Getting a product management job requires experience, but you cannot get the experience in the first place without having been in a product job. This is one of the many challenges people face when they tell me they want to be Product Managers. I decided to look into the typical journey of someone who wanted to become a Product Manager. In preparation for this book, I surveyed those who had previously reached out to me about my journey. I wanted to learn more about the different steps they had taken to understand what they found valuable. Some were fortunate to be in their first product role, while others were still on their journey to secure their first product role. Through these conversations, I was able to observe the pain points from the common activities they did and the emotions they felt. I broke down the stages of the journey into consideration; The moments leading up to what prompted them to search for a different career, which resulted in the discovery of product management. The Decision phase; They learn about the reality of the role and the ways of possibly breaking into product without any formal experience. And lastly, preparation; the final phase, once they have decided to do whatever it takes to get a job as a Product Manager. By understanding all these steps, you can identify where you are and figure out the best way to proceed to achieve your goal of becoming a PM.
Before the discovery of product management, people start by questioning what else they can do to have a meaningful career that best fits them. They proceed by searching for alternatives, and it is common to read through job descriptions to provide clues on what could appeal to them. Once they learn about product management, they are excited about a potential fit since the job summary fascinates them, which prompts them to learn more.
During the decision stage, people outside of tech (Shown as B in the table) had a more demanding journey than others already in tech (Shown as A in the table). The major burden was at the point where they all began to network and reach out to Product Managers. It was one of the most extended steps in the process, which commonly had the most influence on whether they were going to move forward with their search. Mainly because it was a way to learn about the reality of the job. Some were familiar with Product Managers and decided to reach out, but they also wanted diverse opinions, which meant reaching out to others they didn’t know. It was especially difficult for those outside the tech industry who had very few people in their network to assist them in finding a PM to meet.
At the preparation stage, my findings revealed that most of the steps for best product management practices had sufficient documentation available. The main pain point in this phase is finding that opportunity to get a foot in the door as a Product Manager.
I decided to embark on this project, to replicate the feeling of what it would be like if you could sit across 25 Product Managers to learn about what they do and how they got into their role. I interviewed candidates with diverse educational backgrounds to break the myth about the mandatory requirement of having a technical background to succeed in the role. This book aims to draw parallels to where you might currently be in your journey and provides stories that you can easily follow to help motivate you through your process. I made sure to highlight defining moments in their careers, including challenges and breakthroughs that gave them the clues they needed to proceed in their journey into product.
A commonality I found in Product Managers was the strong presence of an active imagination, the understanding of the foundational building blocks needed to construct it and the perseverance to bring it to life. PMs are observant of their environment and seek the necessary tools to navigate through any problem that stimulates them. By being able to break down a problem, visualize it and leverage their strengths, PMs unify different groups of people to solve a particular problem.