How to become a product manager without experience?

Published on May 29, 2018

How to become a product manager without experience?

    Inspiration to try yourself as a product manager can visit any member of the team. Is it necessary for this to have a special education, if there is any at all in the nearest access? And is it just “burning eyes” and a big desire to become a successful product manager? Stories of many large companies and startups show what you can.

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    Product managers are professionals who work with the product and for the product from the stage of idea formation to release and post-release activities. Such specialists play a key role in companies of different scale and level, often performing related duties, including in the field of marketing.

    Today, statistics are widely available , which shows that product managers often earn on a par or even more developers. Moreover, it is not necessary to “knock” on the company as a junior. Many successful PMs immediately “grow up” to the level of product owner or product director.

    What is needed for a successful product manager career?


    It is unlikely that in childhood they dream of becoming a product manager. Moreover, there is hardly a classical discipline at the nearest university or college. But today various courses and seminars are very popular; every year more and more interesting books and cases from large companies prepared specifically for the development of PM appear.

    You may not have an initial background and enough experience for a product manager career. Practice shows that, most likely, product management comes in three cases:

    • from the development , when the “inner world” of the product becomes small and one wants to go beyond the development, taking up command, communication, organizational and marketing issues of the product.
    • from marketing , when a specialist has enough experience and knowledge about a product to delve into its details and all stages of the life cycle.
    • from the product team , when they simply become closely in their functionality and have enough experience and knowledge on the product to invest more of their own strength for successful releases. This can be any experienced player in a team of support, testing, marketing, etc.

    Some studies show that product managers, business analysts, and former product owners often come to product management. A rather large percentage of students who have just graduated from near-profile educational institutions enter this area.

    Usually, company executives and HR managers hiring a product manager pay attention to three aspects:

    • professional competencies and skills
    • personal and interpersonal characteristics
    • compatibility with the team and and compliance with the company's philosophy

    Each of the points has its undoubted importance, but the first thing you should pay attention to the novice product manager is professional competence.

    Professional skills of product manager


    Professional skills for a product manager are a set of skills from different areas. Much of this must-have list is acquired with experience and years. Here are some important areas in which you need to navigate PM at the very start of your career:

    • working with product strategy at the very early planning stage
    • effective customer interviewing
    • user testing
    • organization and support of sprints
    • working with priorities and planning a product roadmap (product roadmap).
    • proper allocation of resources
    • product positioning
    • pricing
    • definition and tracking of various metrics
    • assessment of market conditions, etc.

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    How do product managers differ in startups and large companies?


    Product manager in a startup


    PM in a startup can be simultaneously responsible for finding controversial issues, preparing features, pricing, support questions, marketing and sales.

    It is important to always be ready for frequent changes and be able to quickly take a different direction, as the company operates in a highly competitive grocery market and learns to become bigger.

    • Benefits : product managers in startups may be more involved in the company's strategy, may have a greater impact on top management and take risks. In startups, PMs have enough influence and authority.
    • Disadvantages : start-ups usually do not assume mentoring, excellent practices or a lot of experience to borrow. Here, almost everything and always have to do it yourself and for the first time. Most likely, there will not be huge budgets, so many initiatives will be limited.

    Product manager in a large company


    Here, product managers may have more specific work and often delegate tasks. PMs in large companies, most often, are part of a large team of managers.

    • Advantages : large companies are likely to provide product managers with mentoring, company best practices and exemplary role models. The client base is likely to be built up and will not have to start from scratch. There will also be work with specific tools for product management .
    • Disadvantages : product managers in mature companies are less familiar with the global strategy. They can easily get lost or, on occasion, fail to orient themselves in the organizational system and company policy.

    What ways and tips will help novice product managers become real gurus and win the confidence of those interested? Where to begin? The 10 tips described below are not a panacea, but each of them should work if used correctly, regardless of industry or product specifics.

    10 tips for product managers with no experience


    The more research the better


    This potential product manager should think about this before the interview for the product manager position . It is important to study in detail the industry, product history (if any), competitors and target audience.

    The more you study the product and everything connected with it, the easier it will be for you to “get on your feet” in your career.

    Try the product


    If you want to better understand the product or service, try it yourself. For managers working with consumer goods and products, it is very important to know as much as possible about the product they offer. Daily interaction with the product and “testing” of all updates are important.

    If you work with B2B or B2C products, ask for access to the demo version. Usually such access can be opened by a sales manager or support team.

    Know global leadership goals


    This does not require full adoption of your boss's life philosophy. Nobody likes imitators. However, an attempt to find out more about personal feelings and impressions about the product, goals and prospects may help to form a common team position on various issues.

    Communicate with customers


    Do not limit yourself to communicate with customers directly. Sometimes friendly current customers who have been using the product for a long time can provide useful feedback, suggest an interesting idea, or reveal pain in time. Such interaction can be used in future phases of the roadmap.

    Make friends with a sales manager


    Of course, communication should be developed with all team members. For example, a project manager is a person who is quicker able to get acquainted with internal projects, he must work closely with QA and developers. In turn, sales managers are closer to customers and know the market better from the technical side. Sales professionals will be able to dedicate you to how active customers use the product in their daily lives. This experience will give a deep understanding of the product, demonstrate all its strengths and weaknesses.

    Try yourself in support


    Spend a few days, preferably a week, answering calls and letters from customers and solving their problems. Let it be 30, 50 or even 100 calls that you will try to handle on your own. Of course, there should be a competent officer nearby to deal with difficult situations.

    Know the competition


    Before the first interview with a product representative, be sure to inquire about the current position of the main competitors. Check out their latest updates and current offers, market reaction.

    Plan to participate in accessible conferences and other useful events.


    In the first months of working with the product, you probably will not have time for external professional events. But when the situation “gets into a rut,” start looking for useful activities that can provide you with new professional knowledge and contacts.

    Read and learn


    Nothing can teach you better than your own experience. Only your own ideas, mistakes and achievements will give confidence in working with a new product. However, often borrowed experience and theory can also lead to brilliant solutions. Today there is a wide access to classic editions about product management and news, interesting articles and product blogs where you can always get useful information. It would not be amiss to subscribe to profile groups in social networks.

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    Professional tools


    Being a new product manager, you definitely need a convenient and friendly service with tools to manage goals and objectives, planning, reporting system and work with remote employees.

    It is very important to always have on hand a universal roadmap that can be shared with the team for synchronization.

    An important feature for a product manager is backlog management. Competent work with the sequence of tasks will help avoid backlog growth, streamline ideas and plan iterations.

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    Conclusion


    The most interesting thing in the profession of a product manager is that there is no ideal path to development, and there are no significant obstacles that can prevent any applicant from becoming a successful PM. The role of the product manager in the team today is a prestigious and sought-after field of activity where you can have a real tangible benefit and influence.

    Very often, a good product manager is self-taught. If you are serious about product management, then by listening, memorizing and practicing, you will quickly learn everything that this profession requires.