Consumers often do not realize all that goes into developing new products or making modifications to existing ones. A vision only comes to fruition after a myriad of tasks have been performed—figuring out technological feasibility, laying out production details, and developing a marketing strategy, to name but a few. At the heart of the journey is a product manager, who takes charge of the product’s lifecycle.
If you’re someone who can see both the big picture and all the details it takes to get from start to finish, you might make a good product manager. Here’s a closer look at a product management career.
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What Does a Product Manager Do?
A product manager is a strategist who builds roadmaps to take a product from the idea stage to the final form. Tasks a product manager may perform along the way include:
- Articulating the business value of a product
- Leading a development team to build the product
- Understanding user needs and translating them into a design
- Analyzing costs and forecasting potential profits
- Examining competitor products
- Developing a niche in the market to aid in positioning and sales
- Ensuring all departments involved keep to product plans and stay on schedule
- Coordinating activities to bring the product to market
Who Does a Product Manager Work With?
Aspiring product managers would be hard-pressed to find a job ad that doesn’t mention working with cross-functional teams. As someone expected to bridge organizational gaps, a product manager comes into contact with all sorts of people who have a stake or role in the product. This includes executives, business analysts, customers, engineers, tech and user experience experts, marketers, and sales staff.
Product Manager vs. Project Manager
While the two titles sound alike, these professionals serve different purposes. The efforts of a product manager center around a certain product. They take the concept for a product and figure out the people and actions necessary to get it made and out on the market. If the product needs changes, the product manager is involved in upgrades. Their relationship with the product doesn’t end until the item outgrows its usefulness and gets retired.
Project managers, by contrast, may not have an on-going association with a product. They oversee projects that help products get made, but sometimes their involvement has a start, an end, and defined objectives.
Product managers typically possess a bachelor’s degree or higher in business or a related field. Some professionals choose to pursue certification. The AIPMM (The Association of International Product Marketing & Management) offers credentials such as Certified Product Manager, Agile Certified Product Manager and Product Owner, and Certified Innovation Leader.
Many product manager positions are jobs in the software and technology fields. Since these product managers often work closely with engineers and designers, a background in computer science or technology can provide an edge in the job market.
Good product managers have a keen eye for what “works.” This talent involves not only an innate sense but also the practical ability to analyze data, audiences, potential market, and tech requirements.
Since product managers juggle multiple demands, they must possess excellent organizational skills and handle stress well. Solid communication skills and empathy also serve them well as they interact with various people who contribute to the product’s journey, including customers.
Product Manager Salary
Product managers earn an average yearly salary of $84,265 per Payscale.com. However, product managers who specialize in software have an average yearly salary of $95,942. Note, though, that bonuses, commission, and profit-sharing can significantly enhance overall compensation.
A track record of success that leads to promotion into a higher role likewise affects earning potential, with senior product managers bringing in an annual average salary of $124,583.
Product Manager Career Path
People often begin their careers as associate product managers. During this time, they learn from experienced product managers and other leaders to develop a sense of all that’s involved in overseeing a product throughout its various stages. After gaining about 3-5 years of experience, associates may move up to a product manager position. Possible titles further down the line include group product manager, senior product manager, and vice president of product.
Your Career as a Product Manager
With the ever-increasing demands for technology, product managers often find employment overseeing the development and delivery of software applications, websites, and other digital products. Start-ups value tech-competent product managers who are adaptable generalists capable of doing a bit of everything. Established companies are more likely to provide product managers with more clearly-defined roles because they have other staff members who can assume other duties, such as the marketing department.
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