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Paths to Product Management

by Alan Daniel
Career Path

Technology is eating the world. Being involved in technology in some way is crucial to stay resilient and thrive in the present and the future. Of course, you don’t have to join a large technology company to be involved with technology. You can strive to comprehend where the world is today and how it will continue to progress. The better you are at understanding how the world works today and how you fit into it, the more likely you succeed in your work.

Technological change is present in each industry and learning about forward-thinking organizations within your field, and learning the appropriate skills creates further opportunities.

You don’t need to learn programming to be involved in technology, although languages like HTML, or SQL and others might be helpful in some form or fashion for marketers and other professional jobs. But you can also figure out how you can help on the strategy side of the equation. 

Sensing the needs of the market and forming effective strategies and making the right products will serve you well. It can be fun and can lead to a career in product management. Product management is a compelling position because you always look into the market, look your resources, and create feasible products that matter.

The job forces you to stay on top of the latest trends and opportunities and to act on them if they align with your organization.

But how can you become a product manager? What does it take, and what should you do to get there?

Let’s find out.

Get an MBA?

The Master of Business Administration seems like a tried and true method of getting into product management, but it may not be right for everyone. While it can be an excellent program for those trying to figure out what they want in their careers, it does come with a cost. Taking on undergraduate debt and grad school debt might not be feasible for some. Further, taking on an MBA does not guarantee entry into product management. It may not show that you have critical thinking skills to succeed as a product manager. 

Also, professors in these programs may not have the experience to provide you with real hands-on knowledge to help you prepare to be successful in that field.

There is more value in finding a job and gaining practical experience that makes you think and stay active in solving problems.

This is why many companies ranging from Google to others choose product managers who have an engineering background. This hiring process is accurate for many startups, as well.

But you don’t have to possess an engineering background to transition to a PM role. What type of environments should you be in as you seek to move into a product management role?

Working at startups, future-forward companies in different verticals such as Zillow, Redfin in real estate, or other firms doing exciting things in other sectors can provide a compelling experience and launchpad for the future. It is at these places that you might meet and work with people who think differently and have experience building viable products. Forming these relationships, learning skills, and how to think while being helpful in some way can help you reap the rewards.

One Alternative Way to Become a PM

Create a Product or Service that Matters

You will learn a lot about yourself and product management if you create a product or service that has a viable audience. How? Well, you have to think through each part of the process, set goals, and achieve them. You will have to take on more initiative and understand how to go from zero to hero.

What does that mean?

It essentially means that you will have to assess your current resources, immediate opportunities, and ways to earn while aiming to diversify or scale up your business over time. If you have minimal resources, you will likely need to start with a service that you can grow over time. The idea here is to push forward and continue to learn more about your industry to where you increase earnings while keeping your costs low.

Creating a product or service requires you to come back each day and sharpen your mind and think clearly about the next steps. As you grow, you will hire team members such as contractors or employees and delegate. Further, as you expand your operations, you might seek outside capital. In this way, you will learn to communicate with internal stakeholders and external stakeholders. As you improve your communication within your mind and clearly articulate visions and journeys to everyone involved, you learn much.

You will have one focus to get your revenues from zero to $100,000 or to $1 million over a specified timeframe by leveling up each quarter. It will require continuous mental updates and tenacity. You will reach your goal if you improve your communication, increase your analytical abilities, and learn how to be an effective leader while fostering collaboration.

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