10 things about the product manager role that you didn’t read in the application
Yes! You got seriously excited by the job application, had a great series of interviews and passed the test. Congratulations, you are now a product manager. As you finally started, you are now learning what the things in the job application actually mean. Here are ten things that are expected from you in your role as a product manager that you may or may not have figured out from the job advert.
1 – It is your job is to make things grow
Product managers are hired to create focus and momentum for a specific product line. Product managers are hired as well to help the company move towards a new direction. Why, well, the general rule that applies to most things in life is that when you give something attention, it will start to grow. This means you are here to make something move. You will rally up teams, set goals, and create attention. Not everyone will like you breaking the status-quo, but hey – standing still means going backward.
2 – It’s not your job to be the Jack of all trades and Master of None
As you are starting to rock the waters and stir things up, you will notice there are many holes to fill. Internal processes to support your product need to be developed, product development teams have to start delivering features, the marketing team has to start thinking about the go-to-market. You need other people’s resources, time and energy and they are not typically served on a gold platter. It’s not your job to fill the holes. It’s easy to fill the holes as your interests are broad, and your capabilities wide. However as soon as you start doing that, you will quickly see yourself filling all the holes and your pace will slow down. Being a jack of all trades has its benefits, but the risk is that you become master of none. If you want to grow in the company, work towards other departments filling the holes that are designed for them.
3 – Your job does not stop when development is done
You worked pretty darn hard to support the dev. team in building the product. Amazing job as within the planned sprints you actually released your rockstar product. What’s next, time to relax after reaching this gigantic peak? Sorry buddy. The mantra – you build it they will come only applies to a few companies like Apple. After building it, your work actually starts, as it’s’ your job to drive adoption, starting right there with the product launch.
Your job transforms from being the ambassador of the product towards the dev. Team, to being the ambassador of your product to the entire company and the world. Getting customers started, driving growth, reporting on adoption, coming up with strategies to enhance adoption all typically fall in your kitty.
4 – Be ready to switch between strategic, tactical and operational items on a daily basis
Within one day you can have a discussion on product strategy, deliver a sales presentation to your customers, and work with the PO on grooming the backlog. And while you are doing all of this you have to step in to fix an immediate issue in operations. Customers are complaining and need help – NOW!. Be ready for switching gears and prioritization within the day. If you get drawn into the operational fires, you will not get your big things done. So best is to plan for the big things, and keep some space in your planning for fires.
5 – Talk to your customers – it is rewarding
It requires a lot of your energy to push the product forward inside the company. Ops, marketing, sales, management – all these stakeholders to satisfy. Talking to customers keeps being pushed on your agenda. If not today, tomorrow is also fine, or perhaps next week. Delaying your conversation with customers is such a missed opportunity, as no-one will better be able to tell you how your product is performing. Customers will be able to tell you what they need, what their problems are, and how good your solution is solving their problems.
6 – Get things done, a lot of things!
Work on the product and don’t work around the product. Make sure you have enough time to get stuff done as in order to make things move you need to cover a lot of ground. A solid product manager is focused and result oriented. You are the spider in the web and everyone wants something from you. If you fail to stay focused the risk is that nothing gets done. At the end of the week, month, quarter you will not feel frustrated when things are not moving.
7 – Product management should be called Product Leadership
You are a mini-ceo, and end-end responsible for everything that involves your product. As a chief, your title should actually not be product manager, but product leader. Manager can give the impression that you are watching after your products, like a manager watches over his / her people. Your job is to make things grow, and get your products across the finish line. This requires leadership!
8 – It’s not required to be an original thinker
You really don’t have to come up with ideas for your proposition by yourself. It’s probably a better skill to be analytical, to observe, and to be able to draw connections. You can get your ideas from competitors, from other industries, from walking on the street or from watching tv. If someone else has delivered magic before, it does not mean that you need to do something different. You can probably learn a lot from the mistakes others made, and probably come up with an improved version that is even more relevant to your customers. Be curious!
9 -You have to be a bit of a nerd to be a product manager
It’s not good to just be superficially engaged. As a product manager you are the ambassador for your product and that means that you will need to invest time in building an understanding of a) the market and competitors, b) the domain you operate in c) product capabilities and d) customer needs. So are you hungry for information, keen to build relationships?
10 –Only work for companies with clear product vision
A strong product focused organization listens to customers and ensures customer needs are incorporated in the overall vision and product roadmap. Bad product companies allow customers to drive sprints and new product features. If the customer wants it, we’ll build it.
This behavior hinges towards customer intimacy and is fine as a strategy but it’s a different strategy from being a product focused company. So as a product person you want to work for real product companies.
I’ve worked in product management most of my professional life. I enjoy all aspects of the product management role, except for anything related to administration. Coming up with new ideas, building great products, and working towards adoption and satisfied users drives me. Always looking forward!