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A lot has been written on product management and what it takes to be a great product manager. You need to have a vision, you need to strategize, prioritize and execute all aspects related to a product life cycle right from inception to implementation. I am neither an expert in product management nor an evangelist on the topic. Being fairly new to the role, I am yet to learn the nitty gritties and seeing the bigger picture, but my experience handling
the role has got me thinking what does it really take to be a successful product manager? Here are some of my personal experiences on what it takes to don the role It's the role where you have to ask "Why" and not just "What" and "How"- A product comes into existence to solve a specific problem. You need to know the "Why" before moving to the "What" and "How". Clearly understanding every aspect of the product existence includes the vision for the product, the value it provides the customer and the differentiated advantages it has over competitors.
It’s not really about managing the product, but managing people- Although you are in charge of the product, you can’t work in isolation. So, instead of working on the details, you have to really align yourself with your team and be in-charge of the people-developers, designers and salespeople. You need to be comfortable in managing people (and all the challenges that come with it.)
You need to have 360 degree view of the business- Although your scope of work is defined by the product; you need to keep a close eye on the business as a whole. You need to understand the high level vision of the company. You need to work across departments, motivate dev teams, and speak with customers and partners. In short, you need to do many of the things a CEO does
You need to wear different hats at different times – There are times when you would have to cover whatever gaps in the process that needs to be covered. Sometimes it may be design, Q &A, client support or even sales and marketing. In short anything that needs to be done to make the product successful they do, within the limits of human capability.
You can’t ignore your customers- You can’t rely exclusively on your gut for making decisions. You have to be customer-focused and have the ability and confidence to get out of the office and speak to customers. This will keep you empathetic towards their pain points and also have a practical approach towards product development
You need to understand technical trade-offs– Although you don’t need to have a CS degree, you still should be able to roughly understand the technical complexity and the possibilities and limitations of technology. You need to involve yourself in technical discussions, and make sure the engineers and developers aren’t getting caught in tech-weeds. You also need to partner with devs to make the right technical trade-offs
You need to Thing Big – There should always be a motivation to analyse the current landscape and predict where it’s all going. Knowing that the “little” decisions you make today will have enormous consequences down the road and some won’t really matter will give the direction that you want to take in order to succeed. In a nutshell, Product management is one of the most exhausting, exhilarating, stressful, and rewarding careers out there and there no better person to sum it up than Steve Jobs- “Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want. And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently. And it’s that process that is the magic”
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