There is a lot of confusion around the Product Management domain. Many of us are not sure how to get there.
What skills do we need to become a Product Manager?
What qualifications do we need to have?
Do we really need an MBA?
Can non-tech people become Product Managers?
In this blog we will answer the common questions asked about product management and share valuable resources you can go through FOR FREE.
We will also share some initiatives HelloMeets has taken to help aspiring Products Managers.
Lets begin by busting some Product Management Myths:-
But the solution is: the faster we disregard them, the easier our life will get.
A scary thing about myths is
Myths which are believed in tend to become true. - George Orwell
You need a tech background to be a Product Manager
No you don't.
The job of a Product Manager is to be the voice of the product and the market. No matter what background you have, if you have the knowledge of the market and people, you have half the skills current Product Managers have.
You need an MBA to become a Product Manager
No you don't.
Five years ago, to get into a Fortune 500 company you needed an MBA. To become a management trainee, you needed an MBA and to get a product management job too, you needed an MBA.
Well not now. Companies are changing their way of thinking. And they are making it pretty clear that an MBA is NOT what they are looking for.
“They don’t teach people to think in MBA schools. And the top MBA schools are the worst. Because they actually teach people that you must be special, and it causes people to close down their feedback loop and not rigorously examine when they are wrong.” -Elon Musk
The Product Managers we have talked to in our HelloMeets community said; some companies prefer MBA grads. But most of them prefer people who have an on ground experience, have the soft skills needed to be a Product Manager, and are genuinely curious about everything.
It’s easy to train a curious and open minded person rather than training a person who thinks he ‘knows it all’.
You need years of experience before jumping into product management
Well, not like 10-12 years.
However, gaining experience of the market, customers, products and companies is required. It's up to you how fast you learn all this, articulate it and prove to your potential employer that you know what you are getting into.
To become a product manager you need experience around products. You can get experience even before getting into the product management domain.
Here is how you can get the needed experience -
- Start with a side project
- Help a startup in building their product
- Analyse products online, dissect them and understand every aspect related to them
- Understand the buyer persona (Think like a user, put yourself in their shoes)
You can start a side project by yourself. Go on the internet and choose the most interesting product you see. Start analysing it and dig deeper.
How would you look at the product if you made it? What would you do differently? Why? What features would you bring in to improve it?
This is what our Product Management community members suggests:
See the top 10 apps in Playstore and Product Hunt. Do a brief postmortem of them, i.e try to understand each feature and UX flow, as there is already a product created which has solved a problem in particular domain. For example if you are building an online e-consultation app then follow Practo as they have cracked the problems in e-consultation. -Abhishake Mishra, Product Manager at NirogStreet
I have been reading books, attending courses, webinars and started following not just one but almost everyone whom I came across. I gained so much knowledge. I made myself familiar with Product Management. But most of it had very little value, until I started applying and practising that knowledge. I'd recommend starting off with a side project, developing something that would solve a real-world problem. One more suggestion is to observe the current products, and analyse the pros and cons of each and why some feature is present or not present. -Aditya Srikar, HappyFox
This is one way you can do it.
The other way is to work with a startup to help them build a product. If you have a full time job, you can work as a part timer during the weekends. This way you will gain knowledge about building a product from scratch, gain entrepreneurial skills and help a company grow in return.
And if you are new to your current job, focus on specialising in that. If you are a digital marketer, be the best one in the room, if you are a content writer, be the David Ogilvy of your company.
If you are a fresher or you are looking for a switch, opt for generic roles that will make you do almost everything, marketing, sales, consumer interaction, content etc. The more closely you work with the users, the better you'll understand their problems and try to find solutions. And you’ll also get better ideas for creating products that consumers LOVE.
Pick a profile and live their life before thinking of the solution. - Prashant Kothari , Sr Product Manager, FreshFlow
With some side project, you should also focus on building some right skills needed.
As a product manager, you are made the ‘owner of the product’. You are the go-to person for everyone, be it marketing, sales, designers, analysts or engineers.
A Product Manager is the “subject matter expert, the centre of action, who is updated with the latest advancements, and an influencer of major business decisions”.- Praveen Praksh, Product Manger, BigBasket
In one statement- you have to act like CEO of the product
Just like a CEO is the leader, Product Mangers are the leaders of their product and the teams working for and around them.
To be a good leader you must have these following skills:
- Empathy- understand your users and people around you
- Communication skills- convey your thoughts clearly so anyone can understand what you are trying to say
- Persuasion- ability to get work done
- Decision making
- Human behaviour
Here is a Tweet by Shreyas to give you a gist
Learn some new skill every year that serve your product management goal directly or indirectly. - Saurabh Pareek, Senior Product Manager, Paypal
Some of them are:
- Google analytics
- Human psychology
These skills are crucial because, when you are responsible for a product you need to understand EVERYTHING about it (at least the basics).
Imagine you are a product manager of a SAAS product, and you don’t know how SQL works. Your programs are written in the SQL language. One day, there is a glitch in the product and you can’t understand how to go about it because the problem is related to the program. You won’t be able to make your programmer understand and it would turn out to be a pretty confusing conversation.
Product managers are generalists having an amalgamation of various skills from marketing strategy, sales, design and product development. -Nikhil Jois, Techstars
Knowing the basics of everything will help you in understanding the problems and efficiently analysing the progress.
Now you know what to do to start your product management journey.
Not quite yet. The most important thing you need before starting a side project or a part time job is to start thinking like a Product Manger.
How will you do this?
Start reading the books they read, listening to podcasts, follow the best product managers on social media who share their story. Connect with them.
Here is a list of all resources that’ll help you to start thinking like a Product Manager.
Rather than reading books like ‘how to become a product manager in 30 days’ read books that will help you build a Product Manager's mindset. - Saurabh Pareek, Senior Product Manager, Paypal
Here is a list of books that will spark the curiosity bug in your brain, help you understand consumer psychology and of course build your Product Manager brain.
Hooked by Nir Eyal
This book talks about how successful companies follow a 4 step process to build habit forming products that influence human behaviour.
Highly recommended by product managers. This book is for everyone who is interested in knowing how products are built, how they affect human behaviour and how some products are more addictive than others.
Inspired by Marty Cagan
Marty is a Partner at Silicon Valley Product Group. In this book, he shows you ‘How to Create Tech Products Customers Love’. He’s given examples of companies like Tesla, Netflix, Amazon and Google. What they do differently than others? Why are their products loved by millions?
Here is a detailed book review
7 Powers by Hamilton Helmer
Another highly recommended book. Hamilton has explained 'The foundations of Business Strategy' in a simple and straightforward way.
Find the review here.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
Not related to product management directly. This book will help you get better at what you do. Become an efficient and effective worker and build valuable relationships. Making you a good person overall.
The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.
Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt
Richard explains the difference between ambition, visions, goals and strategy in a bold way.
Here is a 1.5 hour video if Richard talking about his book in London School of Economics (LSE)
Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
In this book Don talks about what it takes to design basic everyday objects that we don't really consider as innovations.
He gave examples of doors, light switches and water faucets. The things that haven't really changed since the book was launched.
Watch Don talk about what inspired him to write this book.
0 to 1 by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters
The Paypal co-founder, Peter Thiel writes about how you will have to think differently in order to build a new idea and scale it from 0 to 1.
Here is a sketch-note that explains the book in less than 5 minutes.
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Here you will learn 'How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses'
Disciplined Entrepreneurship by Bill Aulet
Here, Bill shares '24 Steps to a Successful Startup'.
A 28 minutes Medium article gives a detailed review of this book and explains those 24 steps.
Thinking Fast and Slow by Danial Kahneman
Daniel Kahnman is a Noble Prize winner in Economics and is known for his research in the field of Behavioural Economics.
In this book he has written about humans having 2 brains, system 1 (fast brain) and system 2 (slow, sub-conscious brain). Both of them have an impact on our decision making.
This book will help you in understanding the human brain better, and know why we do what we do.
This sketch note explains the book and the two brains in less than 10 minutes.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
Dan is a behavioural economist. He writes about decision making, human behaviour and habits.
In this book he wrote about 'The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions’. Very important if you want to understand your customers and their behaviour.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
To change your mindset, you will have to change your habits. We know making small changes in our daily lives can make a big difference in the longer run.
James Clear talks about how making 'Tiny Changes, show Remarkable Results'.
James also has a weekly newsletter called 3-2-1. Where he shares 3 ideas, 2 quotes and 1 'food for thought' question. It's an easy read and full of wisdom.
Podcasts are a great way to absorb knowledge fast. Listen to them while you are driving, cooking, working or even cleaning the house.
Here is a list of some highly recommended podcasts by various product managers:
Invest Like The Best with Patrick O'Shaughnessy
Patrick brings in highly experienced people every week and talks about startups, economy, better ways of investing your time and money.
Freakonomics with Stephen J. Dubner
Author of Freakonomics book, Stephen has a weekly podcast Freakonomics Radio.
From the economics of sleep to how to become great at just about anything.
Planet Money by NPR
Basically they talk about the economy. Their latest podcast- Choices & Dating is about how concepts in economics can be applied in our daily lives. For example sunk cost, opportunity cost or even market equilibrium.
How I Built This with Guy Raz
Your host Guy Raz brings in entrepreneurs, innovators and idealists to talk about their journey and the movements they built.
Hidden Brain with Shankar Vedanatm
The combination of science and storytelling brings a fresh perspective to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behaviour, shape our choices and direct our relationships.
The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish
Masters of Scale by Reid Hoffman
The co-founder of LinkedIn himself, Reid talks about how companies grow from zero to a gazillion. They are the first American podcast show to commit to gender balance for guests.
The Twenty Minute VC with Harry Stebbings
Harry brings in successful Venture Capitalists in every show where he talks to them about their journey, aspirations and how they achieved unbelievable triumphs.
Blogs and Articles
Here are some great blogs written by Product Managers.
Currently a Product Manager at Stripe. Shreyas has worked with Yahoo, Google and Twitter in the past. He is by far the best person to follow on twitter if you want to learn the difference between a Good Product Manager and a Great Product Manager.
Paul is the Chief Product and Technology Officer at Level. His monthly blog posts 'Pivot Product Hits' are some great resource material for aspiring Product Managers to help them understand what kind of product becomes successful in the market.
In one of is blog post 'Pivot Product Hits- April Edition' he talks about why you shouldn't make your customers 'too happy', how some companies have made AI a jargon to attract people (while they are not even using it) and talks about the difference between horizontal and vertical products.
Ken is the Google Ventures partner and Product Manager. His essays on product management are fun to read with catchy headlines. Two essays that I really like are:
Please Make Yourself Uncomfortable: What Product Managers can learn from jazz musicians
Taruna is an inspiration to all aspiring Product Managers. She started her career as a digital marketer and now she's a Product Manager at LinkedIn. Her articles on medium are insightful. She writes about product management, digs deep into the whys and hows behind products and and her life in general. Her writing style is bold, fun and to the point.
How Hinge plays with your psychology to get you a match is a great article to understand the UX and UI behind the app. Taruna has compared Hinge to it’s competitors and has explained how Hinge is better.
Teresa is a Product Discovery Coach at Product Talk. She helps digital companies come up with better decisions by fast prototyping, critical thinking and focusing on customer experience by doing continuous customer interviews.
Sachin is the CEO and founder of Notejoy. He has worked with LinkedIn and Microsoft.
He loves writing about Product management and Entrepreneurship. Amongst his 150+ esseys, 5 Skills Every Product Manager Can Learn From Elon Musk is a must read.
Scott is the creator of Dilbert, serial entrepreneur and Chief Strategy Officer at WhenHub. His Dilbert comics are funny cause they are true!
Mind the Product- World’s largest Product Managers community
First Round review- Product Management Magazine
An obviously awesome Product Management Cheat Sheet Amazon's leadership Principles- all these principles are an ‘must have’ to be a great Product Manager.
If the above resources are not enough, here are 100 more resources for Product Managers.
And if you are still hungry for more, here as a meta list of resources for you. It has links to articles, blog posts and books on the topic of product management.
How HelloMeets is helping Aspiring Product Managers
HelloMeets has a community of 1000+ skilled and passionate Product Managers. To help aspiring Product Managers like you, we have started a community where you can get answers to all product and job related queries.
We host various meetups on different product management topics where you can meet and network with people in the industry, get actionable insights and create opportunities of your own!
Our most recent Product Management meetups were:
Find our upcoming Product Management Meetups here.