Product management career path: From pathway to communities to join

Published May 5, 2021

Product management is a multifaceted role in tech companies and other industries, with many possible future pathways due to the versatility and variety of skills needed to succeed. Depending on the types of products your company is offering, the basic job scope and responsibilities of a product manager may vary.

Product management career path: From pathway to communities to join

MentorCruise is a mentoring platform with a thriving platform of founders, specialists, consultants, and other professionals. Today, we will be introducing some potential career pathways as a product manager, product management communities to join and how MentorCruise can help you along the way!

How can I get into product management?

There are four main ways in which you can get into a product management role. Every company will require a product team and always be on the lookout for new product managers.

1. Building your own company from scratch.

As the entrepreneur yourself, you know your product design and idea best. Many CEOs themselves take on the roles of a product manager too after a company acquisition. Alternatively, founders can also take on the role of Chief Product Officer at their own company during the growth stage.

2. Join a startup team of product managers.

Working in a startup helps you develop a wide range of skills that tie in business goals and product strategy. Experience the entire product lifecycle from start to finish with product owners within a fast-paced setting. A startup provides you with different perspectives and opportunities to learn that are hard to come by in multinational corporations.

3. Opting for an internal transfer within your current organization.

Your day-to-day activities may not be what you enjoy, and you decide to make the switch and try out a career in product management. The easiest way to do so is to request an internal transfer if there are such opportunities within your current company.

4. Take on an entry-level product role or a junior product manager’s role in a new company.

These roles provide many learning and growth opportunities. If you are relatively new to the role, take this chance to pick up qualities from successful product managers. Learn how they build their product strategy, construct a product portfolio, gain product management experience, and much more.

What does a product manager’s main job responsibilities include?

A product manager is a person who handles all product-related issues. They align a business’s product offerings to match customer needs, business objectives, and strategies. This is a generalized scope of a product manager’s role, but what do some of their basic responsibilities include?

  • Defining a product’s vision and strategy.
  • Conduct regular product meetings and brainstorming sessions for idea generation.
  • Evaluating product ideas, features, and capabilities.
  • Developing product roadmaps.
  • Analyzing the user experience through various metrics
  • Conducting user surveys, feedback sessions, and user testing
  • Creating user stories
  • Communicating with stakeholders and aligning products with respective interests.
  • Manage product development processes from concept to design, sample production, testing, promotion, etc.
  • Analyze competition, market, and consumer trends.
  • Monitor product performance to ensure business objectives and targeted financial ratios are met.

What are some skills product managers should be equipped with?

As you can see from the list above, a product manager’s role is very varied, and they are the most involved in the product development process from start to finish. With such a dynamic job scope, what are some skills that are in demand for product managers?

  1. Communication — Product managers need strategic communication skills to convey the product vision and strategy to respective stakeholders effectively.
  2. Strategic & critical thinking — Product managers require skills to analyze essential factors and variables that will affect the success of a business, team, etc. Moreover, strategic thinking is required in coming up with individualized product strategies for various product lines.
  3. Executional skills — Referencing Janet George, Director of Research Engineering at Yahoo! Research’s best-selling book on the 42 Rules of Product Management, Rule #38 states that excellent execution trumps a great product idea!
  4. Leadership — You will be leading teams, and you need to be equipped with the skills to delegate roles and responsibilities to members. Ensuring a smooth flow in the entire project management process requires you to adapt quickly to lead the pack.
  5. Decision-making skills — Decisions such as keeping or dropping products, new features, etc., are required as the person with authority over a product management team. You need to be decisive and able to support your decisions with information and data.
  6. Analytical skills — The ability to sieve through numbers and information to retrieve what’s necessary to supplement your product development is essential.
  7. Product planning — Identifying and articulating market requirements and customer needs will help in crafting more targeted products and strategies.

Climbing the corporate ladder as a product manager

Expectations

Depending on the level you are at, the expectations of a product manager differ. Here are some basic expectations of product managers at the respective levels:

  • Associate Product Manager — Execution of product strategies as you will be working with one or more product managers to enable them to carry out their tasks more effectively.
  • Product Manager — Roadmap prioritization and product planning. A product manager is expected to make informed decisions and prioritize features that align with business objectives and achieve key results.
  • Senior Product Manager — Coming up with individualized product strategies.
  • Staff Product Manager — Ability to demonstrate horizontal leadership.
  • Director of Product — Multi-team management across the organization.

Challenges

Challenges come hand-in-hand with performance expectations. Here are some challenges you may face as a product manager at each level:

  • Associate Product Manager — Lack of expertise in leadership.
  • Product Manager — Defining a standardized measurement of success, whether it should be revenue, profit, user satisfaction, lead acquisition, etc.
  • Senior Product Manager — Convincing the other directors, stakeholders, and teams that your strategy is well-thought-out and should be implemented.
  • Staff Product Manager — Collaborating with team members that may be difficult to handle.
  • Director of Product — Ineffective delegation of tasks and managing varying opinions.

What are some career expansion pathways for product managers?

There are many product manager roles. Here are some atypical ones that you may not have previously thought about.

Product consultant

After years of experience in the field of product management, you may find a growing interest in helping other founders and product managers develop their business. This is in contrast to only focusing on the daily operations of a product manager.

Branching into product mentorship, consultancy or coaching allows you to inspire and share your experience and knowledge with tons of budding product managers. As a product consultant, you get exposure to organizations from various industries with different maturities. With your advice and expertise, these businesses will be able to scale their operations smoothly.

A great way to expand your reach is to network and join communities of like-minded individuals. At MentorCruise, we have just what you need: an extensive network of startup advisors and expert coaches suitable for every industry and expertise.

Entrepreneur

Having gone through so many product launches, you probably have an eye for detail and spotting successful products. How about putting this skill to use and developing your product? We have some resources here on funding your startup and meeting the right cofounders, which are useful for you.

Alternatively, there’s a role that is not often heard of, titled entrepreneur/executive-in-residence (EIR). This role is more commonly seen in venture capital (VC) firms, private equity firms, startup accelerators, etc. Their primary role is to identify and develop a new company with an existing management structure that the VC firm likes and will invest in.

The EIR will then provide operational support to develop a fundable concept that the VC firm can seed, and the EIR can run or be the cofounder of.

Suppose the EIR has expertise in a specific industry that the VC is interested in. In that case, they may also be tasked with market research, developing an investment thesis, and drafting business plans for a new company.

Board Advisor

Some companies create advisory boards to gain industrial and functional perspectives and earn networking and partnership opportunities. These boards consist of members of various organizations, and many members usually sit on multiple boards simultaneously. This is another excellent way to share your industrial and product knowledge to help a company grow.

Product development and management mentor

Are you looking to share your expertise and make a difference in the community? We appreciate that you’re taking the time to help others grow, so let us handle your network, exposure, payment, training, etc. With this, you can concentrate on guiding professionals around the world and help them reach their goals!

Venture capitalist

Making the switch from a product manager to a venture capitalist requires minimally a status of a Director of product and above. After solidifying your influence and standing as a credible opinion-maker, you are more likely to be hired as a partner to a VC firm.

The gist is similar, where you convince others of the market viability, attractiveness of an investment, product outlook, etc.

General manager

In this position, you are shifting your focus from managing the details of daily product development towards an entire business line. The transition into this role can be challenging as you manage more people, capital, data, etc. It will also require a broader focus on operations, budgeting, marketing, and delegating roles.

These are just some jobs with transferable skills from your current role as a product manager. However, there’s no harm in making a midlife career change to something you are more passionate about.

Product manager Slack Groups to get started

  • PMHQ Slack Community — With over 40 channels and 6,000 companies represented, daily conversations in channels like #pmresources and #events keep you updated on the latest happenings in the community.
  • The Product Hive — This group strives to help members learn, contribute, and connect through low-cost lectures, workshops, and other educational events.
  • Product School — A great place to collect feedback (#feedback), advice (#help-and-advice), and learn from other senior product managers who will be invited occasionally into the channel to share (#best_practices).
  • Mind the Product — This group is great for product managers interested in meetups and conferences. Their channels #producttank and #mtpcon regularly post schedules of such networking sessions.
  • The Product Coalition — This group is made up of a small community of product practitioners that regularly engage in the channels. A great option if you’re looking for a community with lesser channels and more engaged members.

Land your dream career and achieve your potential with MentorCruise now.

Still in doubt over your future career pathways as a product manager? With Mentorcruise, accessing a personal career coach has never been easier! Having an experienced industry leader available anytime to offer you advise and expert guidance helps you navigate career success with ease.