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How to Become a Product Manager
The fantasy of every software project arising from a programmer’s garage as a solo effort is just that: a fantasy. Today, the apps, websites, and computer infrastructures that are commonplace in our lives are created by teams of developers, engineers, designers, marketers, analysts, and business owners.
Coordinating the work of a lot of people (sometimes spread far and wide geographically) requires a specialist to make sure everything is getting done when it needs to be done, and that a high quality is maintained. That specialist is a project manager.
What Is Product Management?
Not unlike the director of a motion picture, a project manager is responsible for the planning and execution of any sort of large projects. They are the first point of contact for any questions or problems with a project and as such becomes the source of truth for it. Product manager roles are designed to keep progress moving and ensures that everything is running according to a schedule, or communicates and acts accordingly if it is not, and ensure customer support is adequate.
What Do Product Managers Do?
Product managers make sure the team is on task, reaching goals, and delivering as needed. Also, product managers set goals and ensures that the product is created properly and brought to the market appropriately. Any software project will have many moving parts and numerous stakeholders involved, requiring an individual to coordinate their efforts and communications.
Product development is a complex job, so great product managers are required to bring the product vision into reality. This includes managing user experience, and to have the leadership skills to manage designers and developers. We’ll speak specifically about job possibilities in the world of software project management here.
Product Management Job Description
If the project manager is involved in the beginning of a project, they will be heavily involved in writing the initial project proposals to get everything started. This might involve working closely with account managers or other business-centric members of your company as well as active communication with the client. This last part is crucial as the clients’ needs need to be understood and their expectations adjusted and met.
Hand in hand with that is project planning. This involves a clear definition of what a project should be able to do at its completion, along with a clear definition for its success so that it can be accurately tested.
When will we have the product designed correctly? Do we have a product people need? When should the early stage of development be completed? Product management skills are necessary to turn these questions into goals.
Then to ensure that the goals are given time frames for completion along with any other milestones or events to schedule (such as when software would be released to the client if done so iteratively).
As there will inevitably be some unforeseen events that affect a project and its timeline, the project manager needs to use their knowledge and experience to prepare for those events as best as they can.
Once the project begins, they’ll actively engage in project monitoring as it runs. Tracking the project continually means making sure things are on schedule and trying to get ahead of any potential problems before they happen. These problems could be anything from an expected bug to a key developer taking ill.
Part of that monitoring means documenting the project at every step. In addition to accountability for the project, this makes sure if any future information is needed it is available and accurate. This documentation might make its way into any final client presentations as well.
As the main point of contact for a project, the project manager acts as the liaison between your team and the client. By having one source of truth on the team, communication is more effective and accurate and prevents your team by being bombarded with (well-meaning) questions from the client. Being that one source of truth is also a good way of ensuring high fidelity at every step of the project. As you can imagine, that involves being meticulously accurate with information about it.
A long software project can sometimes be a slog. To avoid having a “death march” (a common industry term for software projects that have no good end in sight), the project manager needs to keep team morale up.
This doesn’t mean being a cheerleader, rooting everyone on from the sidelines (but sometimes it can involve this). It does mean making sure the project’s goals are clear and attainable with important milestones acknowledged and celebrated.
This also means keeping a close eye on team mental health and watching out for anyone approaching burnout (and getting them the help they need).
What Are the Required Skills for Product Management Careers?
How Much Do Product Managers Make?
Product managers’ salaries average at about $100,038 per year, according to Glassdoor. The range across the country is around $68,000 to $136,000. The salary level for an entry level project manager varies across the United States, from $69,335 in California to $72,779 in Massachusetts.
Experience will, of course, push you to the higher end of this spectrum. Any sort of advanced degrees (like an MBA) will help push this as well.
While there certainly are a number of freelance or contracted project managers, most people working in this position are a full-time member of a company, able to build a history with a team and an organization.
|San Francisco, CA||$124,336|
|Los Angeles, CA||$100,172|
|New York, NY||$104,639|
Mean Annual Salary
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)
Product Manager Salary by Years of Experience
- Average Salary
- Average Salary
How to Become a Product Manager
Software is going to keep getting more and more complicated to build and deploy, bringing with it bigger and more complex teams to produce it. Each of those software projects needs a captain to help steer the ship safely. If the idea of a career in the IT world appeals to you but you want to work more with the humans developing it, you might consider a career as a project manager.
There are two main education choices for prospective product managers. The first (and most common) way is through college, and the other option is a product management bootcamp.
Many people also enter the field through previous work experience combined with some sort of formal training, such as a company-sponsored bootcamp. Bring your previous work experience to the field by helping people thrive at building the best software they can. Look to a bootcamp to get you a good perspective into what that world is like.
Product Management Learning Paths
What Companies Are Hiring Product Managers?
Cybersecurity Engineer Positions: 635
Average Salary: $159,183
Data Science Positions: 168
Average Salary: $141,080
Data Science Positions: 2,315
Average Salary: $124,030
Data Science Positions: 776
Average Salary: $156,972
2020 Best Product Management Bootcamps
What does a product manager do?
A product manager ensures a team completes and delivers a product on time. They may help with the initial development of the product, changes made, document the production, and serve as a liaison between the production team and the client.
What skills are needed to become a product manager?
Product managers need strong leadership skills. Also, while knowledge of programming isn’t required, a strong technical background does help product managers better understanding a product and how to develop it.
How long does it take to become a product manager?
Through coding bootcamps, it is possible to become a product manager in less than a year. Some programs take 3 to 6 months to complete.
How much can I earn as a product manager?
A product manager salary ranges from $68,000 to well over $130,000 per year. Product manager salary varies based on several factors, such as location and experience.