The following insight was written by Melissa Chenok, Group Product Manager at Quorum.
Below is a list of resources for folks who are interested in or new to product. See below my quick thoughts on takeaway for getting a PM role and also what people don’t tell you about being a PM followed by resources to check out if of interest!
While being a PM it isn’t saying “here is what we are doing” and kicking your feet up waiting for the finished product, it is definitely a fun and exciting role and has many moments that are incredibly rewarding.
My main takeaway for getting a job in product from spending 10+ years working in B2B and B2C SaaS product management and is to figure out what you can do as a side project in your current workplace or as an evening/weekend project in an area of interest that will allow you to get product management experience. Examples of this include: taking on project management initiatives, aggregating data and communicate it to your product team, talking to people who are experiencing pain points related to your organization, talking to people who do product at your organization and see if they need help with anything, getting coffee with people in product to talk about their day to day on the job, reaching out to smaller organizations to see if they need pro bono product management, wireframing ideas for products that you have, etc. Getting experience doing different aspects of a typical product managers work will help you figure out whether product management is what you are genuinely interested in pursuing as a full-time career, and will also give you experience to be able to speak to on your resume and in interviews.
That all being said, being a product manager is not (in my opinion) the glorified picture that we often hear. In blogs and books and conversations with others, I have heard the repeated framework that product is a glorified role, being distilled down to one sentence like “you are the CEO of a product”. People who think that they want to do product often say things like “I want to be the person to make decisions on a team.” or “I have a lot of really good ideas we should build”. Often folks think that a PM is someone who does high level research, talks to a few customers, decides what to build and then sits back and waits for a finished product.
In reality, product management is a lot of communication and grunt work — you (often) don’t directly manage the engineers or the users or the customer success team — You have to influence people in matrixed organizations to understand why they should build and sell a product. Then you have to make sure that they are actually doing their tasks and those tasks are done well. The parts that aren’t done well are your issue to fix — you are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of your products. You need to be technical enough to spend a number of hours per week sorting and prioritizing a backlog for engineers and good enough at stakeholder management to be able to back that prioritization up when someone on your team comes to you telling you that 5+ clients are asking for this fix and they need it now when you have deprioritized it. Product managers will complete days of heads down research to determine requirements and then need to be able to quickly pivot when those hours you spent doing the research and requirements gathering gets scrapped for another feature.
There are a lot of really positive aspects of product management as well! Product work is incredibly exciting and rewarding when you are able to make a difference in end users lives and when products successfully launch. Its an awesome accomplishment to complete a business case or a total addressable market document with recommendations to leadership about steps forward. Working in matrixed organizations is challenging but also exciting to see and have an impact on how different teams work and while being a PM it isn’t saying “here is what we are doing” and kicking your feet up waiting for the finished product, it is definitely a fun and exciting role and has many moments that are incredibly rewarding.
If you’re interested in learning more, check out the resources below!
Basic PM Resources
- My favorite PM book: https://www.amazon.com/INSPIRED-Create-Tech-Products-Customers/dp/1119387507/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=marty+cagan&qid=1567452605&s=gateway&sr=8-2
- A great high level product course that will give you basic 101 of product management: https://www.udemy.com/course/become-a-product-manager-learn-the-skills-get-a-job/
- List of articles broken into strategy, visioning, design, execution, leadership and career: https://www.sachinrekhi.com/top-resources-for-product-managers
- Another consolidated list of books and resources for PM: https://medium.com/@noah_weiss/50-articles-and-books-that-will-make-you-a-great-product-manager-aad5babee2f7
- A favorite PM blog/site (sign up for the email list): https://svpg.com/
- Another favorite PM blog/site: https://www.mindtheproduct.com/
- A third favorite PM blog/site: https://280group.com/
- A 4th favorite PM blog/site: https://www.productmanagerhq.com/
- Another great book: https://www.amazon.com/Escaping-Build-Trap-Effective-Management/dp/149197379X
Other Product Management Articles
- Saying no to ideas
- Decision Making in Product
- Market research & analysis resources
- What makes for a good PM
- Success starts with a great product (Intercom)
- Planning products by working backwards
- PMs Write
- Project Management for Product Managers
- Product Development Lifecycle Template
- Influence without Authority
- Metrics & Data
- Analytics for PM 101
- Planning & Research
- Writing PRDs
- Group Product Manager VS Director of Product — Roles and Responsibilities
- Working with Designers
- UX Fundamentals
- Don Norman on UX, Video — Nielson Norman Group
- An Introduction to User Experience Design — Beaker & Flint
- What Is UX Design? 15 User Experience Design Experts Weigh In — UserTesting Blog
- Which UX Career Is Right For You? — General Assembly Blog
- What is Design Thinking? — Interaction Design Foundation
- What is Design Thinking? — Ideo U
- An Introduction to Agile Frameworks — Mendix
- Design Thinking vs. Agile: Combine Problem Finding and Problem Solving for Better Outcomes — Medix
- Try Design Thinking + Scrum — Takeshi Yoshida
- Here is How UX Design Integrates with Agile and Scrum — The Startup
- User Flow is the New Wireframe — UX Collective
- Don’t Make Me Think — Steve Krug
- You Are Not the User: The False-Consensus Effect — Nielson Norman Group