5 things you must do to become a Product Manager
This post was born out of the question that I get asked a lot, which is “How did you transition to the PM role after being a software engineer with no MBA?” After giving it much thought, I have come to the conclusion that I want to share 5 things which I did that you can also try in your journey towards a PM career. This is not going to be a cracking the PM interview guide, although I have plans to write about it one day. This post will give you 5 action items that will help you get closer to your dream PM job. It will also hopefully help you discover if product management is the career that you want after all.
Hidden behind the facade of all the glamorous exaggerations like “PMs are the CEO of the Product,” you will realize there is a lot of independent thinking and occasional grunt work to make things happen involved in being a PM. You have to create clarity and generate energy even during those times when you are being pushed to the wall. When the product is successful, great PMs celebrate it as the team’s win, and if things go south, they will step forward to take all the bullets and shield the team. If you, like me, enjoy a real challenge in your work life, this career will turn out to be incredibly satisfying. You will definitely feel alive at work, I can guarantee you that!
Without further ado, let’s get started.
- Shadow your PM.
Talk to your reporting manager and PM about your interest in product management and look for opportunities to shadow your PM. The easiest way to move to a PM role from engineering is to learn from your own PM and transition within your team. Volunteer to manage your team’s scrum board, drive customer calls and demos, etc. You are already proven in your team, and your thorough knowledge of the product will be a major factor working for you in your bid to become a PM for your current product. In the unfortunate event of your team not having any PM roles open, you should try for internal job opportunities in other teams within your company. Being a proven culture fit at your company should help you out here.
2. Read “Cracking The PM Interview” by Gayle Laakmann and Jackie Bavaro.
Gayle Laakmaan is the ultimate tech interview guru and this book of hers is as good as its predecessor, “Cracking the Coding Interview”. The frameworks mentioned in this book are extremely useful and must-know for cracking FAAMNG interviews. Having said that, don’t mug up these frameworks and regurgitate them during your interviews. Build your own repertoire of frameworks and customize them to fit the particular question that you are being asked.
3. Get an annual subscription for Exponent's PM interview preparation course.
In addition to excellent learning materials, including sample questions and video recordings, you also get an excellent platform to have mock PM interviews with PMs from across the globe. I would say mock interviews are the number 1 must-do for any interview preparation, and you can’t go wrong with this one.
4. Find great mentors.
Reach out to senior PM leaders in your own company. I did this at Microsoft, and the conversations that I had gave me a lot of confidence and insights. These leaders have been there, done that, and they will be more than happy to guide you on your journey. As a jackpot, they might even think of you when there is an opening in their team!
5. Start a product blog.
Clear communication is a very important tool in the PM’s arsenal, and a great way to sharpen that is to start blogging. Blog about your favorite app, your favorite physical product, like your brand new guitar, or even that app that you recently used that had a horrendous UI which you think you can improve by doing so and so! Write, write, and make sure you pay extra attention to the structure and transitions. If you don’t, you might end up being a sloppy writer like me!
There you have it! Five things that you definitely must try if you want to become a Product Manager.
Paulo Coelho once said, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” and I am telling you today, “When you want something, you have to work your socks off to achieve it day in and day out until you achieve it. The universe is under no obligation to make your dreams come true”. So, take your first step towards your dream today. Good luck.