Yesterday, I asked readers, what they’d like to read about on the blog. We still want your input on that topic. Click ===>> HERE <<=== to jump to the survey to give your input.
And as proof that we’re listening, this blog post was inspired by one of the responses that came in.
The person wants to become a PM and wants to hear how current PMs got to where they are today. Great question.
First of all, let me point to a couple of previous Open Questions that relate to this topic.
So, how did I get my first Product Management job?
I had the same dilemma as everyone else who wants to get into Product Management.
How do you prove to the hiring manager that you can do the job, even though “technically” you don’t have any Product Management experience?
I put “technically” in quotes, because that’s the key IMHO. You have prior experience; you have to show that it is relevant to them and their hiring decision.
I remember my interview very well. It was with the President of a 100 person software company and I had to answer that same question.
My answer to him, was “Although I’ve never held the role of Product Manager, I’ve done many of the things that Product Managers must do.”
At the time, I was working in a software company that created a data visualization (i.e. advanced 3D charting) framework and object-oriented class library for 3rd party developers. My role in that company covered technical support, training and documentation.
The new company was focused on developer productivity tools and one of the products was a charting toolkit.
i.e. I had domain experience that was relevant to the hiring company and while I was not as technical as a developer, I clearly was technical enough to have meaningful conversations with the engineering team.
Keep in mind that this company created developer productivity tools, so that developer mindset was critical.
Beyond the domain knowledge, I had run my own business previously, and I stressed that aspect. i.e. I’m not just a (somewhat) technical person, but I understand business and I made the link that Product Managers need to blend the technology and the business in their role.
I also remember conversations about my style of decision making. I talked about the importance of consensus but that sometimes you have to put your foot down and make the hard decisions. The focus on consensus was key, as I found out later that the President was a big proponent of consensus.
Hiring managers want to know that you can work across teams and that you’re not just going to make arbitrary decisions and impose them others. Companies cannot work that way.
Finally they gave me a writing test, which was a bit of a surprise to me. They wanted to understand my communication skills and also see if I could write copy for data sheets etc. I think I did OK on that. 🙂
So that was it. In short, prove to the hiring manager or company that you understand what Product Management is, that your previous experience is relevant to them, that you know how to work with people, can fit in well and can communicate clearly. [If it was only that easy right?]
I’m sure there were other factors, but those are what I recall after all these years.
Now let’s hear your stories
So, what about you? Help those who want to enter the profession. How did you get your first Product Management or Product Marketing position?