As an aspiring product manager, there is no shortcut to a relevant education. You also need to exercise your emotional intelligence (EQ) muscle because you will need it a lot when making decisions for the team.
It is true that project management puts you at the helm of team leadership, sitting back and dishing out orders is not going to work. The work of the product manager is to ensure that customers enjoys and get value out of the product developed by the team. This can only happen if there is harmony between the design and engineering teams.
Here are 5 things you must know before you get a product manager job;
People management will spill beyond your team needs.
While the focus of your role will be to support your team to deliver on their projections, you will often times be managing the expectations of stakeholders. Managing expectations then communicating the vision or plan clearly is not something that many people can balance effectively. The problem comes when there are too many people asking after the project that it becomes confusing as to who has been briefed.
The best plan for survival is to narrow down the stakeholders to a few main contacts who you will then provide with regular updates on the project. Since people differ in their style of communication, expectations, hopes and fears, the project manager must set project milestones early. It is only fair that everyone who has an interest in the project is heard and trusts the product manager.
Saying NO is a quality of good leadership.
It is not just for product managers but saying NO makes most people feel guilty. In product management, this truly is a useful tool as there will be several ideas on how to carry out a project. The truth is that most of these suggestions are great but it is simply impossible to adopt all of them.
Turning down a request or a seemingly good idea may appear hard but it is the only way to a successful project completion. Needless to say, NO does not need to be rude or confrontational; take time to point out the strains on budget or other resources as well as having to restructure the team if you were to agree to some of these ideas. Try not to dismiss ideas but postpone them as you pursue more viable alternatives.
Writing end-user stories might seem easy but it is not.
What is a user story? In product development, the engineering team works on sections of the project in different speeds and cycles. A user story is a feature or group of features that developers use at various stages of the product cycle. While it may sound straightforward describing it in layman’s terms, laying out the technical approach can be quite exhausting.
The product manager does not need to be a software engineer but working with them definitely requires a basic understanding of what they do. In any project, there is the main user story and then finer stories within it. It is important to communicate to the team how specific these stories should be.
You might not be able to design the cases and remove bugs, but if you can commit to frequently testing the code, questions on how the stories should be told will be answered. It is important to note that no two projects are the same; complexities and lengths of user stories differ.
Sometimes the story you write becomes challenging to tell via code because of technical challenges. Exercise flexibility where needed by being open to changing user stories according to the needs of the project.
The product manager is not the team leader.
It is common for people to refer to the PM as the CEO of a project. This idea came about when Ben Horowitz mentioned it in his Good Product Manager/Bad Project Manager post from 20 years ago. To date, his perception of project Manager as the captain of a project is still a hot topic.
To decipher this analogy, it is important to acknowledge the fact that product management is quite a new concept in many organizations. To some people, project managers are meant to drive the vision of a brand while in others they are the very vision. The general misconception that most people have is that product managers know everything that the team needs to do and how it is supposed to be done.
The role of a product manager, regardless of whether they have personal interest in the project, is to assemble an able team and then influence the delivery of the company’s vision. They must be able to bring out every team member’s abilities and encourage them to share for the benefit of the team.
The right methodology is more important than the number of developers working on a project.
The number of product developers on your team depends on a lot of factors including the number of projects handled, how long the company has been in operation and the number of locations they operate in. you could hire a battalion of engineers but unless you have an effective methodology, all that talent will not be worth the investment on them.
The best approach to hiring manpower for a product manager is to source a very small team of hardworking and top of the notch talent. When this is coupled with an air tight game plan then the products you deliver will only make the product manager to shine. Small teams are not only easier to manage but they also make it easier for technical challenges to be detected early.
Product management is both a science and an art; the best in the field have been through numerous projects, worked with diverse teams and advanced their knowledge over time. One thing that stands out from most discussions on the contribution of product managers is that focusing on the right thing empowers teams to aim for successful product completion.