A product manager’s role is often blurry, with many in your organisation not fully grasping what it is that you do. This is mainly because you do a bit of everything; you are a ‘Jack of all Trades’ so to speak.
Your ideal day involves planning all the technical aspects of a website, app or software platform, making decisions on what features matter and what don’t, preparing wireframes, giving feedback on user experience and much more. In fact, you know your product so well that your management depends on your support to conceptualise a strategic direction for it, and the marketing department hounds you for help on marketing the product in terms of communications collaterals, copy, user-guides etc.
In short, you rub shoulders with everyone in the organisation, thus blurring your reporting lines and having no one report to you.
Welcome to the exciting world of Product Management, where you will never get bored. Every day brings new challenges, testing you. You’re involved in the development of a product from the point of conceptualisation to delivery. And such a responsible role demands that you be the best at what you do. Without further ado, here are
4 key steps to becoming a Product Manager that everyone wants
1. Focus obsessively on your product
With so many to-do’s on your plate, it is easy to “go with the flow”. Break free from its evil temptations and be ruthless when prioritising your tasks and the features of the product. Learning to say ‘NO’, although it sounds counter-intuitive, is most important, and will set you apart from the leagues of Product Managers who say ‘YES’ to everything and eventually get buried. Here are some tips to improve your focus:
- Look at the big picture – Take an objective look at the broader spectrum of things and decide what features are truly important to the end-user. Eliminate or fade out everything else.
- Be clear with your expectation of various stakeholders of the product. There are no grey areas.
- Garner the support of the right resources – Justify every feature of the product and ensure your top management allocates the right resources for you to see it through to completion.
- Keep re-evaluating what’s important – Always keep asking how something can be made better, faster, cheaper etc.
2. Continuously update yourself
With daily responsibilities and pressures of work comes complacency. Often you will find yourself operating on “auto” mode as you understand your product and company’s processes inside out. Many do not see that they are entering a perilous phase in their careers. Very soon, the skills that you used to land your job and shine at your company will become obsolete. That’s the very nature of technology. The only way to ensure you stay ahead of the curve is to continue to invest in yourself. Here’s how:
- Seek out related courses through platforms such as Udemy
- Read the best books on the subject – Product Logic, The Product Manager’s Survival Guide – Everything You Need to Know to Succeed as a Product Manager, Product Management School and Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products are great places to start.
- Listen to podcasts – Start with ‘This is Product Management’ by Mike Fishbein.
3. Brush up your people skills
As you already know, being a Product Manager, you will be working closely with many others in your organisation, some of which will form your team. Being a solid team player ensures a job well done. To work well with your team:
- Create a shared vision for the product, so that everyone understands its importance and are clear with their responsibilities.
- Allow for mistakes – nothing great was ever built without failing. Allow your team opportunities to fail and learn from their mistakes.
- Get everyone involved – Although the product is your responsibility, great ideas can come from anywhere. Allow your team to voice opinions and encourage their ideas.
- Have a basic understanding of what everyone in your team does.
- Back up your team whenever possible and keep disagreements private.
4. Develop your skills
To improve your core competencies as a Product Manager, step outside your comfort zone and familiarise yourself with the work that others do. Today, everyone is great at “passing the buck” and no one takes responsibility. A product manager who can wear multiple hats is a refreshing breath of air to your management and potential recruiters. Learn more of the following to truly stand out:
- User Experience best practices
- Working knowledge in coding (i.e. website, apps)
- Basic marketing
Employ all what you learn into you day to day work and you’ll be well on your way to being one of the best.
You are the ‘why, what and how’ of your product and using the above skills to truly enhance your skills and capabilities, setting yourself apart from the pack will be as easy as A,B,C.
About the Author
Una Lawlor is Content Marketing Manager at Advance Systems, a company that provides world-class enterprise HR software. Una has over 10 years sales and marketing experience in retail, media, finance and technology. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin with a degree in English & French, Una has extensive content writing experience and specialises in the field of people operations and HR management. You can find Una on Twitter (@lawloru) and Linkedin.