Product Management Career Path

Product managers possess a massive influence on the world.

We live in a world of products, and they are the ones deciding every little detail of them.

They are the big brains who decide what is more commonly liked and more useful for the user, and yes, the ones who need to deal with it when you don’t like something about a product.

Here is a list of the most successful product managers in 2020.

What does a Product Manager (PM) do?

It is a product manager’s job to come up with an original product (or an existing one that needs reviving), create a timeline and strategy for the product’s development, control and manage the execution of it and decide what to work on next according to the user’s reaction to the product.

This can sound, and is, hard.

There are numerous responsibilities that lie on the product manager’s shoulders. It is helpful to take a prior look at them before moving on to the career path.

What are the Main Responsibilities of a Product Manager?

Product managers work on many different levels.

They are like a merge of managers from different departments into one, that must perform each job perfectly.

Although it has a broad job description, the responsibilities of a PM are defined – to some extent.

A product manager starts the projects.

Product managers come up with original products or a product that will extend or revive an existing product. They are expected to evaluate whether this product is profitable and useful and initiate the project according to the result of this evaluation.

In some cases, the person that came up with the product and started the project is not a product manager at all. In these cases, they are called product owners.

Check out our article “Product Manager vs Product Owner” to know the differences.

A product manager plans the project.

Every project requires planning, but this step requires more than just a timeline.

Product managers are expected to conduct market research, make a user review analysis, create a customer journey map and a roadmap for the team, and most importantly, come up with a strategy.

A product manager makes it happen.

This is where the product is actually managed.

The PM is expected to keep track of the roadmap and strategy while making sure the product is being successfully developed. This is an exceptionally hard part of the project lifecycle because at this point anything can happen, and the product manager is there to prevent setbacks.

A product manager closes the project.

The product is ready, the customer is happy, the money is in the bank, but we are not done yet.

The product manager makes further research according to the customer and user reviews, the sales and overall success of the strategy used in the project.

This helps further improve the product, understand what is essential for that particular customer and field of product and make sure new projects are successful too.

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A product manager is also responsible for the onboarding of new users. Here’s “User Onboarding 101 for Product Managers” written by the CEO of Product School.

What Qualities Does A Product Manager Need?

Product managers are required to possess various skills.

The lifecycle of a project is a fast-paced, complex one, so the PMs must possess at least some of these qualities to survive in highly competitive business life.

Here are the top free and paid product management courses to acquire these skills.

A product manager is a great leader.

Product managers work in teams, always.

A good leader knows how to direct people into effective working and benefit from the creativity of a team environment. This is exactly what a PM needs to do.

A product manager is a critical thinker.

Product managers think fast, decide fast, act fast.

Companies come up with new products every day, high speed. The brain behind such rapid creation? Product managers.

A product manager is a great communicator.

A team environment requires constant communication and a flow of ideas.

You can have a marvelous idea in your mind, but if you can’t communicate it into something tangible, what is the point of having the idea in the first place?

A product manager is way more than the qualities they have because we can always improve them, and acquire new skills.

Check out our product manager skills article to learn which skills are needed to be a great PM.

Product Manager Positions

What does a product manager need to excel in?

Business, finance, statistics, coding, design, managing and many more.

Can you really have a degree in all that? Well yes, but practically, who has all those degrees?

There is no product management degree, and a lot of different studies are compatible.

For example, Hunter Walk, who worked for Google and YouTube as a product manager, had a Stanford business degree while Lulu Cheng, Pinterest product manager, studied finance at the University of Pennsylvania.

And you don’t even have to have studied these, depending on the company, if you have the experience and a bachelor’s degree in a related field, you have the job.

Product manager positions are unique.

If you were to take a look at LinkedIn, you would see a dozen of original titles. I have brought together a few of the general ones for you.

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1- Associate/ Junior Product Manager

This is your title when you first start working in product management.

At this point in your career path, you are expected to work with higher-level product managers and learn from them through experience. You will be working on smaller projects, for example, an additional feature of a product.

What matters is that you constantly improve yourself through listening and asking. Curiosity is the keyword.

An associate product manager can expect a salary of $60.000 in average, in a small company and with 0-1 years of experience. 

2- Product Manager or Mid-Level Product Manager

What earns you the title?

Experience.

Many companies expect a mid-level product manager to have at least 3-5 years of experience. Once you get the position, it means you are in charge of a whole product of your own, and you are the person who will start, manage and finish the project.

What is important in this position is to make sure you have acquired the skills needed. If you can’t lead the team, understand your customers’ needs or prioritize certain things, then this position can be tougher than it should be.

With 4-6 years of experience and a company with 50 to 200 employees, the average salary of a mid-level product manager is estimated to be $85,000.

3- Senior Product Manager

A senior product manager’s job is about the same as a mid-level product manager.

The difference is, of course, the skills and experience.

To hold this position, you have to spend a good amount of time learning, experiencing and well, product managing. However, product managers should never stop improving themselves.

Although senior PMs are more on the mentoring sphere, they should let themselves acquire new skills and teach them to lower-level colleagues.

A senior product manager can expect a salary of $115,000 in a company with 200-500 employees and 7-9 years of experience. 

4- Director of Product Management

This position is %80 mentoring.

A director of product management works with several teams and has an important role in conducting market research and coming up with an overall strategy that he/she communicates to product managers and their teams.

A director of PM is estimated to earn an average of $158,000 a year in a company of 500-1000 employees and 10-14 years of experience.

5- VP of Product Management 

A VP of product management works as a mediator between product management teams and the higher authorities of the company.

They have more influence on the company, they decide which strategy would benefit the company more and deal with budgeting, marketing, company image and managing senior level PMs.

A VP of Product Management can earn $192,000 on average, in a 1000-5000 employee company, with 15+ years of experience.

6- Chief Product Officer (CPO)

If you decide you want one person in charge of your company’s whole product department, you merge all your VPs of product management and have a CPO.

They are the boss of product management with many years of experience and are experts in business and finance.

Not all companies have CPOs and sometimes this position is not mentioned as a step on the product management career path, but there are many CPOs around the world. CPOs earn $194,000 on average, though it changes drastically if the person has an additional title.

Conclusion

The product management career path is a rocky one to follow but if you keep climbing, the view gets more and more clear and beautiful.

It is such a fascinating job that rewards the best generously, and once you know where to start, there’s no stopping you.


Frequently Asked Questions


😎 Who is a Product Manager?

A Product Manager is someone who is job is to manage every aspect of the product from development to customer service, ensuring the product’s success.


❓Why is Product Management important?

As Product Managers ensure the internal teams of a company are aligned under the same vision, they maximize the chances of a product’s success.


📝 How can I become a Product Manager?

Online and in-class courses on product management are available throughout the world if you are interested in becoming a PM.

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Alican Bektas

Alican is the Product Manager of UserGuiding, a code-free product walkthrough software that helps teams scale user onboarding and boost user engagement.