May 13

Skills Necessary To Be An Effective Product Manager

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If you were to talk to a group of practicing product managers and product leaders about the skills that they have found to be the most important, you’ll get a variety of answers.

The variety most likely comes from the company that they’re working for and the type of product that they’re working on (something we explore in the section on Product Management in Different Contexts).

You’ll also likely hear some common threads.

Most product managers didn’t have a clear idea of the skills that they needed when they went into product management.

Many product managers learned what skills were important as a result of their experiences of actually doing the job. And what they found out is that there is a wide range of skills that you need beyond being at the intersection of business, design, and tech.

Fortunately, product managers by nature enjoy sharing what they have learned in the hopes of giving people who come after them a leg up on their journey to becoming effective product people.

Here is a collection of resources on the skills that you need to be an effective product manager, including some personal experiences and advice on how you can pick these skills up.

What It Takes To Become A Great Product Manager

When you determine if an aspiring product manager will be successful in that role, it’s helpful to evaluate core competencies, emotional intelligence (EQ), and company fit.

Julia Austin, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School and advisor to several early-stage companies, explains that the best product managers have mastered the core competencies, have a high EQ, and work for the right company for them.

To determine if you’re working for the right company for you, consider the level of technical skill that your company requires, its philosophy of the product manager role, the stage of the company, and the relationship you’ll have with senior management.

Read on, here.

Essential Product Manager Skills

When Josh Fechter—Co-Founder of Product Manager HQ, Founder of Technical Writer HQ, and Founder and Head of Product of Squibler—first started in product management, he wasn’t sure what product manager skills he needed to contribute tangible value to the team. As he gained experience in a variety of product management roles, he learned quite a bit about which skills are important.

From that experience, Josh synthesized the top 10 skills you should develop to be a great product manager:

  • Outstanding communication skills
  • Basic technical expertise
  • Deep business skills
  • Research abilities
  • Analytical skills
  • Interpersonal abilities
  • Marketing and sales abilities
  • Delegation skills
  • Strategic thinking
  • Prioritization skills

Read on, here.

Top Product Management Skills That Companies Look For

Product managers are the jack of all trades within their organization.

Known for behind-the-scenes planning and strategy work, product managers are involved in every step of the product cycle. They are experts in the marketplace, their company, their customers and, of course, their product.

Given their extensive reach, successful product managers must possess vast yet specific skill sets.

Mark Silver, Product Manager at Walkmeinc, suggests that the most important product management skills can be categorized as follows:

  • Strategic planning skills
  • Ability to predict what’s next
  • Evidence-based decision-making
  • Product expertise

Read on, here.

20 Crucial Product Management Skills

The first step to growing as a product manager is understanding the skills required and what “great” looks like for each of these skills. Then, you can take stock of the current level in each of these skills and agree on appropriate development plans.

Different product managers certainly have different strengths, and different environments require different profiles of product managers. In general, it’s worth noting that product management is a role with a generalist profile. Product managers are expected to fill any gaps not filled by other team members. For that reason, product managers can’t afford to be really weak in any of the skills.

Jens-Fabian Goetzmann, Head of Product at RevenueCat, came up with a comprehensive (but reasonably concise) list of key product management skills. These skills fall into five categories of four skills each:

  1. Foundational “human” skills
  2. Domain skills
  3. Discovery skills
  4. Execution skills
  5. Leadership skills

Read on, here.

Product Manager Skills By Seniority Level—a Deep Breakdown

People have frequently asked Brent Tworetzky, Chief Operating Officer at Parsley Health, what product management skills to expect at different product manager levels.

When he was a product leader at XO Group, Brent and his team broke down product manager skill areas into more granular measurable skills. Those skill areas are:

  • Strategic thinking
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Technicals
  • Details and quality
  • User science and empathy
  • Management

They used those explicit skills to interview and hire, and to help their people grow in their careers through individual development plans. Brent shared XO Group’s product manager career paths for an individual contributor and manager, as well as the skill expectations for each step on those career paths.

Read on, here.

Top 10 Product Manager Skills To Boost Your Resume

Product managers need to constantly upgrade their product management skills to stay competitive when job searching or when looking to move up within their organization, company, or startup.

A successful PM is always interested in learning about new technologies or agile methodologies that could help them be more effective product and people managers, or even better teammates or coworkers.

With that in mind, Ben Aston, an online media entrepreneur and Founder of Black + White Zebra, identified the top skills that employers are looking for in their product management roles.

If you’re just getting into product management, you can use this list as a checkpoint to brush up on your skills before looking for product management jobs.

Read on, here.

How To Assess Product Management Skills And Competencies

Product management is a relatively new discipline, and the role is subject to many interpretations. It can prove incredibly difficult to pin down the behaviors, mindsets, and skills that product managers need to demonstrate in their work.

As a result, product managers are often being described as a T-shaped person with deep technical domain knowledge and broad business skills, or a hybrid of technologist, business analyst, and UX designer. Unfortunately, neither description provides much guidance as to what exactly product managers are supposed to do to be successful in their day-to-day job.

Without knowing which skills are essential to being a product manager, how can you improve performance and become good at what you do? To address the product management talent dilemma, you must first have a clear understanding of the core competencies required to perform the role.

Eleanor Kolossovski, a product strategist and marketer, provides three useful tools for systematically assessing product management skills and competencies. Eleanor briefly describes each framework and shows how to use it in practice.

Read on, here.

How Arpit Rai Improves His Product Management Skills

Before Arpit Rai, Director of Product Management at ThoughtSpot, started his career in product management, he often wondered about the core skills required to be an effective product manager.

After working on various products, Arpit identified the following fundamental skills that make you an effective product manager:

  1. Strategy and big-picture thinking
  2. Product sense
  3. Structuring problems and analytics
  4. Soft skills and communication
  5. Attention to detail
  6. Project execution

Arpit developed some of these skills based on his educational background in engineering and prior professional experience in sales. He had to spend considerable time on some of the other skills in order to understand them and get better at them.

In this article, Arpit discusses what he has done (and continues to do) to get better at each of these skills.

Read on, here.

Taking A Career Sabbatical To Learn New Product Management Skills

There is an acknowledgement these days that careers are not what they used to be. Robert Drury is the Founder of GettingStartedInProduct.com. His father spent more than 30 years working in the frozen food industry, but these days, 30 years in one industry seems just beyond us.

Portfolio careers and career pivots are now becoming the norm, but even that might seem beyond us when we’re seemingly tied to our salary in order to pay for crazy rents and high costs of living.

Do you like the idea of working in product management, but you’re not sure, and you can’t find the time to figure it out? Robert suggests the answer to your problem might be a sabbatical from work. He explains what a sabbatical is and how you can use it to pick up new product management skills.

Read on, here.

Product Management Skills No One Talks About

When Taruna Manchanda, Product Manager at LinkedIn, started in product management, the common guidance was that product managers sit at the intersection of tech, design, and business.

After spending close to four years in the product management industry, building and collaborating on some super successful products with some of the brightest minds in the country, Taruna learned that product management is much more than business, design, and tech.

Taruna learned a great deal from those experiences, including insight into some skills that don’t necessarily fit into the category of tech design and business. She shared seven of her lessons learned that point to the need for skills that you don’t always hear about.

Read on, here.


GET THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR PRODUCT MANAGERSEnjoy this article?
Get much more by downloading this 18,000 word Ultimate Guide for Product Managers. Find the best newsletters, communities, books, and valuable articles on product discovery, strategy, careers and more!

 

 

 

Kent J McDonald

About the author

Kent J McDonald writes about and practices software product management. He has product development experience in a variety of industries including financial services, health insurance, nonprofit, and automotive. Kent practices his craft with a variety of product teams and provides just in time resources for product people at KBP.media and Product Collective. When not writing or product managing, Kent is his family’s #ubersherpa, listens to jazz and podcasts (but not necessarily podcasts about jazz), and collects national parks.


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