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What does a product manager do?

Moe Ali
Moe Linkedin Profile
CEO, Product Faculty

A product manager is entrusted with the high-level business objectives of successfully bringing a new product or product line into the market. This role is smack right in the middle of business, technology, and design.

Product managers are most sought after in technological companies where product creation and reinvention are fast paced and competition abounds. They are the link between the company and the market; thus, they may need to be a cross-functional leader that touches on all departments that deal with the product—from conceptualization to launch.

Product management is mix of business, technology, and design

Role and responsibilities

So, exactly what does a product manager do? The overall responsibility of the PM is to execute the product strategy. This includes conceptualizing the product or product line, conducting features and marketing research and analysis, positioning, building product roadmaps, pricing, and working with the marketing, design, development teams.

The PM sees to it that the product is developed and launched strategically, and that it continually receives support and improvement. Every product has different cycles and depending on the nature of the product or company, the product manager adjusts its role to fit the requirements. Some product manager roles deal less with the product development and data science, and more on the decision-making on the business and marketing side.

Day-to-day

Day to day, the PM defines the product roadmap, sets sales objectives and pricing, researches on customer needs and user experience, plans and communicates product development strategies, develops marketing strategies, and oversees the product team.

The PM’s time is mostly used in coordinating within the company as well as external stakeholders, or in creating and fine-tuning plans and strategies with regards to the product. The PM is aided by roadmapping software and product management tools to make sure everything is moving. Also, the PM is mostly expected to be sitting in all meetings where the product is discussed and for a lot of tech companies, that is most of the time.

A good PM knows how to work on various facets of product execution without under-supporting or overburdening groups or processes. The measure of a great PM is found on the success of the product and its continual relevance withstanding the influx of competition.

Product manager organizing her scrum board

Common skills

The PM wears many hats having to deal with different departments. A good PM should have the following skills:

Types of product managers

There are several types of product management needs and it always depends on the nature of the company. Below, we are identifying the five common types of product managers, key skills of each and their responsibilities.

The latter two are some of the rarer types of product manager:

Is a product manager a good job?

Product management is a high-paying job given the workload and challenges it takes to birth a product. But it could be a very fulfilling role with opportunities for growth. In a product-centric market, a PM is seen as a coveted teammate. Some PMs find gratification less when they reach or surpass specific target profits, and more when their vision for the product and its integration to the life of their users is fulfilled.

Product management is one of the most lucrative career paths in the US. According to Glassdoor, project managers make an average of $108,992 per year in the US, while indeed reported $105, 657.

How to become a product manager?

Applicants in the PM role are expected to specialize in a field that is connected to the products or if not, has an extensive knowledge on how to propel the products to success. That said, PM candidates are most likely already working with the company and are transferring to the product and cross-functional teams to execute the launch and development of the product.

Depending on the size of the company, project management could be just a one-man band or a unit with multilevel PMs: Associate PM, PM, senior PM, product lead, group/director PM, and others. PMs are also responsible for their own trade tools, be it for roadmap set up, cross-functional team management, or research platforms.

What are the best companies to work for?

The rise of tech companies prompted the redefinition of the role of product within an organization and the creation of product experts that go beyond the usual tasks of a brand manager. Naturally, product managers are found but not limited in this niche. With the variety of tasks product managers handle, specialized PMs tend to gravitate towards companies that suit individual skill sets and experiences.

Technical PMs are often employed by giants such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft, perhaps starting in the engineering team. They are also in-demand in cybersecurity, and development operations companies. Technical PMs are a go-to person when the products are only as good as their development.

For Analyst PMs, some of the organizations hiring them are Palantir, Plaid, Looker and other machine learning-heavy companies. The strength of PMs in data management applies to small start-ups operating on lean teams. They also usually start as data scientists first before moving up to APM.

Opportunities for Marketing PMs are often at Hubspot, Intercom, Allbirds and Toast, platforms which connect customers to businesses and entrepreneurs. Their PR and marketing skills are valued where customer needs are key to business.

The rare Task-oriented PMs are most likely working with pioneers and breakthrough companies such as Facebook, Uber, Bird and Lime. In the early years of these companies, they had to strike while the iron is hot and that means developing even as they are on the launching phase.

Meanwhile, Visionary PMs are usually not hired, they build companies and conceptualize in the seed stage of start-ups and adapt PM roles as the company matures. Sometimes, Visionary PMs may find opportunities from established companies seeking to renew their image or expand to other niches.

Big tech companies

Sample Product Manager Interview Questions

The role of the product manager could make or break a product launch. With this in mind, recruiters could be very technical, specific or value-driven during the interview. Some questions an HR would ask for project managerial positions are the following:

Conclusion

We hope this article comprehensively answered your questions of "what do product managers do?" In this article you should have learned about role and responsibilities of a product manager, specific product manager skills, the different types of PMs, and how to get hired in your first product management role. Follow our blog for more product knowledge like this.

If you are looking for advanced product training, join our part-time, 6-Week Live Online Advanced Product Management Certification and learn the tools, frameworks, and skills used by the best agile product people.

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