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Accelerating your career as a Product Manager

This week, we had an ama session with Greg Prickril, Product Management Consultant, and Coach. He is the founder of career.pm that deals in providing career accelerator service focused on product managers and aspiring product managers.

Here is the list of questions and answers from the session:

Q1: Hi Greg, I am currently a Sr. Product Manager with an enterprise software company. How should I plan my career in next 5 years? What is the successful career path for a product manager?

Things to think about: What industry do I want to be in? What technology do I want to work with? Do I want to manage people or just a portfolio. Based on your goals, you should analyze what skills and knowledge you will need to be successful. You can find a helpful model for thinking about your development here: https://www.career.pm/posts/building-the-perfect-pm/. You can also do a self-assessment here: https://www.career.pm/myskills

Q2: I am a QA manager and I want to transition into product management. How should I go about it? Should I start by doing some product management course?

I think courses can be valuable. Good courses will give you an end-to-end perspective that many practicing PMs don’t have! However, courses aren’t particularly valuable if you don’t have an opportunity to practice what you learn. For many aspiring PMs, getting experience may require pursuing a “side hustle”, e.g., doing product discovery for an idea you have. I think finding a coach/mentor can also be really helpful.

Q3: which courses will you recommend? Second, what kind of side hustle can I try? It might require help from developers. That might entail some investment.

I would go with a reputable vendor (one that’s been around a while). If you take interactive training, you should learn about your instructor. Are they a practicing PM? Do they have experience that’s relevant to you? There are tons of online/remote solutions available too (including on career.pm).

I would pursue an idea even if it doesn’t result in development. For example, product discovery ends once you decide to actually build the product. Getting to that point is a lot of work! If you pursue an idea you’re passionate about and are methodical, you will come out of that exercise with a set of experiences and artifacts you can show prospective employers.

I see more and more PMs creating personal sites to show examples of their work. I think it can be persuasive.

Q4: Anybody here aspiring to be a product leader? Curious about the challenges you face (and anyone else’s as well!).

One of the key challenges I am facing is around managing activities both as a Product Owner and PM. The idea is create a build a layer of Business Analysts and POs who could support PMs. Typically when you have both PMs and POs, the former has a more strategic focus while POs do what’s described in most Agile frameworks. Often, doing both is simply too much work for one person.

Q5: I am currently pursuing a Prod Management certification program. I have a total of 9 years of work ex. 4 as a BA and 5 as a Project Manager.  Would I also need to upskill myself in terms of UX design?

Some understanding of UX design is always a good idea. How much you need depends on your product. For example, I find that mobile PMs tend to need pretty solid design chops (even though they are not accountable for designing app experiences). Some of us with B2B experience are pretty poor at UX!

I would join some UX communities and research the topics you discover there. There are tons of (free) online resources.

Q6: Any good reads that you suggest for beginners?

I think all beginners should read “Inspired” by Marty Cagan. You can’t miss with that one. You can search for great books and other resources at www.PMfont.com. We’ve curated over 4,000 PM resources (books, blogs, Podcasts). I find that too many people neglect Podcasts. You get insight from them that you simply don’t get from other sources. You find the ones we like on PMfont.

Q7: Did we discuss about the basics of tech which a non-tech background PM needs to have?

I get that question a lot! How much technical knowledge you need depends on your company/product etc. Many aspiring PMs ask me if they should do a course on programming. I believe there are other topics that are more important. You should study development frameworks/methodologies like Scrum. You should also understand something about architecture. In tech, understanding how software gets made is pretty important. I use the analogy of a plumber…Do you need to know anything about plumbing to hire a plumber? The answer is “no”, but we all know it’s a good idea! Having technical knowledge will allow you to have much more meaningful discussions with engineering. But in most cases, I don’t think being able to code is that important.

Q8: does product management consulting work? Can I aspire to be external or remote product management consultant for companies? Are companies open for an external guy to work for some limited time?

There are lots of PM consultants! I’ve done it for years and love it.

Q9: How big a role does Analytics understanding play for a Product Manager?

A pretty big role, especially in consumer-oriented markets. Everyone these days are talking about decisions based on data (as they should). Analytics is key there. In some domains like mobile, analytics are absolutely critical.

Q10: do you have final tips for our members?

I’ll return to my original comment: treat your career like a product. Take a strategic perspective and manage to it. If you’d like help, set up a free consultation on career.pm. Would love to connect with all of you on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gregprickril/

Thanks for the great questions and engagement!

Join us on Slack to attend our AMA sessions in the future.

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