What is Product Management?

Whenever I teach an “Introduction to Product Management” class, I always get asked: “What is Product Management?”

Product Management is common job function inside a software company.

People who have this job are called Product Managers.

You can think of Product Managers like movie directors, but for software.

A movie director decides what the movie is all about and gives direction to a team of specialists (actors, animators, set designers, music composer, etc) during the filming process.

A Product Manager decides what the product should do and gives direction to a team of specialists (engineers, designers, quality assurance, etc) during the product development process.

A Product Manager is a generalist. You create value by connecting specialists in 3 displines: technology, design, and business.

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After explaining “What is Product Management?” in my class, I usually show an example of Product Management job description. Here’s a description is from Facebook’s career page for their Instagram product:

Instagram Product Managers work with teams of engineers and designers to build products. We are looking for extremely entrepreneurial Product Managers to help innovate and execute product initiatives across the company.

Responsibilities:

  • Lead the ideation, technical development, and launch of innovative products
  • Establish shared vision across the company by building consensus on priorities leading to product execution
  • Drive product development with a team of world-class engineers and designers
  • Integrate usability studies, research and market analysis into product requirements to enhance user satisfaction
  • Define and analyze metrics that inform the success of products
  • Understand Facebook’s strategic and competitive position and deliver products that are recognized best in the industry
  • Maximize efficiency in a constantly evolving environment where the process is fluid and creative solutions are the norm

In other words, Product Management involves managing the product ideas people come up with, managing the process you use to get to that idea, and managing the team building the product.

Why do so many people wonder “What is Product Management?” I think they wonder because it’s one of the best careers to get into in tech.

Here’s why:

Salaries in Product Management are typically higher than salaries in other technology jobs. Read a detailed breakdown here.

Some say the Product Manager is the “CEO of the product.” This is because the tasks Product Manager perform managing the product is similar to the tasks a CEO performs running a company.

Here are a few examples of how the tasks are similar:

  • As a Product Manager, you pitch product ideas to get buy-in and support. As a CEO, you pitch your company to raise money and recruit talent.
  • As a Product Manager, you lead a diverse team building the product. As a CEO, you lead a diverse team building the company.
  • As a Product Manager, you monitor health metrics of the product and report them to stakeholders in the company. As a CEO, you monitor health metrics of the company and report them to the board.

In other words, if you’d like to launching your own company in the future, building a career in Product Management will give you a solid foundation.

To build a successful career in Product Management, you’ll need to acquire 3 skills: vision, execution, and leadership. Get a deeper dive into what each of these skills are and how you can acquire them in the online training here.

Here’s a few CEOs that are well-known for their Product Management skills:

  • Steve Jobs, Apple (I wrote an essay on why he was a Product Manager here)
  • Evan Spiegel, Snapchat
  • Ev Williams, Twitter + Medium

These CEOs are well-known for launching successful products on a consistent basis.

Product Management require skills in creativity and working with people.

Now that I’ve answered What is Product Management, I hope it has inspired you to consider this job as a possible career path for you.

This career path will grow in size and be resilient to job displacement from AI.

It’s never been a better time to build a career in Product Management.

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