Can you be a product manager?

Photo by Kelli Stirrett on Unsplash

Interestingly, there have been some of you who have read my earlier entries and have asked me if they can be a product manager.

First of all, thank you for reading and any conversation about this with anyone who feels compelled to message me about this is welcome.

Let me start by saying that there are no qualifications that would actually prepare you to be a product manager. To give you an example, here are the previous jobs of product managers I’ve worked with:

  • Accounting graduate
  • Pre-school teacher
  • iOS developer

Given that, there are inherent skills that would lend to someone finding product management easier than most. I try my best to enumerate them below.

  1. Communication — Pretty self explanatory, I think I mentioned why in this post. But if you can communicate well, can ask good questions, this is usually a good start. Product managers speak different languages, and are expected to be proficient in them. It’s just a fact and an expectation.
  2. Flexible — I like to think of product management as a balance between art and science. There is a certain creativity needed in order to adjust to the team being handled by the product manager, but at the same time being grounded with the processes and structure necessary.

Unpopular opinion (don’t kill me): To be honest, if your background in sales, you might be less structured than someone from operations, so it might be harder to adjust (in my opinion).

3. Quick — In what? In everything. To give you an example, I had to learn our product in STORM as well as ErudiFi in around 1 month. In ErudiFi, I did not have any experience in lending, nor in risk, nor in finance. That’s okay. But what is needed is to put in the work to learn about it. Setup processes and meetings in order to keep up to speed. Because the sooner you master the product, the sooner everyone can get going. The product manager leads discovery and delivery, and he won’t be able to do it if he doesn’t know how the product works.

4. Can say no — This is something that can be learned over time, but if the product manager can do this from the get go, then that’s a skill that lends itself to less awkward conversations. Not all ideas are good, and people who share these ideas need to be told honestly that their idea can’t be done. But back to communication skills, the product manager needs to explain why.

5. Will go in the trenches — Product managers need to be in the trenches with his team, that means doing everything possible to keep development going. Product management is not a job for “supervisors”. It’s a job that demands digging deep into the details, learning why a button was put there, learning why the word “view” instead of “accept” was used, and many many seemingly mundane things. Being in the trenches builds trust, and trust is the foundation of any amazing team.

I’m sure there are many more.

If you want to learn more about starting a career in product management, let’s talk! Open to discuss at dino.alcoseba@gmail.com.

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