What is Product Management, anyway? Let's start with the following definition, drafted by Rebbie Hughes, Melissa Appel, and myself ahead of a recent EnerNOC career fair:
As product managers, we shape the future of the company. We are the gate keepers for what products get built, and just as importantly, which don’t. We prioritize ideas and take a vision to reality, working directly with engineers to figure out not just what features get added or removed, but also how and when. All the while, we have to keep in mind that with great power comes great responsibility. At the end of the day we have to do what's best for our customers, which means we need to truly understand their daily lives in order to solve the problems that keep them up at night. Working with cross-functional teams, we develop and execute our product vision in order to deliver world-class [energy intelligence] software that our customers love.
For anyone looking to either become a Product Leader or get started in Product Management, it's not unusual to see "Previous experience in Product Management required" in most or all Product Management job posts. If that's not a classic catch-22, I'm not sure what is. Given that Product is such a critical role, employers like to hire someone who has been there before. So that's one way to get started in Product Management, though I've seen at least four:
- Be a Product Manager (duh)
- Build something
- Be internal
- Be an expert
Over the course of this series, we'll go through each approach in sequence. Meanwhile, if you're interested in learning a bit more, I'd recommend: