What Is a Product Manager & How to Become One

Some projects align perfectly with a czar that oversees a particular, well-defined portfolio. A construction company that builds multiple hospitals will have project managers that shepherd each project through design, permitting, team building, deadlines, and issues.

They’ll end up working with multiple teams at different times, but in the end, the goal is to end up with a well-defined consumer product. While the design team might be working on multiple projects, and engineers might float between projects as needed, it helps to have someone advocating your consumer project from conception to final sale.

What Is a Product Manager?

In software development, this manager is often called a product manager. Since consumers pay for an end result, the product manager is responsible for making that clearly defined product successful.

Product managers need to interface with multiple teams and put on a lot of different hats at different times. They won’t ever be the experts at any one point, but they need to lead meetings with experts and advocate for their product vision.

Product managers need to get their projects out the door on time and under budget. This means planning and prioritizing to minimize redundancies and idling. Every department needs to have the information and necessary tools to put out their work without creating redundancies or causing other departments to fall behind schedule while waiting for components.

How Can You Become a Product Manager?

Getting selected for a senior position means that you need to have impressed the stakeholders. Ideally, you’ll be charismatic, disciplined, and have some expertise in many areas of the project. Sometimes it can also help if you’re simply not needed more somewhere else.

Product managers need good knowledge of management practices, team building, and technical skills. Although they won’t be the experts in any particular meeting, they shouldn’t feel completely lost either.

They need to be good at asking questions and getting the best work out of individuals, but also able to build teams that work well together. Project managers will often be dealing with teams that have different visions and needs and will need to prioritize and choose. The art department and advertising department both need budgets, and the product manager needs to be able to choose priorities and allocate the funds.

The whole project is going to need a steady hand that makes decisions about what features to include and which to cut. Every department will want a bigger budget and advocate for more resources. The servers can always be more robust, the software will have bugs, and the art is shiny.

Do You Think You Can Cut It?

If you’re looking at becoming a product manager, you’ve probably already been on a few teams and seen project managers before. It’s almost impossible to start at the top, and even harder to do well without doing time in the trenches. But if you’ve got what it takes, being a product manager is an amazing challenge with even better rewards.