How to Develop Product Management Skills and Start Your Career
All businesses strive to make products that fulfill their customers’ needs. However, without professionals to align a product’s goals with the company’s business objectives, budget, and target market, even the most innovative products may never have a successful launch. It takes skilled product managers to oversee a product’s development and prevent it from overusing resources, exceeding the budget, or straying too far from customer desires.
Product managers gather as much data on a product as possible and then analyze and interpret that data to build long-term strategies that will maintain the vision for the product. To do this, they work with a product from the beginning of its development, collaborating with stakeholders to ensure that the product maintains a consistent level of quality that satisfies the goals of all parties involved, from executives to investors to development teams.
Performing these tasks is no easy feat, and it requires considerable strategic planning and an assortment of skills. Given how crucial product managers are to the success of a product’s launch and to the maintenance of the product’s quality going forward, companies are looking to hire professionals with a robust set of product management skills. Those interested in taking advantage of these career opportunities should consider a product management bootcamp, such as Fullstack Academy’s live online Product Management Bootcamp, to help them build the skills they’ll need.
Why Product Management Skills Are Important
Product management is an increasingly important field as data plays a greater role in corporate decision-making, customers are more vocal about their needs, and competition and pricing challenges intensify. Companies need product managers with a wide range of hard and soft skills to ensure product launch success.
Product managers play a key role in overseeing a product’s development, iteration, and support after release, but understanding why their skill set is critical to the role requires putting it in the context of their duties.
What Is Product Management?
Product management is the process of overseeing a product from its initial development to its launch and throughout its life cycle. Product managers analyze internal and external data and then use this analysis to advise the company on the best course of action to ensure that the finished and released product meets both the company’s and the customer’s expectations.
Product Management Skills
Developing and maintaining a comprehensive skill set helps product managers successfully perform the many tasks involved in their jobs. They use analytical skills to monitor data-driven market trends and develop a robust knowledge of the product landscape and customer needs, helping to keep a product on track for a successful launch and reception. Product managers also smooth over disagreements and issues at each step in a product’s development, which requires strong soft skills.
After launch, product managers monitor a product’s reception to make improvements and introduce new innovations based on customer feedback and public perceptions to establish its continued success.
Skills Needed for Product Management
Product managers can fulfill a variety of roles over the course of a product’s life span, so they need a broad set of skills that can be applied to different situations. They’ll need to understand technical skills in order to advise product development teams and keep the product on track for launch, as well as business skills to keep costs within the scope of the budget and to ensure the product’s profitability. Additionally, product managers need a set of soft skills to efficiently relay their research and design plans to stakeholders.
Product Management Technical Skills
Product managers need a holistic understanding of the technical aspects of the product being developed. Building technical expertise gives product managers the skills to effectively communicate their analysis and research to a development team, translate complex technical requirements to nontechnical stakeholders, and make informed decisions about product features and functionality.
Product Design: Product design involves researching how users feel about the current products they’re using, and incorporating that information into the design of future similar products. Unlike most aspects of product management that cover a product’s entire life span, product design is crucial in the very early stages of development when the product is still in the iteration stage.
User Experience (UX) Design: A product manager should understand UX design principles to ensure a product is intuitive to use and visually appealing. As part of a team, a product manager often will work closely with UX designers to guide them in creating prototypes during the development process and as they iterate the initial designs in response to research and data analysis.
Product Road Map Development: A product road map outlines a product’s goal and the steps required to meet that goal, acting as a visual summary of the plans for a product or service. It is an essential part of the process to keep production on schedule and in line with the product’s intended purpose.
Several tools exist to streamline product management and to make it easier to relay data or product visualizations to nontechnical stakeholders. They’ll become an important part of your product management career, and because they are industry staples, expertise in using them can make you stand out to employers. Enrolling in Fullstack Academy’s live online Product Management Bootcamp can be a great way to gain experience with these tools and learn how they work in a hands-on environment.
Balsamiq: This product management tool creates mock-ups, known as wireframes, for use in product design. The wireframes allow a product idea to be presented in a visible way before any code is written, allowing stakeholders to give input during the first steps of development.
Strategyzer: This business model canvas aids in identifying whether a product is likely to be feasible to create, desirable to customers, and profitably viable. This tool can be effective for explaining to stakeholders the value of a proposed product.
Google Analytics: This is a powerful tool that provides insights into user behavior and traffic on websites and digital platforms. Google Analytics allows product managers to track metrics and then use that data to optimize their product’s performance.
Product Management Business Skills
Business skills are particularly important, as they allow product managers to understand the market and the competition, make data-driven decisions, and effectively manage their teams. Regardless of the type of product, companies need to know what a budget’s scope will be and whether the product will be able to reach its intended goal. Having the skills to determine value and viability is crucial to getting a product off the ground.
Data Analysis: Product managers analyze data to identify patterns, trends, and opportunities that can inform product strategy and improve a product’s performance.
Research: Product managers need to be able to research the market, the competition, and the user’s needs to understand the product’s context and identify opportunities for improvement. Product managers can gather insights through market research to inform their road map and help them make data-driven decisions during nearly every stage of a product’s life span.
Marketing: Product managers need to be clear on who their product’s target audience is and be able to provide input on how best to get their message out to that audience and build a customer base. Understanding marketing matters because it allows product managers to help increase their product’s visibility and generate buzz with as many users as possible.
Delegation: Product managers often work with a variety of individuals during a product’s development, such as engineers, designers, and executives. In order to manage the many steps that go into a product’s creation, they need to be able to delegate tasks, set priorities, and provide guidance and support to their team members.
Product Manager Soft Skills
Many professionals interact with a new product as it goes through the creation process, and product managers will need to collaborate with cross-functional teams that include designers, developers, marketers, and others to develop a product. Effective communication and interpersonal skills enable product managers to build relationships with their team members and foster collaborations to achieve common goals.
Alongside their teams, product managers will also interact with various stakeholders, including customers, executives, and partners. Communication skills enable them to clearly articulate their vision for the product, the product’s road map, and its progress to these stakeholders, ensuring that all parties remain committed to the same goal.
How to Improve Product Management Skills
Successful product managers continuously develop and refine their skill set, as the tools and techniques of product management are constantly evolving. There are a few methods you can use to strengthen the skills that can help you stand out when applying for a product manager position.
Enrolling in a Product Management Bootcamp
One way to sharpen your product management skills is to enroll in a product management bootcamp. Fullstack Academy’s live online Product Management Bootcamp provides individuals with a comprehensive understanding of the various skills required to be a successful product manager through intensive study of some of the most popular product management tools, such as Balsamiq. It can also provide individuals with practical experience designing and launching products.
Bootcamps are an excellent way to learn about the latest industry trends and best practices from seasoned professionals, and because Fullstack Academy’s Product Management Bootcamp is beginner friendly, no previous experience is required.
Running Team Workshops
Another way to improve your product management skills is by running team workshops. These groups can be run by an outsourced group or internally as part of a company effort. These workshops can help individuals identify weaknesses within a design process in a controlled setting. They can also provide a forum for team members to share ideas, learn from one another, and build more effective communication skills.
How to Include Product Management Skills on Your Resume
Your resume is your first opportunity to showcase your skills and experience to potential employers, and making a strong first impression is critical. Highlight your product management skills in a way that lets employers know you’re familiar with the latest tools and trends while backing up that knowledge with relevant experience, certifications, and bootcamps.
Highlight In-Demand Product Management Skills
When writing a resume for a product management position, prioritize the specific skills relevant to the job requirements. Examine the job posting to identify the qualifications that the employer is seeking, and emphasize those skills on your resume, being sure to use the relevant keywords. Be concise, and include only skills relevant to the position.
Product management is a technical field requiring a thorough understanding of technology and software development. Technical skills that demonstrate your knowledge in areas such as UX design, creating a product road map, or even using a tool such as Google Analytics should be included to set you apart from the competition.
List Relevant Education, Certifications, and Experience
In addition to emphasizing your technical skills, you should include specific projects you’ve worked on as well as any internships, certifications, and work experience that demonstrate your skills and expertise. Describing projects you’ve worked on and how you applied your skills to help those projects meet their objectives enables you to communicate to employers that you can apply the necessary technical skills in a real-world context.
If you have had hands-on experience with any relevant tools through an internship or bootcamp, this can be hugely beneficial, particularly if you have limited employment experience in the area. Certifications such as the American Institute for Business Management and Communication’s certified product manager (CPM) credential can demonstrate that you know the fundamentals of initiating and launching a product.
Product Management Careers
Product management offers a wide range of career opportunities across industries. From startups to established companies, many businesses employ product managers to lead the development of innovative products that satisfy customer needs and drive business growth.
Below are some positions in the field of product management.
Product managers identify customer needs, help design products that meet those needs, and oversee the teams that bring those products to life. The median annual salary for product managers was $127,900 in 2022, according to Lightcast™️ data.
While product managers oversee the full scope and progress of a product, product owners focus on managing product feedback from stakeholders and the direct development of the product. They ensure that the road map and strategy created by the product manager are fulfilled. In smaller companies with fewer demands on the product manager, one person may take on the duties of both positions. The median annual salary for product owners was about $93,000 in March 2023, according to Payscale.
Technical Product Manager
Technical product managers combine their technology skills with their product management skills, often working with engineers more so than marketing to ensure the product meets their standards in terms of technical requirements and quality. They work to ensure the product is reliable and meets customer needs from a UX and design perspective. The median annual salary for technical product managers was about $114,000 in March 2023, according to Payscale.
How to Keep Your Product Management Skills Current
Maintaining your skills takes effort, but it’s an essential part of staying relevant in an evolving job market and ensuring that you can maximize a product’s potential with the latest tools. As new technologies and strategies emerge, you need to remain informed and adaptable. Reading articles about the latest trends in product management or following thought leaders on social media can be a way to remain in the loop on any developments in the field.
Conferences are also a great way to gain valuable knowledge from industry peers, network with other professionals, and stay up to date with the latest trends and best practices. By listening to talks and participating in discussions with peers and leaders in the field, you can gain helpful insight into their successes that you can incorporate into your own product development processes while also learning about missteps they may have made.
Launch Your Career in Product Management
If you’re interested in a product management career, you’ll need to develop the skills to perform market research, stick to a plan, and successfully release a product into the market. One of the most effective ways to build those skills is with Fullstack Academy’s live online Product Management Bootcamp.
Fullstack Academy’s 25-week program covers some of the most popular product management skills, such as user experience and product design, and tools such as Google Analytics and Balsamiq. The program also prepares you with valuable hands-on experience led by industry-experienced instructors who can help propel you into a new career with the skills you need to succeed.
Find out how Fullstack Academy can help you take the first step into a career in product management.
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Product Management vs. Project Management: Career Differences
Product Management vs. Software Engineering
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