Hi everyone! Firstly I want to thank everyone for the great response to my last story. I had quite a few people reach out to me, and it has definitely given me the motivation to write more.
Before I dig even deeper into what Product Management is, I wanted to take some time to address some of the most common myths about Product Management I have been asked, or I myself had before I started this role.
I would like to add one small disclaimer. These answers are based on my experience as a PM in a big tech company with designated business, dev and design teams. These answers may differ greatly if you work as a PM in a small startup or you are running your own company with limited resources or manpower.
So without wasting any more time, lets jump right in.
You need a background in Computer Science to become a Product Manager
Although it is a popular career option amongst Computer Science students, it is not necessary. My current team includes people from a wide variety of backgrounds including Psychology, Business, Media, Art, and even Film. Many also had previous work experience in marketing, consulting, research, design, business development and much more.
In my opinion, some of the most innovative Product Managers are the ones who have an interdisciplinary background. It prevents them from being boxed-in by the constraints of a technical background.
Most companies that hire PMs understand that and therefore do not require you to necessarily have a technical background.
A Product Manager must know how to code
I personally have not written a single line of code since I started my PM job. Leave that responsibility to the highly skilled developers your company has hired instead.
However, if you are interested in working in a software-oriented company, I would highly recommend you to spend some time to gain a basic understanding of programming, the different components of a system and its architecture. Similarly, for any other field, you should be able to grasp those technical concepts quickly be it hardware, logistics etc.
You may also need to learn some database querying for doing analytics, but you’re smart, you can learn it really quickly :)
You should to have beautiful designing skills as a Product Manager
Wireframes. Yes! Actual design mockups, No.
A good design sense is a must for a PM, but the actual implementation should be left to the true artists, the designers. They are experts at converting a product vision into something beautiful and usable. To this day I am always amazed by how designers can completely overhaul my rough sketches and wireframes. It's literally magic to me.
Product Management.. Is it the same as Project Management?
This one is very popular. And if you were still wondering, the answer is no.
A Project Manager’s domain involves managing a specific project from a timeline and budget point of view. Usually, a product team might have a Project Manager to ensure they are on schedule and that the goals are achieved in with the resources in hand. Whereas a Product Manager is responsible for defining the roadmap of a product and getting it built and released from a functional point of view.
There are times when a Product Manager may have to take the responsibilities of a Project Manager depending on the team lacking a Project Manager, and it is definitely a good skill to have. But these are two separate roles requiring separate skillsets and mindsets.
And finally, a misconception I personally had for a long time as well
A Product Manager is basically like a mini CEO
This line is always controversial and it is very subjective.
The answer is well yes, but actually no.
I like to use this as a starting point to explain someone who doesn't know anything at all about this role.
As a Product Manager, you are responsible for the product from start to finish. You own the product and you will guide your team to help build it. You will make some decisions regarding planning and resource allocation, and you will also get the blame/credit for the failure/success of the product.
But to make it very clear, as a Product Manager, you DO NOT manage people. As a senior PM, you may manage other PMs, but that’s pretty much it. Your management domain is the product.
As a PM (especially on an Associate or Junior level) you are at the same level as everyone else in your team. You don't have the power to make executive decisions like hiring, firing, budgeting etc.
However, the skills of a Product Manager are very easily transferable if one wants to eventually be a CEO/CTO.
And that brings us to the end of this piece. I hope this provided you with some more perspective and clarity, as we go deeper into this journey to understand this role.
I'm especially excited to write my next post, where I talk about the most important skills needed as a Product Manager and share some anecdotes for the same.