What Does a Product Manager Do? Manager of the Product Roadmap and Strategy
A Product Manager is the guide and overseer of the development of the product, from conception to launch and even after. They provide the team with a roadmap for the development of the product and determine who tackles what role over the course of the project. They also continue to oversee the product as well as the user interactions with the product after the product has launched. It’s a varied job, and one with strong significance to the product development process. Some of the job responsibilities of a Product Manager include:
- Develop the strategy and roadmap for the development team to work within
- Manage licensing opportunities and partnerships with third parties
- Develop the buy-in for the product for third parties and shareholders
- Research the competition in order to stay relevant
- Delegate tasks and organize communication between the development team
- Develop, test, and perform product demos
- Set the price for the product
- Predict revenue to provide forecasts to the decision makers of the business
- Work with the public relations team for promotions when launching the product
- Set the budget for the project
- Collaborate with and train the sales team
- Gather information about the customers to determine their needs
- Advocate for the customer to the development team
- Seek out potential products for the team to use
- Define marketing objectives for the product
- Keep track of inventory turnover and product availability
- Select and trains new product development team members
- Works with engineering teams to optimize production time
- Analyze development steps based on customer impact
- Constantly grow their technical knowledge to keep up with the fast-changing industry
- Boost awareness of the product to others
Product Manager vs. Product Owner — Two Sides Of the Same Product Coin
These two positions are often confused, when in fact they are more like two sides of the same coin. Both Product Owner and Product Manager are overseers of sorts, but the Product Manager’s job is to communicate the needs of the customers to the development team. The Product Owner, on the other hand, advocates for the product to the customers and stakeholders. Let’s break down the difference between the two:
- Creates the roadmap that the Product Owner uses as a guide
- Identifies holes in the market and needs of customers
- Markets the product and works to boost sales
- Creates the budget for the product
- Develops the long-term vision for the development team
- Works with the solutions and delivery teams
- Determines the next steps to take and features to add
- Rallies and motivates the team and stakeholders to better the product
- Focuses on maximizing the value of the product
- Works with user stories — accepting them, organizing them, and adding them to the product backlog
- Uses the roadmap created by the Product Manager as a guide to ensure that everything is on track
- Focuses on the customer’s needs and communicates these to the rest of the team
- Offers feedback to the Product Manager
- Attends team meetings to get a sense of progress
- Oversees ongoing testing of the product
- Develops and prioritizes the backlog of the product
As a Product Manager, think of the Product Owner as your representative and partner in creating the best product possible. The Product Owner will focus on maximizing value and advocating for the product while you focus on the development aspects and the needs of the users.
Education and Product Background Necessary
Rarely does anyone simply jump in as a Product Manager. It takes years of work experience as well as the right education before employers will see you as a worthwhile candidate for the job. In terms of education, a bachelor’s of science degree or a master’s of science is generally required in a relevant field of study. These can include Computer Programming, Computer Science, Engineering, Product Design or Software Development.
If you are looking for a quick career change or if you don't want to engage in long studies, a bootcamp in Web Development will equip you with all skills required to succeed as a PM and help you develop your network in a short period of time.
Besides your education, you’ll have to prove your salt with years of work experience. You can advance to the job of Product Manager from the job of associate Product Manager or from a related job, such as a role on the development team. You have to show that you have the skills and the expertise to do the job well. After all, every hire that a company makes is an investment. You want to be able to prove that you’re an investment that pays off.
Skills and Tools That Product Managers Need
So what tools do you need to be proficient with in order to be a successful Product Manager? What skills do you need to hone before you go up for the job interview? It’s important for a Product Manager to keep a finger on the latest tools and technology in their industry so that they can show themselves to be cutting edge in their field.
Let’s get started with some of the tools you’ll need to familiarize yourself with as a Product Manager:
- Analytics systems like Google Analytics and Domo to keep an eye on metrics
- Survey and customer feedback programs like SurveyGizmo, UserVoice, or Wootric
- Visualization and strategy tools like Aha!
- Development frameworks such as Agile and Scrum
- User Experience testing programs like Adobe Target or Optimizely
- Collaborative servers like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom (especially in the age of social distancing)
- Task management organizers like Asana, Trello, or Teamwork
- Software development tools like Jira
Product Managers should familiarize themselves with these tools and be able to say they are proficient with them when they go up for a job interview, if not an expert. But there are other skills that Product Managers will need in order to get the job, including:
- Familiarity with data, data science and analysis, and databases
- Insights into the industry
- Graphic design skills as well as experience with UI/UX
- Excellent research skills
- Marketing skills
- Experience with product strategy and product launch
- The ability to compile status reports and communicate them
- Experience with Microsoft Office and Visio
Personality Traits of a Product Manager
Do you have the right personality to be a Product Manager? This job might not be for everyone, but like technical skills, these personality traits can be improved and honed with practice. Personality can be quite an impactful thing. The right personality might just be the thing that sets you apart from other candidates going up for the same position.
Product Managers should, first and foremost, be empathetic. This job involves, in large part, addressing the concerns of customers and finding solutions that make the product as user friendly as possible. If you are not empathetic and able to understand where the customer is coming from, you won’t be able to craft engaging, user friendly solutions. Empathy is also essential when it comes to marketing and sales. Product Managers should be able to listen to the comments of users, as well as the comments of their team, and truly address the relevant needs.
Coding is a particular job. One little code off and you’ll end up with bugs that could turn away users or ruin the product. While a Product Manager is more of an overseer than a web developer, it’s still important for a Product Manager to have a strong attention to detail. A good Product Manager is someone who checks, double checks, and even triple checks before submitting the work to users or decision makers of the business. They’re also attentive in their research of the market and competition.
Product Managers are often visionaries and strong communicators. It’s the role of the Product Manager to create a roadmap for the project that the rest of the team, and even the Product Owner, works within. For this, they need to be able to think several steps ahead and really envision what they want from the product. They also need to be able to communicate that — orally, visually, and in writing — to the team, to stakeholders, and to customers. But it’s not enough to simply have the vision. They also need to be able to bring that vision to execution.
Product Managers wear many hats and have several tasks on their plates. A Product Manager isn’t a niche specialist, but rather a jack-of-all-trades who knows several elements of the industry and can take on several different aspects. To do this, however, a Product Manager must be a multitasker with excellent time management and the ability to prioritize.
Above all, a Product Manager should be able to work with a team and have the excellent leadership skills to rally that team. It’s not enough here to simply be a team player. The Product Manager is often who the development team looks to, so they should be able to bring out in the team the work needed to create the best product.
Interview Questions For Product Managers
An interview can be both exciting and anxiety inducing. It’s exciting because you’re chasing your dream job. It’s terrifying because, well, you’re chasing your dream job. You want to make sure that you make the best impression or you could lose your chance. The questions you’ll be asked by the interviewer depend on the interviewer and the background of the company. Always do your research before showing up to a job interview. That said, it always helps to have some examples of questions you’ll likely be asked so that you can practice your answers. It’s best to practice them out loud, as well, instead of just reading or writing them.
Some of the questions you might encounter include:
You Have Two Important Tasks On Your Plate and You Can’t Do Them Both At the Same Time. What Do You Do?
Again, Product Managers have to be skilled at the art of multitasking. They will often be faced with multiple important tasks — but they might not be able to all do it alone. This question tests your ability to prioritize the work you have as well as delegate to the team you oversee.
How Do You Determine the Wants and Needs of the Customers?
Do you use your intuition? Rely on your team or the data collected? Conduct surveys to get feedback from customers? This will test your empathy as well as your sense of insight and even a bit of your problem solving skills.
How Would You Explain Product Management To a Stranger Not In the Field?
This question can gauge a wide variety of factors. It shows, first and foremost, your communication skills. If you can explain a very technical profession to someone not in that job, you’ll have no problem communicating your product to customers. It also shows your expertise and your passion for the work.
What Is Your Favorite Product? How Would You Improve On That Product If You Could?
This is always a fun question to answer. Everyone loves to talk about the products they love, and even more how they would like to make their stamp on it. But as a Product Manager, you are no ordinary consumer. Discuss your favorite product from the eye of a Product Manager — what makes it special and what could you do that would make it better?
Talk About a Challenging Problem You Faced As a Product Manager.
Do you have past experience as a Product Manager or associate Product Manager? This is your chance to tell a story — a true story, of course. Employers don’t just want to know what the challenge is, though that is important to lay out. The important thing is how you overcame that challenge. If you feel that it wasn’t a complete success, here’s your chance to talk about what you would do differently now. Show your capacity to grow.
How Much Do Product Managers Make?
Payscale reports the average salary for a Product Manager in software at $96,937 in the United States, but you can easily make six figures in this position. In fact, Google is one of the highest paying companies when it comes to Product Managers, offering $138,337 on average. Even lower paying companies often pay over $110,000. That’s not to say anything of bonuses, commissions, and profit sharing, all of which are quite lucrative for Product Managers.
This is a job with a high job satisfaction rating, as well as great potential for growth. Want to keep moving from Product Manager onto something else? If you put in the experience, you could become a Senior Product Manager, making an average salary of $125,384 or even higher in software, a constantly in demand industry. You could even advance to Product Manager director, with an average salary of $145,634.
How To Become a Product Manager
Think Product Manager might be the perfect career for you, but you just need a way to break into the industry? You need something to show off on your resume and portfolio that shows that you have the skills...and possibly the industry connections to help open doors.
Fortunately, Le Wagon can offer both through our 9-week full-time Web Development course. This bootcamp is also available in 24 weeks part-time for those who need a more flexible schedule. In this course, you will work on projects with a team, learn from experts in the industry, and network with your peers — other up and coming software professional softwares. After our coding bootcamps, you’ll leave with not only the skills and tools you need, but the community you need to succeed as a Product Manager.
Get Started Today In Your Product Management Career With Le Wagon
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