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Transition to Product Management

October 13th, 2008 · 1 Comment

How can I transition to be a product manager? This is a question I got asked quite frequently.

It’s hard to make the career transition to product management.

In most companies, there are no clear path to become a product manager. The job title "product manager" is defined differently at different companies. In some companies,product management reports to the engineering organization, while in other companies,product management is part of marketing.

Depending on the culture of the company (e.g. "engineering/tech driven" or "marketing" driven or "sales driven"), product management might take on different responsibilities.

Product Managers are generalist by nature while most other jobs (e.g. sales, engineer, QA, etc) are specialized.

Product Management is a very political job — as a product manager, usually you don’t manage anyone, but you need to motivate and lead a cross-functional team. You’re responsible for everything, but not manage anyone in most cases.

You could take a product management training class. However, most product management training is only helpful to people who has been working in product management for while. You cannot really learn to be a product manager from taking a class — practice and experience are critical.

You can go back to school and get an MBA from a top business school. Still, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get a product management job. I have talked to quite a few people who were engineers in the past and got MBA’s from top schools such as Wharton, Kellogg, UCLA, etc. They have a very hard time to break into product management.

At this point, you might ask "am I hopeless to transition to Product Management?" You shouldn’t be hopeless. 🙂 But, you need to recognize that it’s not easy to transition to Product Management.

You need to have clear strategy based on your background, experience, and strength. And you need to have a structured transition plan, and execute your plan with discipline and perseverance.

In the next few days, I’ll cover the following topics and questions:

  • I’m so tired of my engineering job, and I want to move to Prod Management badly. what should I do now?
  • I just finished my MBA at Wharton, and I worked as a software developer in high tech companies for several years before attending business school. But, I still couldn’t get a product management job. It’s SO frustrating! What should I do?
  • What exactly is product management? How is it different from program management, product marketing, project management, and product planner?
  • How should I prepare myself to be a product manager?
  • How should I make the move to product management?
  • Is product management the right job for me?
  • I’m very stressed at my product management job. Should I quit and switch careers?
  • I feel I’m like a coordinator, running around everyday, but don’t add whole lot of value to Microsoft. Does this all product management have to offer?
  • Should I join Google or Microsoft fresh out of business school?
  • I’m just finishing my Computer Science degree, but I don’t enjoying coding. How can I become a product manager?

If you’ve any specific topic you’re interested. Email me (regularguy@GeekMBA360.com).

Stay tuned.

Tags: Career Fast Track · Career Transition · Product Management

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Derek Morrison // Oct 19, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Seems like you have picked some good topics to write about – I look forward to reading them. I have published a series of interviews with various Product Managers: their different backgrounds, how they got into product management etc… see
    How others have moved into Product Management

    Derek

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