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Product Management (Tech)

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  • Jan 7th, 2020 3:51 pm
[OP]
Jr. Member
Feb 21, 2013
141 posts
123 upvotes

Product Management (Tech)

Just wondering if anyone here has experience and/or advice when it comes to product management in the tech industry as a potential career path?

I come from a non-technical background and am looking to get into tech. I don't think I have the stomach to pick up a coding language and go back to square one as a developer, also I would like to utilize some of the soft skills I have acquired and product management seems to align relatively closely to some of the work I do right now.

I've seen articles a long time ago about how this is a growing discipline that will continue to be valued, is this still the case? What are some good ways to get into the field? I've seen bootcamps specifically for product management, does anyone have experience or heard anything about them? Thanks everyone!
19 replies
Member
Oct 5, 2019
237 posts
229 upvotes
What’s your background? Good product managers in the tech industry is in very high demand, but it’s not an easy thing to get into. Usually some relevant experience / expertise is required, eg relevant domain knowledge. But good PMs are also really hard to find and require a pretty broad set of skills and particular mentality. The common metaphor is a mini CEO.

Some companies have APM positions but they are usually geared towards new grads. The easiest way is probably to leverage your existing domain knowledge and go for a pm for a company in that field.
[OP]
Jr. Member
Feb 21, 2013
141 posts
123 upvotes
Gorbers wrote: What’s your background? Good product managers in the tech industry is in very high demand, but it’s not an easy thing to get into. Usually some relevant experience / expertise is required, eg relevant domain knowledge. But good PMs are also really hard to find and require a pretty broad set of skills and particular mentality. The common metaphor is a mini CEO.

Some companies have APM positions but they are usually geared towards new grads. The easiest way is probably to leverage your existing domain knowledge and go for a pm for a company in that field.
I work in consulting for a pretty specific industry, most of my job is market analysis, strategy, and communications (report writing, media releases, etc). I have some work that is similar to managing a "living" product but at a much slower pace than anything that would happen in the tech sphere. Right now part of that project is revamping it for additional functionalities so I'm in close contact with a developer with regards to features, testing, etc.

You mention "good" PMs being in high demand. Are these uncommon relative to the general population of PMs in the field? There was an APM position at a company in my domain, but no bites there unfortunately. What's a way to get noticed?
Member
Oct 5, 2019
237 posts
229 upvotes
In my experience good PMs are very rare. Most PMs end up being project managers, tracking estimates, timelines etc or just a messenger to pass requirements from customers / stack holders to the dev team. Good PMs (at least your Silicon Valley tech company PM) should be a visionary that understands where the market is going and what a compelling product looks like to capture that market (hence mini CEO). Also one of the keys is making the hard decisions on what NOT to do. Most PMs have a lot of ideas on what to do but can’t figure out what can wait. Of course all the soft skills and market / domain knowledge is necessary. They are just not sufficient.

I think like most other fields, networking is pretty important. One of the roles of the PM is outward communication so being able to network with potential customers, partners etc is important. That’s probably the best route. Otherwise if you have some specific expertise you can target specific companies. Lastly you can try to get in sideways by doing something else with the company first. Like project management or BA, then do an internal move to product management.
Deal Expert
Aug 2, 2004
33721 posts
7361 upvotes
East Gwillimbury
Gorbers wrote: Good PMs (at least your Silicon Valley tech company PM) should be a visionary that understands where the market is going and what a compelling product looks like to capture that market (hence mini CEO). Also one of the keys is making the hard decisions on what NOT to do. Most PMs have a lot of ideas on what to do but can’t figure out what can wait. Of course all the soft skills and market / domain knowledge is necessary. They are just not sufficient.
I am actually in this field. I can tell you with certainty that more than 80% of those in the field have no idea about tech. As far as they are concerned, it is just a widget and they're all the same. Follow the run rate. Don't get me wrong there are a few that knows exactly what they're looking at and understand the technology. But that is rare and they have their own issues. These people tend to buy what they like and not necessarily what is needed.

Good Product Managers are definitely in high demand. Because most organizations have effective product managers, they understand processes, not necessarily the product they manage.
Deal Addict
Feb 1, 2008
1504 posts
134 upvotes
ProductGuy wrote: Great opportunity to get into product:
https://boards.greenhouse.io/twg/jobs/839552

http://apmtoronto.com/

Same post as the other thread so it is not missed.
Highly recommend the APM program. Great way to get your foot in the door.

Three common paths to breaking into PM.
1. Get in out of school via a APM program (US heavy focus). Google/Uber/Facebook have APM programs. The competition is fierce
2. Go build something yourself, be a PM and put that on your resume. You can learn a lot this way
3. Transfer internally

#3 is what I did, took a lot of perseverance and convincing but worth it. Try to get close to the Engineering and Product group and see if you can start taking on small pieces of work. This could be simple things like filing/reproducing bugs in Jira, setting up customer feedback calls, helping with user testing etc.

To learn more about product management:
Understand what you are getting into
https://medium.com/@johnpcutler/15-thin ... 3d246#aa20
Great content on various topics. Check out some of the breaking into product videos
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6hlQ0 ... jYkoz53cvA
Great books
https://www.amazon.ca/Lean-Product-Play ... 161&sr=8-1
https://www.amazon.ca/INSPIRED-Create-T ... oks&sr=1-1
APM Programs
https://apmlist.com/

Hope that helps. Its a hard role to break into, everyone wants it, few seem to have the perseverance to break into it if they couldn't go with #1 above or the dev -> pm route.
Last edited by cruisx on Jan 4th, 2020 9:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Deal Addict
Jan 1, 2017
1402 posts
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cruisx wrote: Highly recommend the APM program. Great way to get your foot in the door.

Three common paths to breaking into PM.
1. Get in out of school via a APM program (US heavy focus). Google/Uber/Facebook have APM programs. The competition is fierce
2. Go build something yourself, be a PM and put that on your resume. You can learn a lot this way
3. Transfer internally

#3 is what I did, took a lot of perseverance and convincing but worth it. Try to get close to the Engineering and Product group and see if you can start taking on small pieces of work. This could be simple things like filing/reproducing bugs in Jira, setting up customer feedback calls, helping with user testing etc.

To learn more about product management:
Understand what you are getting into
https://medium.com/@johnpcutler/15-thin ... 3d246#aa20
Great content on various topics. Check out some of the breaking into product videos
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6hlQ0 ... jYkoz53cvA
Great books
https://www.amazon.ca/Lean-Product-Play ... 161&sr=8-1
https://www.amazon.ca/Lean-Product-Play ... 161&sr=8-1
APM Programs
https://apmlist.com/

Hope that helps. Its a hard role to break into, everyone wants it, few seem to have the perseverance to break into it if they couldn't go with #1 above or the dev -> pm route.
Good resources! I got lucky and got into a product analyst role right out of school. I was looking for a role that required problem solving skills and analytical skills without knowing what product management was. Got the job, learned everything on the job and through some internal training and I loved it ever since. I consider myself one of the lucky ones! Close to 13 years in Product now :)
Sr. Member
Feb 19, 2017
612 posts
363 upvotes
Gorbers wrote: What’s your background? Good product managers in the tech industry is in very high demand, but it’s not an easy thing to get into. Usually some relevant experience / expertise is required, eg relevant domain knowledge. But good PMs are also really hard to find and require a pretty broad set of skills and particular mentality. The common metaphor is a mini CEO.

Some companies have APM positions but they are usually geared towards new grads. The easiest way is probably to leverage your existing domain knowledge and go for a pm for a company in that field.
lol I've never heard of a PM referred to as a mini CEO and I work at a huge tech company. Sounds like PMs self-inflating their worth.

By far the easiest route is going to a big tech company doing something similar to what you're doing now (Project Manager or Business Analyst), then just schedule a billion coffee dates until you find someone willing to give you a chance. Most of the time, just an interest in tech and a sharp mind is enough. With enough intelligence, you can manage a tech product without knowing the tech.
Deal Addict
Jan 1, 2017
1402 posts
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Walch1102 wrote: lol I've never heard of a PM referred to as a mini CEO and I work at a huge tech company. Sounds like PMs self-inflating their worth.

By far the easiest route is going to a big tech company doing something similar to what you're doing now (Project Manager or Business Analyst), then just schedule a billion coffee dates until you find someone willing to give you a chance. Most of the time, just an interest in tech and a sharp mind is enough. With enough intelligence, you can manage a tech product without knowing the tech.
You are missing the point why he used the term mini-CEO, it’s actually a widely used term within the PM community. What it means really is that as a PM you work with many different departments/teams within the organization to launch a product.
Sr. Member
Feb 19, 2017
612 posts
363 upvotes
ProductGuy wrote: You are missing the point why he used the term mini-CEO, it’s actually a widely used term within the PM community. What it means really is that as a PM you work with many different departments/teams within the organization to launch a product.
Do you ACTUALLY think I missed the point that a 3 y/o could have understood? Think about it next time you try to call out someone for missing the point.

Horowitz compared PMs as CEOs. PMs probably latched onto it, ignoring it is only in the context of a startup where the PM is THAT important and influential. The whole mini-CEO thing is never discussed outside of "the PM community" because everyone around them would just laugh in their face. You guys are completely overstating the importance and the BREADTH of the role. I've seen huge products launch successfully with a bad PM. Their manager just took them off and replaced them mid-way through. No impact to launch dates at all.
Deal Addict
Jan 1, 2017
1402 posts
1229 upvotes
Walch1102 wrote: Do you ACTUALLY think I missed the point that a 3 y/o could have understood? Think about it next time you try to call out someone for missing the point.

Horowitz compared PMs as CEOs. PMs probably latched onto it, ignoring it is only in the context of a startup where the PM is THAT important and influential. The whole mini-CEO thing is never discussed outside of "the PM community" because everyone around them would just laugh in their face. You guys are completely overstating the importance and the BREADTH of the role. I've seen huge products launch successfully with a bad PM. Their manager just took them off and replaced them mid-way through. No impact to launch dates at all.
I think you have a different definition of the mini ceo phrase than I do . All I am saying is that as a PM you often engage with many different people within the organization. You need to be able to adapt, work with them and understand their perspective. That is not something that happens in other roles within an organization.

Sure PM are important for the delivery of a new product but they are one of the many team members within a project making a product successful. So I am not saying at all that a product can’t have a successful launch without a good PM.
Member
Oct 5, 2019
237 posts
229 upvotes
Walch1102 wrote: Do you ACTUALLY think I missed the point that a 3 y/o could have understood? Think about it next time you try to call out someone for missing the point.

Horowitz compared PMs as CEOs. PMs probably latched onto it, ignoring it is only in the context of a startup where the PM is THAT important and influential. The whole mini-CEO thing is never discussed outside of "the PM community" because everyone around them would just laugh in their face. You guys are completely overstating the importance and the BREADTH of the role. I've seen huge products launch successfully with a bad PM. Their manager just took them off and replaced them mid-way through. No impact to launch dates at all.
Obviously the mini CEO isn’t literal, and some what aspirational. But that’s on purpose, to convey the mentality the PM should have. That they are responsible for the product and have to work with and influence other parts of the organization to realize their vision.

And yes sure you can have an organization where the PM role isn’t necessary, and PMs are completely neutered, just like you can have organizations where engineering is a second or third class citizen. But you won’t go holding up that as the model of a good engineer.
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Aug 9, 2010
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Walch1102 wrote: lol I've never heard of a PM referred to as a mini CEO and I work at a huge tech company. Sounds like PMs self-inflating their worth.
Doesn’t sound like PMs are self-inflating to me, rather it sounds like YOU are.
Sr. Member
Feb 19, 2017
612 posts
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PressureBoom wrote: Doesn’t sound like PMs are self-inflating to me, rather it sounds like YOU are.
and how did I do that without even talking about myself except stating I work at a huge tech company (which is just a boring fact to add context)? Maybe reading comprehension classes would help.
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Not sure about this whole "mini-CEO" thing but I work in tech with lots of PMs & POs and while I've never heard that exact term, the description of responsibilities relating to it (aka you're responsible to grow & evolve your assigned product) sounds pretty much in line like any good PM/PO I've worked with.

The difference between good Product people and mediocre/poor ones is the other ones just take in requirements from the business and translate them for the various tech teams. A good Product team will understand what needs to happen to the product but also what should't happen, sometimes even if it takes a bit of friction with the business unit. Not only that, you're good at breaking down features and new product experiences into chunks that can both be implemented faster but also scale better.
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Oct 5, 2019
237 posts
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Walch1102 wrote: and how did I do that without even talking about myself except stating I work at a huge tech company (which is just a boring fact to add context)? Maybe reading comprehension classes would help.
If multiple people are taking issue with what you wrote maybe the issue isn’t with them... maybe the snarky and hostile comments just distracts from your actual point.
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Jun 27, 2007
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My gf is a Senior PM at a tech company. Regarding background....was previously a consultant at a Big 4 accounting firm then a PM at a fintech. That's all i know.
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Feb 19, 2017
612 posts
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Gorbers wrote: If multiple people are taking issue with what you wrote maybe the issue isn’t with them... maybe the snarky and hostile comments just distracts from your actual point.
So go ahead and take issue. Doesn't bother me in the slightest that people post stupid stuff and get all defensive when they're called out on it.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks calling PMs mini-CEOs is stupid:
https://www.mindtheproduct.com/product- ... -anything/
https://medium.com/@alecarlos/stop-sayi ... c78b0ba76f

I didn't cherry pick these either. The links above are the 2nd and 3rd search results from Google.

It's no wonder this whole "mini-CEO" thing stays inside the PM community. Let's be clear, ANY employee trying to drive ANY big change will have to own/lead the project, engage multiple teams, understand their perspective, influence the status quo, etc. This is not exclusive to product management.

It has a nice ring to it, but it doesn't reflect reality at all and is completely misleading for people considering the PM route.

It did read that it's less common nowadays, so maybe you're super old school and it was flung around often back then. Either way, it's not an accurate description.
Member
Oct 5, 2019
237 posts
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Walch1102 wrote: So go ahead and take issue. Doesn't bother me in the slightest that people post stupid stuff and get all defensive when they're called out on it.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks calling PMs mini-CEOs is stupid:
https://www.mindtheproduct.com/product- ... -anything/
https://medium.com/@alecarlos/stop-sayi ... c78b0ba76f

I didn't cherry pick these either. The links above are the 2nd and 3rd search results from Google.

It's no wonder this whole "mini-CEO" thing stays inside the PM community. Let's be clear, ANY employee trying to drive ANY big change will have to own/lead the project, engage multiple teams, understand their perspective, influence the status quo, etc. This is not exclusive to product management.

It has a nice ring to it, but it doesn't reflect reality at all and is completely misleading for people considering the PM route.

It did read that it's less common nowadays, so maybe you're super old school and it was flung around often back then. Either way, it's not an accurate description.
Mini CEO is a metaphor and meant to convey the types of skills set and mentality a good PM should have. Like any metaphor, there are flaws. Of course PM are not literally CEOs nor do they have the authority that CEO have, that should be blatantly obvious to anyone. The two articles you cited take issue with this authority difference too. Also, conveniently you left out the top search result which does talk about PMs being mini CEOs.

Granted this is subjective and not a measurable fact, so there will be and are debates and disagreement. If we go by google search results it seems pretty split with opinions for and against the metaphor. That’s fine and readers interested can take a look at arguments from both sides. This may be dependent on company as well, with some PMs more empowered than others. If you are just a messenger passing requirements around then no you are no a “mini CEO”.

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