Many people asked me how I got into product management. If you read on the internet you will find countless stories of different people and how they got into the job. Because product management more of an art than science, these stories are very different, here is another one.
I got interested in product management because I like to think about building stuff, I also like working with others and motivate them to achieve a common goal. I didn’t know what I want to do (and still don’t know), and thought that product management is the closest thing at the moment to where I want to be (this will always change), so I decided to find a product management gig.
Again, since there are tons of long reads by different people and how they got there, I will just discuss the things you should read/do to help you get into product.
I am big on books, I have an imposter syndrome where I think one can’t learn something without reading a book. The books I see most beneficial to product managers are
- Cracking the PM interview: This one is a must read. It nicely lists different types of careers in product management, the interview process at different companies, and many exercises for each step. You might think I should read this at the end, or when I am ready to interview, however I think you should start by it, because after reading it you will find out which skills you are good at, and what you need to learn to be ready for product management. Don’t skim it, I did this mistake when I first read it, and it costed me Google interview, the questions were almost identical to what’s in the book, and I wasn’t prepared enough. Also, Google interviews are the hardest I ever did, they made booking interviews seem like a piece of cake (although they are also hard), so make sure you master the book before applying to the big guys.
- Lean Analytics: I am allergic to anything with “lean” in it, they end up being a lengthy blog post stretched to fit 250 pages to satisfy the publisher’s requests. Lean analytics is an exception. It will give you a good mental model to think about metrics in product organization, it is also very beneficial to those worked in service business and want to move to product.
- Traction: It is easier to join a startup as the first product management job than to join a mature company, and a startup’s keyword is “growth”. This book explains the different acquisition channels, and gives you a framework to how to run experiments to define winning/losing strategies.
- Other than this, there are countless blog posts that I can’t list here, however a great source for the best in class product management tips from practitioners is twitter. Start by following Steven Sinofsky, Andrew Chen, Josh Elman, Hunter Walk, Ryan Hoover, Product Hunt, Ken Norton, and Chris Dixon. Once you follow those people, you will fall into the twitter blackhole of many other accounts to follow, since they will often retweet/interact with other smart folks.
Besides reading, getting hands on experience won’t come without shipping something. This is challenging for people who are not in a product environment, so building side projects is a great way to get some practical, hands on experience. It is better if you build these projects with others, because it shows you can influence and work with others towards a shared vision. They don’t have to be complex, or the next big thing, but they should be useful. You should have a story to back why you decided to build something, and it is even better if you have results to back this story.
Reading, and working on side projects will get you a jumpstart towards a product management career, some people achieve this faster than others, this is what worked for me.