Dear Melissa - Answering Questions About Starting a Career in Product Management
In this Dear Melissa segment, Melissa answers subscribers’ questions about transitioning into product management.
Q: What can I do to prove to potential employers that I have what it takes to be successful as a product manager, even though I don’t have experience? How do I write my resume?
A: Right now, companies are looking for senior product managers to balance out their teams, since they have mostly trained juniors. You should look for a company on LinkedIn that will invest time and resources into training you. Investigate their product leader: if they are very experienced, they will likely know how to train people and be more willing to find people to work with. For resumes, I recommend highlighting your achievements in previous jobs that are affiliated with product management, such as doing customer interviews and creating personas. Pull out what’s relevant and tell the story the way you want to tell it.
Q: Do you need an MBA to become a product manager?
A: MBA’s typically help product managers in leadership positions, but it’s not a requirement for transitioning into the field.
Q: What steps should a senior product manager take to move into a director role if he or she has not had the opportunity to manage people?
A: What I’ve seen that helps people move into that role is showing that you can be strategic and think outside the box. Additionally, you have to be more business-focused; while we want to ruthlessly prioritize the user and their needs, you also have to figure out how to prioritize that within the frame of your company strategy. Think about what the company strategy is and then take every chance you get to explain to the leaders how your product can help achieve those goals.
Q: How do I evaluate a company's maturity and practice in modern product management? What should I look for before and during the interview process?
A: Here are some questions I ask product management leaders to gauge the company’s maturity, and what the responses indicate. What are your most important business goals? What are your most important product goals? What are you working on now and why? If they can't tell me the story behind that, it means that there's no strategy in the organization or that there's misalignment. If you get to meet the head of sales or the head of engineering, ask them about product management to see if they have a good understanding of it. If the rest of the organization doesn't know what you do, you're probably gonna have a hard time executing and doing your job there.
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