1. Understanding Key Skills
In order to find success in the field, aspiring product managers must first understand the key skills that consistently define success in the role. Product managers work in a unique space — one that blends aspects of IT, engineering, marketing, sales, finance, logistics, and public relations.
Managers must be comfortable communicating with teams in each of the above fields, as they will likely be corralling multiple plans and perspectives into one complete vision. This usually requires a number of cross-industry soft skills, including critical thinking, organization, attention to detail, prioritization, listening prowess, and self-motivation.
Additionally, communication is key in product management — particularly with product stakeholders. For example, the Harvard Business Review details how product managers should hone emotional intelligence, or emotional quotient (EQ), as a core competency since it plays such a vital role in managing relationships with product stakeholders, anticipating concerns, and driving a product’s vision to fruition. Specifically, a high EQ allows managers to empathize with the various workers responsible for a product’s development and launch which, in turn, helps build lasting relationships between teams and foster a culture of transparency and trust.
Possessing these soft skills is a great starting point for new product managers. Necessary hard skills, however, will depend on the industry for which managers will be building products. In tech, for instance, product managers must be comfortable working with Agile methodologies of development (including the Scrum framework), performing A/B testing, and conducting market research. The latter could require writing database queries with SQL, a specific language for working with databases. Meanwhile, such technical skills may not be as necessary for managing the development of products like retail clothing or consumer packaged goods, such as beverages or paper goods.
Further, product managers must develop a deep analytical knowledge of their business and the market. They must be tuned into consumer needs and desires to create a product that will stand out in a crowded market. Without this valuable insight, product teams may lose touch with market trends, inadvertently develop obsolete or otherwise dated products, and ultimately fall behind their competitors.