Land into a product manager role: Ultimate Career Guide by FAANGPath.

published on 17 August 2021

Are you figuring out how to start a career as a product manager? Then we are here to guide you. Get ready to put your product management career in high gear with the FAANGPath beginners guide on product management. Let's get startedπŸš€!

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Introduction

Whether it's Steve Jobs launching the iPhone 11πŸ“± or any shoe brand launching a new shoe design πŸ‘ž, whether it's Google leading any product initiative or an automobile company introducing a new car πŸš— to the market, the product management team always works behind the scenes. And the big hand behind these product shipments is of product manager. 

Well, people do say product managers are "CEO of the product," which is still a debated concept. But one thing which is quite evident is that several product managers have actually managed to become great CEOs of the big tech companies. For example, Sudar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet; Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube; and Sheila Lirio Marcelo, CEO at care.com, they all came from product backgrounds. 

A few decades back, the title "product manager πŸ‘©β€πŸ’Ό" emerged. And the role is booming in the tech industry right now. Many college graduates are aiming for roles in product management and working professionals are looking for a career transition in product management. 

People from different educational and professional backgrounds are optimistic about starting a career in product management. But many people who apply for product manager positions at various organizations are not even aware of the responsibilities of PM πŸ‘¨β€πŸ’Ό. 

Quick navigation of our guide: 

What are the responsibilities of a Product Manager? 

"The product manager is a cross-functional role responsible for the construction, maintenance, and launch of any product." 

According to Martin Eriksson, Product management lies in the intersection of technology, business, and user experience(UX).

Venn diagram suggested by Martin Eriksson
Venn diagram suggested by Martin Eriksson

However, unlike other roles, for example, that of software engineering, design, marketing, and sales, the role of a product manager is not distinctly defined. It doesn't have a clear-cut requirement. Their responsibilities vary as per the type of sector, size of companies, the business model they are working for, and many other factors. For example, in startups, product managers have a wide range of responsibilities, but they have narrowed and more specific responsibilities in big companies.

Thus it's apparent that it will create confusion for job seekers aiming for a product manager role. 

But don't worry; we will break down PM responsibilities to the simplest form for you. So let's see what you have to do if you become a product manager at any company: 

  • You will be responsible for setting the product vision. You have to create the product roadmap πŸ‘¨β€πŸ’» and educate your team on why they are building a particular product. 
  • You will collaborate with the engineering, design, marketing, sales, finance, and customer support teams. Also, you will be responsible to encourage the team. 
  • You have to meet the deadlines 🧐and manage the release process. You have to release the product in the market as early as possible. 
  • Besides product development, customer service πŸ‘¨β€πŸ’» and user experience are also responsibilities of a Product Manager. Thus, you have to focus on enhancing the user experience.
  • PM oversees how the market responds πŸ“ˆ to the new product and checks customers' feedback on its features as the new product rolls out. Therefore, add this to your list πŸ—’as well.
  • If there are many features in the pipeline, the PM sets priorities and makes sure that the team ships the right feature at the right time. So you will be responsible for setting priorities.
  • Product marketing is also the responsibility of the product manager. Thus you will be preparing the market strategy of the product. 
  • You have to analyze the customers' needs πŸ“Š and do some user and market research. So that product can reach the target audience. 
  • Also, you have to collaborate with stakeholders  

In short, product managers bridge the gap between product creation, product management, and marketing.

Would you like to hear about the responsibilities of a product manager from someone who is already working as a PM? 

So let's see what Manjusha Natrajan, working as a senior product manager at Pinterest, has to say about her job. 

"My work as a product manager involves end to end product development starting from ideation, road mapping, driving design and research, driving Eng execution, launching products and experiments, and post-experiment analysis. It's a role that involves both technical and soft skills with a higher emphasis on stakeholder management, influencing team members and cross-functional partners, and proactive communication. Every day is different, and one day, I might be brainstorming a new feature with design and research, while another day, I might be presenting a strategy document to higher-level leadership. On another day, I might be doing data analysis to figure out opportunities size for prioritizing a product/feature." 

Manjusha Natrajan

Bonus Tip: The product manager role requires no coding but still allows you to work on the latest technology.

Also read:

Best interview preparation tips to get hired at FAANG and other top tech companies.

So, how can you analyze the product manager role? 

What we have discussed till now is the theoretical aspect, but you need to gain some practical knowledge. It will help you to decide if product management is the best career option for you. So follow these steps- 

Are you curious to know the practical aspects of the Product Manager role? 
Are you curious to know the practical aspects of the Product Manager role? 

1. Talk πŸ’¬  to people who are already in this role. Ask basic questions such as-

  • What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
  • What major challenges have you faced in your career?  
  • How to overcome these challenges?
  • What are skills, according to you, that are essential to get into the role? 

2. As per the article on Harward business review, three factors that aspiring product managers should consider while evaluating the role are: core competencies, emotional intelligence, company fit. 

3. You can go to job posting websites, LinkedIn and check the job description πŸ“„of the product manager role. This will allow you to get an idea of what companies are expecting from product managers.

4. Take some time and figure out how product management works in real life. The best way is to do a product management internship. 

Bonus tip: The formula to reach the FAANG+ companies is to follow the people already at these companies. So, If you wish to connect and seek guidance from product managers working at FAANG+, visit our team page. Join our product people and learn from their industry experiences. 

Do you need any course, formal training, degree, or certificate to become a product manager?

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Today, the product manager is the hottest job in the tech world. But you can't throw darts 🎯 in the air, aiming for bullseyes. Instead, you need to have a proper plan πŸ“‘and guidance. 

Before moving further, one thing you should know is that product managers often start their careers as specialists and then eventually shift to product management. For example:

  1. First, they acquire a few years (Usually, 3-5 years) experience in their related industry.  
  2. And after that, they gradually make the transition to junior product management roles.  

Educational qualification for the product manager role is not strictly defined. Also, in our formal education system, there is no targeted degree for product management. And that is why you may have few questions in your mind :

  • Which degree should I pursue to become a product manager? 
  • Is an MBA compulsory to become PM?
  • Should I opt for any online course and certification? 

Which bachelor's degree should you choose?

So here is a fact (surprising, maybe) 

Based on the requirements of Product Manager job openings on Indeed in the United States, within the last three years, almost 70% of job postings demanded a bachelor's degree as the education level. 

And here is one more good news: you can choose a bachelor's degree of your choice. 

Yes, you heard it right! 

You can have a bachelor's degree in computer science, engineering, business administration, marketing, economics, finance, etc. 

However, some companies may demand a technical background for the PM role.

Is MBA a compulsion?

The product manager is the dream job of many MBA graduates. Also, several product managers start their careers by completing an MBA degree. So if you are aiming for big tech companies, an MBA can be an excellent option, to begin with, but definitely, it is not a compulsion. However, an MBA degree will not teach you the real-world skills, which are more important to work in the industry. However, an MBA degree may help you stand out in the later stages of your career. 

While an MBA or degree in a project management-related field is not compulsory, this may give you a head start πŸš€at the beginning of your career.

Will any product management online training or courses help you? 

Many educational platforms and websites offer online coursesπŸ’» and certificates πŸ“ƒin product management. Here you can learn skills and tools that are directly applicable to PM jobs. You just need to find a reliable source. You can definitely go for an online course if you are sure that you want to launch your career in product management. 

However, due to high demand, some colleges are introducing new majors that are wholly focused on product management in their curriculum.  

While technical background and marketing may help you initially and online training may give some initial benefit, the most crucial part is to have the proper skillset.

While you are selecting any degree or course, you need to consider a few factors. 

  1. Do you have enough time to complete a course or degree?
  2. Are you willing to spend financial resources on a course or degree πŸŽ“?

Also read: How to use LinkedIn to find a job in 2021?

What skills do you need to become a great product manager, and how can you gain these skills? 

What skills do you need to become product manager? 
What skills do you need to become product manager? 

Here we have listed key skills required to become a product manager. 

  • Technical knowledge is a must.
  • You should be the team player. 
  • Communication is the key to handle the teams. 
  • You should be a great storyteller.
  • Decision-making is a part of the job. 
  • You have to be a good leader. 
  • You should be a good problem solver.

If you have all these skills, then you are all set to apply for your first job. But if you haven't developed these skills, don't get disheartened. 

Because when there is a will, there is a way!

All of these skills are learnable. You just need to follow few steps- 

  • Read some good blogs. Ken Norton, former product manager at Google, runs a blog called Bring the Donuts, which covers everything you wish to about product management. From 'how product managers can learn to say no' to 'how the product can predict future, from 'Advice for early career product managers in 2021' to '43 Best Books for Product Managers in 2021', he has written several essays. And his most popular classic essay, How to Hire a Product Manager, is a must-read for all product managers. It demonstrates what makes a great product manager and how you can become one.
  • Seek mentorship from people who are currently serving at any company as a product manager. Watch their YouTube videos, read articles written by them, attend their live webinars or directly reach out to them through any social media channel. The key here is to put in the effort and learn from the experiences of others. You can even check if they are running any mentorship program.  
  • In fact, you can try working under any product manager. And learn skills by observing their work πŸ’Ό. 
  • However, the best way to learn is 

Try. Fail. Repeat.

So start your own project. You can either develop an app or build a website. This will allow you to supervise the product's life cycle from start to end. 

Bonus tip: You can follow some authentic and trustable newsletters. 

Also read: Ghosted by a recruiter? Here's what to do next.

How to find the first job as a product manager? 

Are you trying to start your career as a Product Manager? 
Are you trying to start your career as a Product Manager? 

Some more facts here- 

  • According to salary.com, the average salary of a product manager is $70,723 per year. 
  • Based on Glassdoor's data, the average salary of a product manager in the US is $100,000 per year.  
  • As stated in Payscale, the average salary for a Product Manager, Software is $98,526 per year.
  • As reported by Indeed, the average salary of a product manager in the USA is $96,708 per year. 

From these statistics, it's pretty evident that managers draw high packages in the tech world and their demand is continuously increasing in the industry. And these high salaries are attracting many professionals to start their careers in product management. 

But still, the question is the same, how to get a PM job? 

There are many doors to enter in Product Management. Professionals from different educational backgrounds and industries come to this field. But here are few options for you: 

  • Tech giants like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn run associate product management programs. These programs allow new graduates to apply for jobs in product management without any experience. 
  • Start with a junior product management role in any startup, get some experience, and then make your way to a higher position at big companies. 
  • Get a mentor in your current company and see if you can get more responsibilities and grab a role in product management. 

Well, on asking for her advice for an aspiring product manager, Manjusha Natrajan said.

"Advice for a college graduate is to pick what kind of product management they want to try out. Technical pm, hardware pm, and consumer pm (B2B or B2C) involve slightly different skillets and career trajectories, so a college grad could strategize to pick a company that lets them try out a couple of different PM roles before they pick their favorite. Another thing to figure out is whether they want to specialize in one area (cloud, ML, etc.) or if they want to be a generalist PM. As a new grad PM, they have the flexibility to try different roles, so I'd advise them to take advantage of it."

Bonus Tip: Start with updating your resume. Your resume should demonstrate how skills that you gained in your previous jobs will help you in the product manager role.

(Are you looking for professional resume services? FAANGPath resume services can be your savior.) 

Product manager vs. program manager vs. project manager vs. product owner

Do different roles like project manager, program manager, and product owner confuse you? 
Do different roles like project manager, program manager, and product owner confuse you? 

So you are confused about the terms product manager, program manager, and project manager?

(By the way, a product owner is also not the same as a product manager) 

Don't worry; we got you covered!

Project manager- Professional who oversees the operations of a single project within a program. 

Program manager- Professional who supervises multiple projects in an organization.  

Product owner- This role is defined in the Scrum guide. And this term is primarily used in the agile software development methodology. 

Final takeaways! 

In conclusion, behind every great product, there is a great product management team. And behind every great product management team, there is a skilled and excellent product manager. Because it's only the product manager(PM) who builds the digital, physical product or services for the companies and oversees their success in the market. 

Product management seems a lucrative career option to many college freshers and entry-level professionals. But remember, with the handsome salary comes the huge responsibility. And every field has its own challenges. So tight your seat belt πŸ’Ί and get ready to do hard work and apply strategies suggested in the article. Because, in the end, companies are hungry to hire talented product managers. 

All the best πŸ‘!

FAANGPath team is committed to help job seekers to take the first step towards their dream job. The team of our dedicated mentors will provide you with an in-depth overview of resume preparation, best LinkedIn tips, interview guidance, career mentorship, and much more. You can find out more about FAANGPath mentors at Team|FAANGPath

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