How to Break into Product Management
For the most recent episode of This is Product Management, Mike Fishbein interviewed our CEO, Carlos González de Villaumbrosia. His vision when founding the school was to create a place where professionals could learn the skills needed to transition into product management from other fields. In this episode, Mike picks Carlos’ brain for his best advice when training to become a product manager. Below are a few of the top takeaways from the episode. You can listen to the entire episode here.
Companies look for different things in their PM’s depending on the size of the company.
Carlos pointed out that not all companies look for the same qualities in their product managers. A smaller company will most likely be looking for someone “scrappier”, someone less committed to a set process. Smaller companies are still learning themselves how to create products and scale, so they will naturally be looking for someone who is quick to learn, but also flexible in their methods.
This is in contrast with what a large organization will be looking for. Larger companies already have live products and will, therefore, look for someone who will be able to fit into their existing processes. They will look for someone analytical who can optimize smaller parts of their product that will ultimately make a huge impact on the bottom line.
The top 3 skills Carlos looks for in PM’s.
There are many skill sets needed to be a successful product manager, but there are a few that Carlos has seen that are especially important. Having one or more of the below can make you an extremely valuable asset to a company and can help set you apart.
- Technical experience: A PM should be able to have a conversation with his engineers about the development of the product. He should also know how to ask the right questions when communicating with his team.
- Industry expertise: A company wants to see that a potential PM has some connection to the industry of the product. This doesn’t have to mean job experience in the industry, but they will be looking for something that shows the product manager will care about the product and it’s customers. For example, having experience as a user or having a family member in the industry can show a company that a potential PM will be a customer advocate for that product.
- Communication skills: At the end of the day, a PM needs to influence other people. As Carlos said, “A PM needs to stop doing a lot of things, and make sure other people begin doing those things”. To do that successfully, a PM needs to know how to empathize with his team and help the team create, rather than just building things alone.
Getting your second PM job is always easier than getting your first.
Why is that? When you are applying for your second PM job, you more often than not will have already helped create a product to show a company as an example of your skills. So when applying for your first PM job, Carlos suggests building something on your own even if it isn’t your “official” job yet. Carlos suggests going to hackathons, building your own website, or working with friends on an open source project to demonstrate your intrinsic interest in building things.
Make your Linkedin profile scream PRODUCT.
Carlos had a few pieces of advice when it came to optimizing your chances of getting noticed by a recruiter on Linkedin. First and foremost, having a professional picture as your profile picture is a MUST. Having a selfie, or a badly cropped photo of yourself can be extremely detrimental when interacting with recruiters. Secondly, your headline should say something related to product or management. It should be something that has to do with what you want to do next rather than what you do now. And thirdly, you should absolutely have a summary. Most recruiters will not read through an entire profile and will only look at your summary. A simple paragraph summarizing your professional experience and demonstrating your interest in the product management field can go a long way with recruiters.