the understanding of the foundational building blocks needed to construct it and the perseverance to bring it to life. PMs are observant of their environment and seek the necessary tools to navigate through any problem that stimulates them. By being able to break down a problem, visualize it and leverage their strengths, PMs unify different groups of people to solve a particular problem.
We've all heard stories of people scribbling ideas on napkins and months later their idea blows up and takes the world by storm. Well, grab a napkin and begin to brainstorm your next project. Pursuing this route can help you acquire the essential skills needed to succeed as a PM in any environment. It doesn't matter what idea or methodology you choose to bring it to life, as long as you justify your motivation for the idea and how the process worked for you. In reality, you learn by simply creating ideas and validating them.
With consumers’ infinite needs, the trick to creating value is to find a viable and seamless solution that consumers are willing to pay for. Taking the extra steps to build the product out and have it used by customers provides enormous feedback that can not only help improve the product itself but also add to your knowledge of product development. It is a continuous cycle that arms you with more experience each time you go through an iteration, pivot to something different, or create something entirely new. The same applies to physical goods and services as they share similar challenges: making difficult decisions that can make or break the idea.
Robleh started on the entrepreneurship path very early in university, from selling LED belt buckles to customized iPod earphones. As blogs became more popular, he shifted his focus to the internet and started sneaker play, a social network for sneaker enthusiasts. Growing the site caught the attention of brands like Nike, Adidas, and New balance and later led to an acquisition. While taking some time off, he bootstrapped the creation of a children's education app for his daughter, which got up to number 2 on the app store. Robleh then formed his studio for making apps, which later got acquired by Shopify and led him to his current senior product lead role.
Belinda studied to be a journalist as a way to bring information to people and empower societies with objective truth. After a few unpaid internships, she secured a full-time role as an associate editor and enjoyed the behind the scenes of crafting stories, finding creative tools to help curate content, and empowering others to write their own stories. Belinda moved on to a client success and training role at scribbled live, a tool she used as a journalist where she got to empower and support other reporters and editors. While cultivating a close relationship with clients, she funnelled feature requests and feedback to the development team for iteration. It was when she knew she wanted to be a product manager and started interviewing while freelancing and working on her tech newsletter until she got a job.
David started on the path to a computer science degree but later switched to new media that focused on human-computer interaction and user experience. Still familiar with software development, he kicked off a freelance career after graduation and built websites for people for three years. David was then approached by a friend to do a streaming startup, and worked on for another two years but left after things became stagnant. Taking a break from tech, he decided to pivot to a career in photography for four years but also found that unsustainable and went back to tech to try out his startup again. When that didn’t work out, he met up with an old client who offered him a job as a product manager at their startup.
Seeing what you thought was the next big thing crumble down isn't a great feeling, especially if you've invested time and money into it. It can take a toll on your confidence, but it is best to be retrospective on what went wrong to understand what could have been done better. What some see as failures, others see incredible experiences filled with lessons and learning. If things didn't work out the first time, chances are they will be more improved the next time around. Product development is iterative and while working on a project on your own, even if that fails, it gives you the first iteration you need to go through the cycle again. You'll know what not to do, and if you're reflective enough, it will help you identify the gaps in your knowledge and how to fill them.
The skills gained through working on your own business are invaluable and starting a project also creates similar learnings. It would be best if you considered picking a project that solves a problem for real users and generates revenue, no matter how small to bring to the market. It will reveal the things you are great at and others that you need to improve. If getting into product is your end goal, then it will also give you enough to talk about during your interviews, which has a likelihood of impressing employers.
Usually, early-stage start-ups with less than 30 hires don't need Product Managers. At that phase, the founder is likely leading the product vision and working closely with the teams to communicate how best to solve customer problems. Employees rarely enter these small companies and become a PM from the start. However, early-stage start-ups are a great place to gain the skills needed to transition either internally into a product role (as the company grows), or to another organization altogether. A small team makes it easy to understand each person’s role and knowledge is easily shared throughout departments, meaning that anyone can fill in for another role if the need ever arises. The nature of start-ups also means that not enough people can handle the scale of the work to be done, which allows for others to pick up tasks in other disciplines.
An enormous opportunity to learn all aspects of a business is out there for anyone willing to join an early-stage company. You can gain all the required skills to land a Product Manager role without the risk of taking on the responsibility of building your own company. What matters is getting a foot in the door and staying motivated to do what it takes to solve the problems thrown at you. In such environments, you get to be a generalist with exposure to different issues that help take on the responsibilities of the various tech disciplines. While in your role, finding different tasks to position you closer to product-related decisions will help you gain knowledge on customer needs and how the company goes about tackling these problems. Working closely with the development team also increases the chances of being hired as a Product Manager in another company.
Stacey initially desired a career in academia while pursuing her degree in cinema studies. After her masters, she sought advice from the CEO of the start-up she was working at during her final year of school and was convinced to join them again as an office manager and executive assistant. Stacey executed multiple roles at a micro-level and learned to work with design, development, and got experience in sales, business development, and customer success. After the start-up folded, Stacey reflected on her start-up experience to figure out what she enjoyed the most. She later secured a role as a project manager at a media company, transitioned internally into a product manager role, built up her skills, and then joined a tech company as a product manager.
Deepika found it easy to grasp arithmetic concepts and chose to pursue mathematics and economics at university. She got a part-time job at the Apple store, where she held different roles in sales, product training, and UX research. After graduation, she desired to make a more significant impact by working at a startup as a way to get more responsibilities to add value to a company. Deepika joined Joist and worked through understanding where demand came from, built relationships with customers, channeled that feedback to the product team, and convinced the company to invest in certain areas. Realizing she enjoyed this process, she reached out to a mentor who guided her to apply to agencies where she got her first product manager role at tribal scale.
Kyle studied the combination of media & information technology and business administration with hopes to one day create his film studio or advertising agency. At a startup weekend, he got to pitch his idea and work with a team to build some of it out, which revealed to him the many challenges of entrepreneurship. After graduating, he got an IT consulting job where he got to understand customer needs, perform market research, and synthesize the results for executives to make final decisions. Kyle noticed the gaps that existed in many organizations he worked with to align the vision, timeline while motivating teams to achieve product excellence. He understood what role that helped closed that gap and reached out to startup founders through ProductTank, which he helped start to secure his first product management job.
Working at any start-up has its challenges but also comes with immense benefits for those who want to take advantage of the opportunity. It allows you to upgrade your skills and learn about the number of things that can possibly go wrong while running a business. The start-up environment is also a good place to see creative ways to solve problems. It is an experience for those that love being surrounded by astounding learning potential and drive.
The skills gained from working at a start-up will significantly improve your work ethic and leave you with valuable experiences. Especially if you get to witness the company go through a series of changes that are crucial for its survival. Many of what you’ll go through will be transferable to product management as long as you ensure you contributed to the product development cycle in any capacity.
Finding a place in technology can be a difficult task at first, but leveraging your strengths with the years of experience working in a particular field can help you get into a company solving a problem for that industry. The many years spent working at a bank can possibly lead to a job in a financial technology company as you bring with you a crucial understanding of the business and its customers. For example, by assisting customers who invest through difficult-to-use traditional trading platforms, you recognize the pain points and the opportunity available for companies like Robinhood and Wealthsimple. Depending on the role you’re looking for, companies might be more lenient when it comes to all the skills required to carry out the job. They might take you on, even if you don’t demonstrate all the experience at the time you apply. The understanding of the product offering can give you more time to learn about the other skills you need for the job. It creates an easier path since you won’t have to spend as much time learning about the industry.
Having a background in whatever the company does also helps to be passionate during the interviews. It is an easy ace to the “Why do you want to work here?” question. It is also easier to sell yourself on what attracted you to the company in the first place, making it easier for them to take a chance on you with the understanding that you’ll fill in all the other gaps needed to help you succeed in the role. The individuals who chose this approach used their domain knowledge to get into an environment where they could work on the functional skills needed to succeed at what they needed to achieve.
Jyoti went into university for business to find a career path to take advantage of her creative and analytical side. While interning at blackberry as an operations associate, she saw how powerful advertisements could be to improve the customer's perspective of products, which got her interested in marketing communications. After graduation, she joined an advertising agency as a strategic planner to use business data, market research, user insights, and competitive analysis to convince customers to engage and buy products. Jyoti then looked for a blend in technology and strategy roles as she desired to do more than drive perception but have a direct impact on sales and retention for the business. She leveraged her background to get a product marketing manager role at an ad-tech company, which she later used to transition into product management.
Elyse grew up exposed to the business of fashion through her family, which led to her degree in business administration. After gaining international expansion experience while on exchange in Australia, the cross-section of the digital world of fashion started to interest her. She got an MBA in the states and took the opportunity to explore the job market there with a role as an international eCommerce business analyst at BCBGMAXAZRIA doing competitor analysis, market research, and negotiating with vendors. While working on an international launch, she worked closely with the development team at an agency to break down the business requirement documents into user stories and enjoyed the collaborative aspect of problem-solving. When returning to Canada, Elyse wanted to join an agency and searched for postings that had similarities to her experience, which led to a job as the first product manager at Tribal scale.
Hirsch used his degree in accounting to secure his first job at a startup which also gave him exposure to sales and business development roles. After making the jump to PWC as an auditor, he formed a team with seven other cross-functional members to create a volunteer innovation and technology group within the company. Leveraging their diverse set of skills, his team used design thinking to solve problems for clients. Hirsch then secured a short term placement to a technology strategy team to help internal teams use best practices to solve client problems. With his new interest in technology, he was able to use his domain knowledge of accounting to transition to CaseWare as a product owner.
Leveraging your domain knowledge is one of the best ways to break into tech. There exists a possible tech solution for any industry you can think of. Utilizing this approach is a convenient way to transition into product management, as long as you have the drive to learn the other skills that are required to succeed in the role. It allows you to build your foundational skills as a product manager since you bring with you a wealth of knowledge to benefit the business.
You can start out as a consultant to easily weigh in on conversations to begin adding value from day one. The company can lean on you to form strategies since you have a good understanding of the customer from your previous role. When you ramp up and have all the functional skills, it makes you more of an asset to the company, helping with strategy and execution. It is important to recognize the value you bring to these companies with all the insights you’ve gained over the years then communicate that to possible employers during interviews. Help them realize that once you are given the chance in product, it will be to great benefit to all the stakeholders involved.
Considering all this, it might sound crazy to say, "Please hire me now for role A, but eventually, I'd love to switch into role B." It essentially tells the employer that if they hire you, they will have to go through the entire process to backfill the role for the original job you were hired for. The reality is that, if you are skilled enough to deliver on the responsibilities for role A and an excellent fit for the company, there is still a chance they will hire you even if the role isn't what you want to do long term. Some employers try to understand your timeline and how much you are willing to work towards your end goal. There also needs to be that desire for the company to want to help their employees grow to positions where they can succeed. Another way to view it is that, if the candidate makes a successful internal transition into role B, the company saves the cost of hiring for that role, which evens out the original backfill cost. In some cases, it can be an advantage, especially moving to a more senior position where it can be more challenging and expensive to recruit external candidates. The company also has the benefit of someone who has been an employee for much longer and can bring a wealth of knowledge into the new role to start contributing immediately.
Lindsay took the business school route as a way to explore the many career options and got an internship in HR at a startup during her master's program. While working full time as an HR specialist at a large corporation, she got the chance to integrate software in the company to improve processes and saw the immediate impact on technology on the business. Lindsay went back to school to get more technical knowledge and got a job as a business analyst to gather requirements to help build out health care products for clients. She gained a keen interest in user research and the desire to work closer to customers, which revealed her interest in product roles. Lindsay then took a job as a QA lead at a startup where she reported bugs and suggested product improvements, which helped her transition internally to become a product manager.
Darlene started her career as a nurse as she saw it as a way to easily transition into other jobs. Along with her training in education, the combination allowed her to spend 15 years in the health industry, and she shaped different roles for herself beyond what was defined. After going down the entrepreneurial path as an independent broker, she learned a lot about the insurance space, which motivated her to find tech solutions to solve some of her problems. She used a product called Finaeo, and after sending the CEO 15 pages worth of feedback, she got offered a job at the company. After working as an Advisor success manager for 18 months, Darlene transitioned internally to become a product manager.
Anthony initially imagined his life in the hospitality industry with the goal of one day become a hotel manager. After spending a year working at a Four Seasons hotel, he decided to switch his university program to business technology management, which got him a full-time job as a business analyst. He enjoyed the process of gathering business requirements and then communicating them to the technical team to execute, but wasn’t impressed with the waterfall development method the organization had. While searching for a better approach, Anthony learned about agile development and design thinking, which motivated him to take a UX and product design course. Anthony was recruited by a startup that wanted to use the blend of his BA, UX, and technical skills, which helped in his internal transition into a product management role.
Everyone who I spoke to that fell into this category showed a lot of determination and were very assertive in their approach to achieving their goal. They all had opinions on how to make something better and never shied away from voicing it to others. It helped them to form a plan around their current situation and the motivation to go through with it. All the things which helped them get into product.
It takes a lot of courage to tell a possible employer you want to shift your focus once you join a team. But this effort goes a long way in forging a path towards your desired destination. The role you choose to apply for is entirely up to you, but it is crucial to ensure it resembles areas where the product development is happening. It allows you to give your opinions and share ideas that can make you shine. The more you contribute, the better it will be for opportunities to showcase other skills that might be beneficial to be identifiable as a product thinker.
In small organizations, an internal transition happens more gradually where employees take on new responsibilities in a safe environment and display their ability to deliver results confidently. Since each person in the organization accounts for specific duties, a sudden transition would result in a gap in fulfilling the obligations of the previous role. A transition in this scenario might involve juggling both positions for a brief period before making any formal changes. It doesn't mean shifts don't frequently happen at small companies. They are just less common than in larger corporations when the impact of one open position doesn't share the same significant long term impact.
Individuals that fall into this category learn about product management and realize their desire to fill that role while engaged in a different role at a company. They work to prove themselves and showcase how they can add value when given product responsibilities, learning what works well with the product team members, these individuals are constantly asking valuable questions to fill any knowledge gaps. They position themselves very close to customers and the development teams to understand the flow of how new features are determined. In addition to other learnings done outside the work environment, candidates eventually find the confidence to speak up and voice their desire to move within the company. Those who are unable to transition at their current company usually optimize their time to learn as much as possible about product development from the teams who actively contribute to building the product before leaving to secure a role at an external company.
Tevis grew up with the influence of entrepreneurship for social causes from his parents, which motivated him to study international development and social entrepreneurship. While at the university, he realized his achievable potential when he became more organized with a high productivity lifestyle that led to volunteering for an NGO in Costa Rica. His experience being an ambassador for the NGO got him a full-time role as a program site specialist to help coordinate, onboard and support over 300 volunteers. Tevis returned home after a year and worked briefly as an account manager then used the combination of his skills to get into a tech company as a proposal writer. While working through writing proposals, supporting sales teams, and leading operations with CRM management, he presented a business case to the CEO and secured his transition into product management.
Jackie spent her high school juggling AP science and art classes and went on to attend USC for pre-medicine, majoring in biology and a minor in photography. While on a study abroad term in South Africa working on a mobile clinic, she realized she enjoyed more of the problem-solving aspect of medicine vs the day-to-day. After graduation, Jackie got a digital camera, taught herself how to edit photos and began building a portfolio from people on craigslist who she’d reach out to shoot. She ended up contracting for a company that wanted to build out a photo database for food and eventually built out their photography team. She saw a way to improve the workflow of the photographers and made suggestions to improve the internal tools, which provided a path to transition internally into product management.
Sorren held multiple roles in marketing across different small organizations and was later recruited by air miles to do relationship management to help partners launch campaigns. After two years, Sorren moved internally to digital marketing to help create campaigns for clients. Sorren remained in the department, which gave her a holistic view of how things worked across multiple channels while focusing on acquisition, growth, and frequency of use of their products. While working on a particular project, she built a strong relationship with the mobile team by asking questions and providing helpful feedback. When a product specialist role opened up, she transferred internally and was then later promoted to a product manager role.
Transitionally internally can be a battle at certain companies but it provides a safe environment where you can try out product management. If things don’t work out, you get to go back to your old role at the very worst case. Similar to joining a company with the intention to transition, it is most helpful to situate yourself close to where decisions are made on the product. Preferably jointly working with the development team. In cases where transitioning internally is proving difficult, invest time doing product related tasks to help build up some functional skills of carrying out the job. This way, when applying externally, you have related experiences you can reference that prove your ability to get the job done.
Curiosity is one of the foundational elements found in many Product Managers because it fuels their desire to learn about any topic of interest. It helps to acquire knowledge about a problem space and provides a lens through which to explore different perspectives - a key component to forming a sound, holistic vision. Curiosity provides individuals with an exploratory mindset that questions the status quo, similar to how children become aware of their environment as they grow and learn. This, in turn, invites the challenge of seeking more information in order to expand one's ability to be analytical. The simple act of remaining curious often drives the urge to come up with potential solutions that improve the current ways of carrying out a particular task or function.
Empathy helps to understand how others feel, which is crucial in building relationships with customers and to know the value of a problem they are experiencing. Similar to being compassionate, it allows individuals to provide a helping hand to pull others out of uncomfortable situations that can cause harm or inconvenience. It is the feeling that helps to see other perspectives that exist in the world and how to align them for the better. Empathetic Product Managers use this as a motivation to solve customer problems because they know how much it means to them. They also use empathy as a way to navigate the challenges, processes, workflows and blockers team-members face to make them more productive.
Persistence in this context refers to the act of not compromising on one's vision for themselves or the customer. It is the drive that allows individuals to achieve remarkable results because of the amount of passion and effort placed in fulfilling the desired goal. Persistent Product Managers usually have a high bar of quality attributed to their work and push back on anything that may result in creating an inferior experience for the customer. This chapter also shares the story of Mark who used persistence to get a job as a Product Manager.
There is a substantial amount of value that comes with having extensive knowledge that spans across industries. It takes time and patience to acquire but proves to be a fruitful investment because it trains individuals to pick up concepts quickly and apply it when required to solve problems. Product Managers who are comprehensive strive to ensure they consider all the possible options available and pull from their broad knowledge base to tackle situations they find themselves in. This chapter also shares the story of Alex who used comprehensiveness to get a job as a Product Manager.
Companies rely on Product Managers to form a vision and lead teams towards new opportunities that benefit the business. They must take action to stay ahead. This is driven by the initiative to continually learn since customer needs change at an unpredictable pace. Technology is always advancing, therefore unlocking additional possibilities and competition has a way of sneaking up on you, which puts pressure on companies. A clear path isn't usually defined, so creating time to learn and investing in best practices helps overcome the challenges that are required to deliver great products. This chapter also shares the story of Jenny who used her initiative and desire to learn to get a job as a Product Manager.
Communication seems like an evident skill that most jobs require since it is such an essential part of interacting with others. When relating this to product management, it is probably one of the essential skills to have because communicating with others is the majority of the job. It carries a lot of weight, and it is easy to make a mistake or misunderstand what others intend, which can have a significant impact on customers or the business. Whether in a verbal or a written format, Product Managers often have to share the same information in different ways to different people who are working on a specific context of the project, and it can be a challenge to communicate effectively. Communication, in this context, encompasses listening to different perspectives and asking the right questions to clarify ambiguity for the collective good. This chapter also shares the story of Eric who used his communication skills to get a job as a Product Manager.
The majority of responsibilities of a Product Manager involve interacting with other members of the organization to execute on a vision. Unlike other standalone functions across a company, a Product Manager can't carry out their tasks autonomously. It is why building trustworthy relationships with customers, engineers, designers, executives and others is one of the most critical functions to be successful in such a role. Being a capable team player goes beyond telling others what to do; it involves championing the vision, motivating team members, collaborating on ideas, unblocking them and recognizing their efforts. A great team player builds a unique culture around ensuring every member of the team knows how they contribute to the vision and fosters activities to promote enjoying the process of bringing the ideas to life.This chapter also shares the story of Morgan who used her strength as a team player to get a job as a Product Manager.
Many great benefits come from understanding things at their core. Product Managers that pay close attention to details when building products are more likely to be laser-focused on the problems they are solving. They tackle issues from First-Principles perspective, which accelerates the discovery of root causes for any challenges they face. Their ability to observe customers grows more confident when determining what experiences to prioritize. As a result, making improvements becomes second nature, and finding opportunities is an area where they excel in moving the business forward.This chapter also shares the story of Andrea who used her attention to detail to get a job as a Product Manager.
Resourcefulness is the ability to use the tools at one's disposal to effectively solve problems in creative ways. It builds up the capability to handle situations that fall out of plan and allows for flexible workaround. Similar to scrappiness, it enables Product Managers to see beyond their current constraints and utilize existing resources to achieve the desired outcome for all. This chapter also shares the story of Mostafa who showcased resourcefulness as a strength to get a job as a Product Manager.
Advancements in technology ensure companies always have to move fast to keep up with trends and industry best practices. This is especially true for start-ups. Often pressured to deliver a unique value proposition at speed to release functionality to end-users. In such an environment, sudden changes occur, and individuals must be adaptable to fulfil any unexpected request which may arise. As a Product Manager, several situations can result in things not going according to plan, but the expectation is to keep moving forward. A common challenge is the lack of resources required to complete a project, and in such situations, the Product Manager fills in that gap to ensure things still get done. This chapter also shares the story of Quadri who was adaptable which helped him get a job as a Product Manager.
Releasing a product to the world is a great accomplishment; there is so much that goes into bringing an idea to life. The challenge that follows is to ensure customers continue to use that product, and it is improved over time to meet their changing needs. Continuous improvement is necessary for any product to be truly successful. It makes Product Managers aware of any inaccurate assumptions made while developing the product. It also helps to plan out the correct approach to fix any outstanding errors and fuels the practice of iterative product development. This way, putting customers at the center of product design. This chapter also shares the story of Magda who used continuous improvement for her resume to get a job as a Product Manager.
Product Managers are exposed to enormous amounts of information about customer needs, competitor offerings, market behaviour and technology trends, which they have to make sense of. Researching is a big part of gathering valuable information and synthesizing various data points into digestible chunks before presenting it to stakeholders across an organization. Presentation skills come in handy to deliver details that matter in a concise way, which keeps the necessary parties informed at the right times. This chapter also shares the story of Mann who used his presentation skills to get a job as a Product Manager.
There isn’t a proven formula for getting into product management. The first lesson I’d highlight is to not let what you studied determine what you do for the rest of your life. If you have enough drive to go after what you desire, then you’ll find ways to learn what is required to get you there. It may not be easy, but it is possible. That is why I took the approach to tell 25 unique stories, which might inspire your adventure ahead to figure out what might be most effective for you to get to your goal.
Learning about the different responsibilities of the job was one of the early steps in the journey to become a Product Manager. Candidates approached this by educating themselves as much as they could. They did this through different mediums to better understand if there was a fit for them in the role. This initial research had a significant effect on the path towards the next step of exploring how to gain the skills needed to be successful.
From the graph of 40 PMs I interviewed, the majority of people used different combinations of resources to get up to speed on what next they needed to learn. There isn’t one ideal way to learn about product management. What you choose totally depends on your learning style. You should ultimately prioritize what would be the most effective for you.
It is best to try to work with as many disciplines within an organization to build up the skills to become a Product Manager. The more groups of people you know how to work with, the better it will be for you moving forward. When analyzing responses from the interviews I conducted, the results were fairly spread out with a few standing out and contributing towards accelerating their path towards product management. The graph below highlights the distribution of the activities they were doing that helped to improve their product management skills.
The best thing is to have a plan, try it out, and then iterate on what is working. The candidates I interviewed tried out a wide variety of ways to find a job, and since they were sparse, I bucketed them into three evenly distributed categories. Networking, referrals/intros, and applying online.
I really enjoyed putting this project together, and if you found it valuable, please shoot me a note on LinkedIn and let me know what you think. I'd appreciate it. If any of the stories really inspired you, reach out to the person and tell them what action you were able to take, which helped you in your journey. I'm sure they will appreciate it.
I intentionally started with this project because it is early in the funnel for those who have just begun gathering information about product management or the technology industry. By now, you should have a better understanding of what it takes to get into product, and how others have landed their first product roles. You are also aware of the challenges necessary. Be kind to yourself and understand that it might take some time to achieve your goal. However, rest assured that it is possible. I hope by reflecting on the stories, they will keep you motivated to keep pushing forward.