Everything you need to know about Product Management
With many Product Management roles like Google's APM program or Meta's PM roles attracting huge numbers of applicants, the Simplify team has put together some information to help kickstart your PM journey. Keep reading to learn more!
What is Product Management (PM)?
Product management is an organizational function that guides every step of a product’s lifecycle — from development to positioning and pricing — by focusing on the product and its customers first and foremost. To build the best possible product, product managers advocate for customers within the organization and make sure the voice of the market is heard and heeded.
Thanks to this focus on the customer, product teams routinely ship better-designed and higher-performing products. In tech, where entrenched products are quickly uprooted by newer and better solutions, there is more need than ever for an intimate understanding of customers and the ability to create tailored solutions for them.
Why companies hire a PM
The essential role of a PM is to be a facilitator—a middleman that enables cross-functional collaboration at a high level. Most PMs come from a technical background—usually Software Engineers in their last life, having worked intimately with product development. Some also come from a sales or Go To Market background, having architected the way users interact with products. In either case, they're deeply familiar with what it takes to scale a product and the experience surrounding it from 0 to 1.
Skills that make a GREAT PM
There are a few skills that make a 10x Product Manager—many of which can be found on product guru Lenny Rachitscky's blog. Collapse the toggles to read more about them! It's important to note these are in no particular order.
Surprisingly, though not so surprisingly (since PMs are generally de facto leaders of their team), leadership ended up being the single most cited PM skill, highlighted by 85% of the companies.
A great PM focuses, runs, and plans across a series of teams that operate seamlessly with minimal blockage, minimal noise, and a rapid clip of high-quality delivery. Others frequently turn to this person to understand how to run highly productive teams.
An effective PM can take ambiguous, large product spaces and create principles / focused strategies to organize a wider team along with a product plan.
A key aspect of product strategy is the PM's ability to prioritize—oftentimes user feedback/research will yield a huge amount of thought-provokig ideas, and teams rely on their PMs to effectively choose which features to launch in which phase, what metrics to calculate, and more.
The nature of product roles is that they're dynamic—things are always changing within the product and on the team, so it's key that an effective PM can effevtively allocate time and resources to tasks that maximize impact.
All the other skills in this list enable the thing that matters most in the end: delivering impact. Impact is the output of all the inputs in this list.
At the end of the day, as we said earlier, companies hire PMs to tie together processes and thoughts from several different functions—engineering, sales, etc., and at the end, 10x the productivity of the organization as a whole.
Customer Insight and Vision
Here's one Fortune 100 company's description of an ideal PM: “Talks to a range of customers using their area of product and beyond, always looking for deeper insight. Is recognized internally as an expert in customer needs for their area of product. Is able to use this insight to effectively create the best possible value in their product area.”
This goes to show that effective Product Managers are masters at distilling information down to actionable insights that drive innovation. As a PM, you'll need to be a master of data manipulation, often understanding it at a molecular level. This is why many PM postings ask for experience with SQL!
Collaboration and Communication
PMs do their job through one core skill: communication—by talking, emailing, writing, messaging, and presenting. Unsurprisingly, the fourth most frequently mentioned PM attribute, emphasized by over 60% of companies, is communication.
How to Prepare for a PM interview
Step 0: Simulate
- The easiest way to start might be to think about things you do on a daily basis through a product lens—What is your favorite product and why? What is your least favorite product? how would you improve it?
Step 1: Research
Start by doing your homework on the product, the company, and its interview process.
- Use the product. Form an opinion about what could be improved, what you’d prioritize if you were in charge, and where the product might go in the future.
- Research the company. What’s its mission and vision? What has it launched recently? Who does it compete with? Where do you think it’s going next? Try to find someone at the company to get insight from.
Step 2: Practice, Practice, Practice!
Nothing will better help you prepare for an interview than actually doing interviews. Instead of reading about interviewing, start practicing with real people. Here are some great resources from Lenny, again!
- Find PMs who can do mock interviews with you. Lenny suggests that if you can’t find enough willing friends, you should check out peer groups from PMExercises, IGotAnOffer, and Lewis C. Lin’s Interview Community.
- Watch mock interviews! Nowadays, content surrounding PM work (or tech in general), is overwhelmingly available online. These are particularly useful if you’re interviewing at a larger company with a consistent interview process. While you’re watching these mock interviews, pause the video as soon as you hear the question and try to answer it yourself in front of a friend. Then watch the answer and see what you could have done better.
- Read! There are plenty of helpful books that give their opinion on a more structured response (like "Cracking the PM interview"), and more formally tackle the buckets of questions that can be asked and what they look for.
Overall, have fun with the interview! It's important to understand that there are no right and wrong answers in PM interview—hiring managers care far more about your ability to communicate effectively and structure your thoughts logically on your way to a solution.
I'm prepared! Now what?
We're hoping this piece gave you a better idea as far as what you can expect when applying to PM roles. The advice contained above is meant to be fairly general—the makings of a good PM remain the same across companies/roles. Now that you're (hopefully) more prepared to ace your PM interviews, there's only one question left to answer: where can I find PM roles?