3 Practical Routes into Product Management
Steps you can take today to start your career in Product. Guest post by Ali Abdullah
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3 practical routes into product management
Ali Abdullah, Senior Product Manager at ASOS.
“ How do I become a Product Manager? ” is a common question I get asked and here I will share a few practical steps derived from my personal experience as well as the experiences of other product managers I’ve met throughout my career.
Assumption: You have already identified your motivations/drivers for wanting to be a Product Manager… If YES, here are 3 practical ways you can try and break into Product.
Transition from an adjacent role
Build a Product
Apply for an Associate Product Manager (APM) role
1. Transition from an adjacent role
What: Transition from adjacent roles that typically work closely with Product Managers e.g. Project Management, Business Analysis, Quality Assurance (QA), Product Design, Marketing, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) etc. Note: Attain one of these roles at a company that has a product management function.
Why: when compared with the adjacent roles described above, Product Management is a relatively young profession with no formal/standardised education/qualification yet established (at the time of writing this). Roles such as Project Management have been established much longer and have recognised qualifications that you can use to get your foot through the door (e.g. Prince2).
How: Once you are working in a product adjacent role:
Observe: Identify opportunities to work on projects with a product manager, which will allow you to learn through observing.
Shadow: Reach out to a product manager at your own company and ask if you could shadow them in their day-to-day activities e.g. meetings, presentations, document writing etc.
Mentor: Reach out to a Product Manager at your own company, and ask If you could take 30mins of their time (when they are next available) to buy them a coffee and pick their brains. Note: although you could try and reach out to PMs outside your company, I would say your chances of getting a reply are lower with this approach. Alternatively, you could also attend product meetups and build your network that way.
2. Build a Product
What: Identify a need or a problem that you care about and take the initiative to try and solve that problem.
Why: This is a great way to show off your self-taught product management skills and demonstrate your desire and passion for the profession. This will give you strong examples/content that you could share in your interviews.
How: Find numerous avenues of solving a real-world problem such as…
Join a hackathon as a product manager (Highly recommended and a great way to build a network of engineers you could collaborate with in the future).
Collaborate/motivate an engineer(s) to work with you on a side project.
Solve a problem using a No-code solution.
Build a small business/side hustle.
3. Apply for an Associate Product Manager (APM) role
What: This is a direct entry-level route into product management where you will have the opportunity to learn and work as a Product Manager with the guidance, mentorship and support of the more Senior PMs.
Why: This is a great development opportunity (consider this as the training wheel stage of your Product career), however not many companies offer this type of role (at the time of writing) when compared to other tech roles and can also be competitive. So again, try to utilise the suggestions I previously mentioned to help you stand out for this role.
How: Look out specifically for an ‘Associate’ or ‘Junior’ Product Manager position.
I hope the steps I shared above help give you multiple avenues to pursue a career in product management. If you have come across other exciting routes, I would love to hear what you find.
I wish you nothing but the best in your search.
Follow Ali on LinkedIn
Biyo fadhiya biyo socdaa kiciya
Dead-water is moved by running water.