Product Management is an exciting career path with lots of opportunities - particularly in the technology and startup world. In this article, we explore what a Product Manager actually does and what you can study to become a Product Manager.
The detailed tasks may vary from company to company, but in general, Product Managers at tech companies share a number of common responsibilities: A Product Manager (or sometimes: Product Owner) acts as the hub between user needs, business needs, and technical implementation, and takes full responsibility for that product. That means they need to research, describe and prioritise what users want, align that to business requirements and coordinate with developers to ensure proper implementation.
“Product” can either be something complete, like an app, or a part of a larger system. For example, a large web retailer (think Amazon) might have one Product Manager / Product Owner focusing specifically on the shop search, one for the checkout process and so on. Each of them would be responsible to make sure that their product and features respond to user needs and fit in with the grand scheme of things.
Because of this high level of responsibility, and because of how the PM has to interact with all the stakeholders involved, you could consider them something like a “mini CEO” for their product.
To be successful in a Product Management job, you will need to be a great communicator with a strong analytical mind. In particular, you will need to...
No one is born to fulfill such a diverse range of requirements. It takes time to learn and acquire the knowledge and the skills. By the way: Studying abroad is one great way to improve in many of those areas! When you study in another country, you have to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds and automatically learn to see things from a completely different perspective.
When you look at successful Product Managers in startups and other technology-driven companies, they come from various academic backgrounds. Many studied a technical subject such as computer science, many come from an education in business or economics, but you also find people with completely different backgrounds such as sociology.
The reason is that Product Management as a distinct responsibility in companies is still relatively new. And because the Product Manager works at the intersection of many different disciplines, their most important characteristic might be flexibility.
However, if you plan to choose your degree with the goal of going into Product Management after graduation, you are best advised to go for subjects around technology, development, project management and innovation management. Or, you can seek a degree that specifically focuses on product management - more on that below.
Product management as a discipline has evolved a lot over the last few years. There is now a great body of knowledge, with many established formal methods and approaches to solve problems. This has inspired the first universities to offer study programmes in Product Management.
One unique offering comes from CODE University in Berlin, Germany. CODE Berlin, founded by experienced entrepreneurs, is kind of a startup itself: The first students started in 2017. Their Product Management Bachelor’s degree offers a unique blend of relevant topics such as project management, entrepreneurship, prototyping, online marketing and other. Through partnerships with leading tech companies like Facebook, CODE University ensures that the Bachelor’s programme is practice-oriented and up-to-date with current developments.
As more and more companies realise the benefits of assigning Product Managers with responsibilities for their products, the role will become more important over the coming years.
If you are someone with a varied skillset, strong analytical competence and great communication skills, this is the kind of job in which you can apply all of these.
Especially if you are in an environment that honours those skills, a career in product management can be very rewarding. Plus, working as a Product Manager opens lots of opportunities for career advancement: No one else knows the product as well as you do, and no one else is connected to that many departments. Who knows - if you play your cards right, you might one day be promoted to the CEO role yourself!
This article was produced and published in cooperation with CODE University.15303 Programmes in Europe