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How To Become a Product Manager? 5 Simple Steps to Follow in 2021

If you are looking for a comprehensive guide to help you take the first step towards a rewarding career in product management, this is it. 

Most people who ask the question “How to become a product manager?” are naturally interested in product management but often have no idea what it is about. Even though a product manager is one of the best-paying and most-revered professions today, it has been one of the least understood and poorly explored career paths. However, changing times have inspired more and more professionals to pursue product management as a full-time job. 

This guide provides an in-depth idea about becoming a product manager, the pros of becoming a product manager, the career paths in product management, and more!

How to Become a Product Manager?

There is no clear-cut way to becoming a product manager, and it definitely does not happen overnight. 

While product managers come from diverse backgrounds – engineering, computer science, communications, and marketing, all successful product managers have mastered some essential hard and soft skills. While hard skills or technical knowledge are relatively easy to learn, soft skills set the best product managers apart from their peers. Read more on various skills required to become a product manager.

There are roughly five categories of skills that you will need to hone to become a product manager:

1. Technical Proficiency

A lot of technical details go into the development of a product. While a product manager need not work on them, they should be aware of how all the technical elements come together in the final product. Technical expertise includes knowing how the product functions at the level of code, understanding the software development lifecycle methodologies, conducting A/B tests, working on product analytics, etc.

2. Empathy

However strange it may seem, empathy and understanding what the user wants and how the user thinks are the critical soft skills that a product manager must develop. 

3. Creative and Strategic Thinking

Whether it is creating a roadmap to bring a product to the market or responding to problems that might pop up along the way, innovation and creativity are key in the day-to-day tasks of a product manager. While critical thinking and problem-solving skills cannot be taught, they must be acquired through experience and exposure.

4. Communication and Negotiation Skills

A product manager connects various departments and stakeholders across the organisation. The role demands efficient diplomatic, interpersonal, and communication skills to ensure smooth understanding and liaison between the company leadership, departments, and stakeholders.  

5. Business Administration Skills

All other skills will bear fruit only when the product manager is organised and knows how to lead a team efficiently and effectively. This is where administrative skills come into play to ensure that even the most complex project phases run smoothly and the product is delivered on time and within budget.

Do you need a Degree to be a Product Manager?

The role of a product manager is a self-directed path led by continuous learning of the different areas that fall within the ambit of a product manager’s job description. While a relevant undergraduate degree is essential, the most successful product managers focus more on getting a professional certification, which is a worthwhile investment.

A product management certification course provides the hands-on experience to be industry-ready and develops the vast degree of competencies that the discipline demands. It offers an invaluable experience to budding product managers, making them confident and proficient in the processes that help lead a product from ideation to completion. 

Why  Become a Product Manager?

From development and positioning to pricing and product launch, the lifecycle of a product is marked by several milestones. While product management encompasses a wide range of processes that differ with the enterprise and the product lifecycle stage, at its core, it refers to the organisational role and function responsible for the overall success of the product. A product manager is accountable for connecting design knowledge, business strategy, and the customer needs to develop a viable and relevant product of value. 

If you are thinking of pursuing a career in product management, here are some of the pros of becoming a product manager that you must be aware of:

  • A product manager is responsible for collaboration between sales, marketing, and product management

Competitive market conditions put an increased amount of pressure on sales teams to meet short-term revenue targets. As a product manager who is aware of the current market trends, you can support the sales team in identifying market opportunities and help them meet their sales targets. Further, this collaboration can help in the identification of new market problems and steer new product development. Involving the marketing team in the process will ensure that the marketing strategies are aligned with the product sales.

  • A product manager reduces the risk of product failures

In the course of the product lifecycle, even a clearly defined roadmap and a good understanding of the target audience may be insufficient to keep failures at bay. However, an experienced and skilled product manager can help mitigate pitfalls and setbacks since they are responsible for the end-to-end product development and the market changes. Having a sound knowledge of the market’s voice helps a product manager reduce product failures significantly.

  • A product manager aligns market needs with business requirements

One of the primary responsibilities a product manager has is to ensure that any new product or business idea that is conceived and eventually launched is aligned with business requirements and solves market problems. Before beginning a new project, the product manager carries out market research and analysis to understand the competitive landscape and validate a significant market for the product idea. As a result, when the product is finally developed, it fulfils both internal and external requirements while encompassing customer and business value.

  • A product manager career path has ample opportunities for growth

Keeping aside the obvious organisational benefits, product management professionals can get plentiful employment opportunities with lucrative salary packages. While the IT companies are the top recruiters of product managers, other sectors such as healthcare, finance, manufacturing, and education also have a high demand for skilled product managers. Overall, a career in product management is both professionally and financially rewarding if you have the expertise.

Job roles of Product Manager

Now that we have talked about how to become a product manager, let us look at the various job roles you will encounter in the product management arena. Before you dig deeper, learn about roles and responsibilities of product managers.

There are different product management job roles and titles within an organisation. Each company will define the roles slightly differently based on various factors such as the product strategy, the offerings, seniority level, and the customers. Further, the positions and titles within an organisation’s product management hierarchy will depend on the type and size of the company.

Here is a list of the most common product management roles and their primary focus:

1. Product Manager

A product manager oversees the entire lifecycle of the product, including the roadmap, strategy, and feature definition of a specific product or product line. Depending on the size and structure of the company, a product manager may report to the senior product manager, the group product manager, or the vice president of product management.

2. Associate Product Manager

An entry-level position involving data analysis, competitive research, and defining requirements for features as directed by senior product leaders. An associate product manager usually reports to the group product manager or the product manager to understand the development of new products and enhance the existing ones.

3. Group Product Manager

One of the senior-most non-executive roles a product manager can have. It involves leading and directing a product management team responsible for a specific group of products. A group product manager typically reports to the vice president or product director with daily responsibilities such as strategy, research, people management, product development, and management of other product managers.

4. Product Owner

The product owner and the product manager often have overlapping responsibilities, and it can get quite tricky to clearly segregate the two roles. However, it is generally accepted that the product owner supports the development team by answering product questions and prioritising user stories. On the other hand, the product manager voices the customer’s needs to achieve market and customer success.

5. Director of Product Management

A senior role that demands management experience and requires the ability to collaborate with cross-functional leaders, including executives. The director should be communicative about the future of the product while at the same time prioritising investments that will be of maximum value to the business. The director of product management reports to the CEO in smaller organisations or the vice president of product management in larger enterprises.

6. Vice President of Product Management

A role commonly found in large and established organisations. The VP of product reports to a C-level executive and exercises significant influence on various departments such as engineering, sales, marketing, and support to ensure that the company’s investments reinforce business goals. The VP has a voice in matters of strategy, mergers, and acquisition activities and works to maintain the link between cross-functional teams.

7. Chief Product Officer

The chief product officer is responsible for all the production activities within the organisation and works on the overall product strategy designed to achieve the corporate goals set by the CEO and the board members. 

Product Managers Salary Range

Here is a list of the most popular product management job roles and their average salaries in India:

Job Role Average salary per annum
Product Manager INR 1,724,129 
Associate Product Manager INR 964,617
Group Product Manager INR 1,789,046 
Product Owner INR 1,542,224 

Read more on product manager salary.

How upGrad can help?

As the demand for product managers continues to rise, investing in a product management certification course is worth it. upGrad’s Product Management Certification Program is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for aspiring product managers to get certified by premier global institute Duke CE. 

Course Highlights:

  • Course duration: 6-10.5 months.
  • Eligibility criteria: Bachelor’s Degree with or without work experience.
  • 10+ live sessions, 8+ tools, 15+ case studies and projects with three customised specialisations.
  • Convenient payment options to suit your needs.
  • Choose from the Mid Level or Mid to Senior Level course based on your experience and career goals.
  • Lifetime access to Duke CE’s Thought Leadership Journal.
  • Three years of unlimited content access.

Apply today to learn from the best faculty and industry leaders!

Conclusion

While the process of product management itself delivers measurable and lasting benefits to the organisation, the role of a product manager is critical in ensuring the company’s long-term success. 

There is no one true path to becoming a product manager, and there is no shortcut. No school or university can prepare a full-fledged product manager as the role involves continuous learning to build upon the knowledge of the areas that product managers oversee. Above all, if you want to get complete hands-on experience in the field and make your skills credible in the eyes of recruiters, signing up for a product management certification program is the best call.

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