Why are so many people switching their careers to Product Management? And why is the industry growing at such a high rate? Here are 7 reasons you might want to consider a job in Product Management...
Reason 1 - Product Management is varied
Product Management is not one *thing* - it is a combination of skills and abilities, with some very generalist aspects and some very specialist aspects. The classic Venn Digram shows a Product Manager in the middle where design/customers, commercial/business, and technical functions meet, meaning you have to broadly understand each aspect and be able to operate with specialists in these areas.
In addition to understanding, communicating and prioritising these very different aspects of your product, you are in a unique position of being both the strategist looking at the long-term and the tactician ensuring the product delivers in the short term. In larger contexts, these might be split into two roles but I've yet to see a complete separation in practice.
So on one day you might have to plan a new feature into your roadmap, meeting with stakeholders and understanding requirements. While the next day you are discussing the technical debt your product has with your product engineers, and how best to address it. And trust me, more often than not these are things that happen in the same day!
The variety I'm highlighting here is one of the joys of a career in Product Management - very few days are the same. There is also a lot of variety between jobs. How one company 'does' Product Management will be different to another. And in the various stages of the product lifecycle your tasks will differ, too.
Reason 2 - Product Management is innovative
One of the most important aspects of a new product is often how innovative it is - what can it do that is new or better in comparison to existing products? How can you achieve product-market-fit?
That means that Product Managers should always be trying to create innovative solutions and innovative products. There are few careers that provide you with scope to try new things continually, to create and test hypotheses, and to bring innovation to life and to market.
Product Management is a career that provides a creative outlet. The chance to work with cutting edge technology. The ability to solve problems in new and creative ways.
Innovation is at the heart of Product.
Reason 3: Product Management is all about building relationships
OK, that might be slight hyperbole. But it's absolutely the case that Product Managers have to build a lot of relationships with a lot of different people. From stakeholders across a business to delivery teams and partners, a Product Manager has to relate well to them all, building trust, influencing, and working with them daily.
This gives you the opportunity to meet and interact with people constantly...and if you're a people-person, what could be better? (I'll cover less people-oriented Product Management in another article!)
My experience as a Product Manager has given me a very diverse list of friends and colleagues. I know CEOs, Marketers, Developers and more. I have learned to work with them, what makes them tick, how they like to communicate and where Product features in their job.
Being a Product Manager means you have to speak to customers as well. And that can be fascinating (sometimes terrifying!). Speaking directly to the people you are building your product for gives you the chance to learn, adapt, and focus on the customer value.
People approach you all the time, because you are the person who links everything and who has the best holistic view. It's not rare for me to have a queue of people at my desk! People who like people will love being Product Managers!
Reason 4: Product Management provides autonomy and responsibility
Some make an analogy that a Product Manager is like the 'CEO' of the product. It's somewhat controversial, but the underlying fact is that Product Managers have decision-making power and are where the buck stops when it comes to the success or failure of a product. There are very few jobs that offer such a level of autonomy and responsibility, particularly early on in your career.
That doesn't mean you should (or can) go off and do what you want. You have stakeholders/investors to answer to. And you may have a company strategy to align with. There are usually some checks and balances. And to succeed, your decision-making should always be robust and based on objective data, rather than your own gut feel.
But with that said, you are the person who sets the priorities. You are the person who leads the delivery team. You don't necessarily directly manage people, but you do directly manage their workload and priorities.
Without wishing to rehash the Spiderman quote, you do have power that brings responsibility. The Product Manager is responsible for the product. For people who thrive on responsibility, it's a great career. I'm one of those people for sure, and the responsibility is a big motivator in why I love Product Management.
Reason 5: Product Management is hugely challenging
You can't be a Product Manager if you enjoy 'coasting' in your job...at least certainly not a good one! For a lot of the reasons already discussed, it is a very challenging career. It requires a lot of brain power to solve problems, make decisions, and thing ahead. It requires the character to be able to say "no" to often demanding and high-ranking stakeholders. It requires the ability to understand and make decisions about diverse fields.
For people who love being challenged by their job, Product Management offers that in spades. It's never dull. That means you are unlikely to ever be bored. It means you will be stimulated throughout your career and that is something a lot of people crave, and very few manage to obtain.
The variety and change in Product Management is only going to grow as the industry develops and more and more companies adopt it as a core function. And that leads us to our last two reasons (if I haven't already convinced you!)...
Reason 6: Product Management is (relatively) industry-agnostic
Personally, I have worked as a Product Manager in the retail industry, the travel industry, telecommunications, insurance, oil, and government. I have worked on B2C products, B2B products, and across a huge range of technologies. There aren't many career paths that offer such a range of experience and opportunity.
While I wouldn't say a Product Manager can claim to know a brand new industry, the 'products' themselves are often similar and based on the same principles. So the product knowledge can be used from one industry to another. Which means you can add value immediately in most cases.
This ability to work in different industries has at least two positive benefits to you, the Product Manager:
- you get even more variety and lots of different experience in your career
- you have a lot of opportunity because the demand for your skills is not based on one industry's current performance or outlook
In addition, it offers clear benefits to the companies you work for:
- you bring experience from outside their industry, bringing in new information, new ways of thinking, and new product solutions and ideas
- the best Product Managers can be sourced regardless of their background
Reason 7: Product Management gives unlimited opportunity to learn
Product Management is a young and growing career path. And as it matures, new theories, frameworks, and thought leadership arrives. So you are never 'finished' learning.
Going back again to the variety of the job, you can always choose to learn more about one of the verticals you operate within. Whether you want to learn coding to help you better understand your technical colleagues and product architecture, or you want to study business to get a greater grasp on the commercial aspect of Product Management, the learning opportunities are endless.
For anyone who enjoys learning and professional development, Product Management is definitely a great career to pursue.
I created The Product Management Course to help other people learn the role, and to help existing Product Managers continue to update and advance their knowledge and skills. And as I discover new ideas, I will continue to add to our structured programme to provide that ability to continue your learning and career progression.
So are you ready to start your Product Management career?