Or: the path to become a product manager
Quite a number of people ask me ‘how do I get into product management?’. So I figured: why not collect my thoughts on that on a single page. So if I have pointed you here, it could very well be because you asked for it!
- Read Intercom on Product Management, a great primer to learn what product management actually is (actually all books by Intercom are great). Follow their blog too, while you’re there.
- Talk to at least 5 PM’s that are working on products or projects you like.
- Build something for yourself. Absolutely the best piece of advice I can give you: make something and put it out there. Make something that solves a problem for yourself, and enable others to use it. It can be as simple as a piece of writing, starting a newsletter or sharing a Google Doc/Spreadsheet with something useful for you. The goal: create something where you’ll come across other users and start to get their feedback. The process of dealing with that feedback and having to prioritize it based on your available resources is an invaluable lesson.
- Look at other products. If you already work at a company where you want to get into product management: actually use your product, and start to gather feedback on it. Talk to other people about your product. If you’re not working at a product company: take the time to study other products. What makes those products stick (how do they make you come back)? How is your first experience with those products?
- Get familiar with the two main ways of working agile: scrum and kanban. Know how a backlog works, how to write user stories, how to get to estimated stories, how to do a planning session, how to do a retrospective and how to do a daily standup.
Building software (or anything, really) is super difficult. As a product manager, I believe you should be a champion of working in an agile way. And there are also a couple of principles you should be aware of from a technical perspective, that will make you a better PM.
- Read and internalize the Agile Manifesto. I believe this is an essential guide in how to ship high quality software and learn fast.
- Even if you do not have a technical background, you should know the twelve factors that make up a Twelve-Factor App.
What’s next? It depends on the area you want to develop. My suggestion: pick something that fits your organisation and role. If your number one problem is around process, dive into that. If the biggest problem is finding product/market fit, dive into ideas and retention.
Next level: innovation and ideas
- Read The Lean Startup. Still a good overview of how startups should/could work.
- Read Sprint. A good and practical overview of how you can do good and fast brainstorming and prototyping sessions.
Next level: retention and influencing behavior
- Read Hooked. A short and powerful book on what is necessary to build habit forming products.
- Read Influence. Cialdini describes how to influence people. To be used in good ways.
Next level: structure and process
- Read The Principles of Product Development Flow. The ultimate collection of principles for measuring output.
Next level: management
- Read High Output Management. The classic on management, where Grove introduces things like one-on-ones with your team members.
Next level: marketing
- Read Purple Cow. How to be remarkable.
- Know what CLV means and how to calculate it
- Know what CAC means
- Figure out what marketing channels are used and are popular in your market, and launch experiments with that
Next level: machine learning
- This post is a great primer to understand the different building blocks for machine learning you as a PM can work with