Tips for Technologists: What it takes to become a great product manager

What makes a great product manager?

The Product Manager is a critical part of the modern organization. As companies continue to accelerate their digital transformation, the way they interact with their customers – both internal and external – is increasingly dictated by their applications. The product manager, therefore, plays a critical role in ensuring that each product and service serves the larger business objectives.

But what does it take to be a good product manager?

When speaking to anyone in a product management role, it quickly becomes clear that there’s no single pathway into product management. It depends on the organization in question and the skills that they consider. In some organizations this might mean that technical skills are prioritized, in others, it may be business skills, while some enterprises might be looking for a blend of the two.

Taking ownership

Whatever the skill set, the responsibilities of the product manager are very similar. They’re the one person who’s responsible for the entire lifecycle of a product or service. This includes understanding the demands of the market, the needs of the business, and all the resources that will be needed to create and continually improve it.

Doing this successfully requires more than one set of competencies. In fact, there are at least four core capabilities critical to being a great product manager:

Understanding the business, and the customer
The product manager has to act as the representative of both the business and its customers. A great product manager has a detailed view of users’ needs, as well as the underlying business objectives. The product manager, potentially more than any other single person, needs to have a holistic view of the needs of both constituents, and be able to find strategies that keep both stakeholders.

Understanding the customer needs means that they must be able to conduct customer research and market analysis, prioritizing the right services. At the same time, they must be able to act as a customer champion, ensuring that business stakeholders have a clear understanding of why specific decisions have been made.

Understanding the inner workings of the team
Every product is the result of the combined efforts of teams from across the business. Understanding what skills are needed at each stage means that the product manager must be able to marshal the different capabilities required at each stage.

This requires that they can speak to each of the teams and understand the feedback they’re getting. When working with development teams it’s necessary to have a firm grasp of the technology involved and what the impact of any issues might be. The same goes with input from the business, translating business needs into technical requirements.

Collaborative management
Above everything, the ability to effectively communicate is paramount for effective product management. Product managers don’t have direct authority over most of the people they work with. They, therefore, need to be able to negotiate for the resources they need and manage in a collaborative manner rather than directly assigning tasks to the people involved.

This means that they need to build up strong working relationships across the board so that when it comes time to ask for a favour, people are willing to help out.

See the big picture
Many people speak of product managers as mini-CEOs and in a sense, this is correct as they need to act as if their product is a business in its own right. However, understanding the entire ecosystem of the organization and where their product fits into the broader organizational hierarchy is critical. If the future of the company hinges on the success of the product, then they need to ensure that it’s viewed with the correct priority. If, however, the product is not time-sensitive or business-critical then it may be necessary to sacrifice deadlines and resources for higher-priority services.

Irrespective of the priority assigned to any specific product, the product manager still needs to champion its cause. This role is only going to grow in importance and consequently, the demand for product managers is already starting to ramp up.

To enable our community to tap into this demand we’ve partnered with Knowledge Officer to provide our community with access to their resources and to help their students to tap into the Andela network as they grow their careers.

At Andela, we thrive on connecting brilliance with opportunity. We’re seeking the most dynamic, talented and skilled technologists to join our ever growing network, so we can help to match them with roles at some of the world’s most exciting organizations. From product managers to software engineers, we’re placing talent in fantastic, life changing roles all around the world, regardless of location.

If you’re looking for a new challenge and to fully step into a technologist role, we’re here to help.

All you need to do to join the Andela Talent Network is to follow our four step sign-up process:

Submit your details via our online application.

  1. Complete an English fluency test
    15 minutes.
  2. Complete a technical assessment on your chosen skill
    (Python, Golang etc.)
    1 hour.
  3. Meet with one of our Senior Developers for a technical interview
    1 hour.

Visit the Andela Talent Network and let us match you with your future.

We’re waiting to meet you!

If you found this blog useful, check out our other blog posts for more essential insights!

Are you a developer interested in growing your software engineering career? Apply to join the Andela Talent Network today.

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