Become a Product Manager
That’s the question I get asked all the time. Recently I was asked what resources I think someone should study to prepare them to get a Product Manager position. Before I share those resources, there are a few things every wannabe PM should first think about:
- You’re better off trying to get into Product Management in your current organization rather than just applying to other companies with no prior Product Manager experience. Most every company is looking for a Product Manager with experience, so in the majority of cases your only break is going to be working your butt off at your current company to earn a spot as a Product Manager (unless you have a CS bachelor’s degree and an MBA from Stanford and are applying to Google or Facebook). Ask your VP or Director of Product what you can do to earn a spot. Seek out a Product Manager mentor, ask to help with User Stories during your lunch breaks, do whatever you can earn a spot at your current company. Put in the extra work. Earn it!
- You should have a passion for product, and that doesn’t just mean you use products and have a strong opinion about why it sucks. The best Product Managers are the ones who love products to the point that you realize it’s not about your opinion, it’s about what makes a product amazing. It’s about why you love a certain product and then thinking about what the reason is behind why you love it. Researching why a company designed it the way they did and what a team had to go through to create it.
- Some of the best Product Managers I know LOVE startups. They read TechCrunch and Venture Beat and would love to be entrepreneurs, but either haven’t been able to break through yet or just don’t have it in them to strike out on their own. Either way, if you love startups, you’ll probably be more passionate about managing a product.
Okay, so here are some of the resources, outside the norm, that I recommend you take advantage of to set you up to be a great Product Manager. The knowledge you gain will help you kill that next interview.
- Pragmatic Marketing has a great PPT on the strategic role of a PM:
2. This is my favorite PM book. If you like product, you’ll love reading this book; Inspired by Marty Cagan:
3. Another PM book that is just fantastic, I LOVED reading this book; Inmates Running the Asylum, by Alan Cooper
4. Stanford eCorner has videos and podcasts and some of them are phenomenal. Go back through the years and listen to all the famous people; Mark Zuckerberg, Reid Hoffman, Marissa Mayer, Kevin Systrom and many more. The best ones are from the people you’ve heard of but you’ll have to go back and search. Zuckerberg’s was back when it was still called TheFacebook, and even then his insights at that young age about hiring engineers is awesome. These are entrepreneurs but they talk a lot about how they started their products (Marissa Mayer’s is fantastic).
5. I also love the podcast series The Foundation with Kevin Rose. He interviews Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, Ev Williams, Kevin Systrom, and many other top Silicon Valley entrepreneurs (who are mostly product people). I usually just watch his videos on YouTube.
Some other more mainstream resources to consider:
- The Lean Startup by Eric Reis, a boring read but great information
- Anything from Steve Blank about Customer Development (the founder of the lean startup movement)
- Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug, great insights about usability testing.
If you love product you will love the above resources and want more and more and more. I listen to podcasts everyday on the drive to work and back and never get bored. The knowledge I capture is way more valuable than the music on the radio.
When you love learning more and more about product, that’s when you know you’ll make an awesome Product Manager. Your passion, along with knowledge and hard work, will help you land a job as a Product Manager, and trust me, it will be worth it!
Good luck and please comment with any questions.