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MBA Careers: Product Manager Job Description

Written by Sameer Kamat

We’ve been seeing an increasing number of folks (who come to us for the MBA MAP, MBA essays, Career MAP) aiming to get into product management roles. Many are from the technology industry. Some are hoping to use the MBA path to get product manager jobs that allow them to move to the business side. But the role of a product manager isn’t confined to the technology industry. There are people who are currently working in the FMCG industry or in the area of high fashion and they have the same designation.

It is fascinating to hear stories about how things work across various industries. Someone we worked with recently shared stories about how he manages endorsement contracts with celebrities, including a recent one with Katrina Kaif. I’ll leave you to guess what product was.

The role of a product manager can vary depending on the industry and of course the product. But there are some common aspects that we’ll cover here when it comes to the typical product manager job description.

We’ll choose technology as the base industry for this post as we have many readers who would be able to identify with it. If you aren’t from the tech industry, you’d still benefit from it. So read on.

Role of a Product Manager

The simple way of looking at this is as follows. Most companies (irrespective of the industry) would have multiple brands and under each brand there may be multiple products. However each product has to go through a Product Management Life Cycle and needs an owner to ensure that every single aspect, from design to marketing, happens as per a predefined strategy. The strategy may involve tracking multiple parameters – revenue, product image, costs, distribution, profitability, market share etc.

The person who’s responsible for that is our friendly neighbourhood Project Manager.

For a company like Google, almost its entire business model revolves around products. Gmail is a product. And so is YouTube. And so are all the products from the companies that it acquires as part of it Mergers & Acquisitions strategy.

Product Manager job description

The sample product manager job description listed below (and re-phrased to make it more relevant for this post) was originally advertised by Google. This was targeted for recent MBA graduates who also had a technical undergrad or Masters degree.

Summary of the product manager job description

As part of the product management team, you would interact with the engineers from the technical team as well as with teams from Marketing, Sales and Finance to oversee the complete product development life cycle (PDLC) –right from conception to product launch. This broad scope of work necessitates the need to balance technical and business skills.

Responsibilities of the Product Manager

– You will develop and manage the product in alignment with the corporate strategy

– You will be involved right from the design phase (working with tech experts) and maintain the multi-cycle process of fine-tuning the product to make it market-ready

– At each point within the PDLC, you will guide the technical teams and help them prioritize, tweak and implement the best technical solution.

– Simultaneously, you will work with the marketing teams to ensure that the marketing roadmap (covering branding, positioning, launching) is in place when the product is ready to go live.

Qualifications needed for the Product Manager job

– Undergrad degree in Computer Science or any related discipline (like BS / B.E. / B-Tech in Electrical engineering)

– MBA from a top tier business school

Special skills to be successful in the role of a Product Manager

– Think like an entrepreneur. Stretch your goals, be flexible to adapt your approach when needed, make use of all the resources available within the company and outside

– Prior experience in product design or product management is a huge plus

– Cross disciplinary knowledge – technology, sales, finance, marketing, project management

– Problem solving skills. The ability to identify issues early on and take steps to mitigate the risk

– Excellent verbal and written communication skills. The ability to get along with people from diverse backgrounds and having disparate skills.

A day in the life of a Product Manager

Businessweek published an article where a Ross MBA graduate who works for Microsoft in the area of cloud computing talks about how he typically spends the day. Here’s the link.

Remember though that this was happening in Seattle, in a technology based company. If you change the protagonist with someone who’s negotiating contracts with SRK, then the day-in-the-life story will be very different.

Also read this next post: MBA in Product Management Syllabus. Why? Because it’s got a Katrina Kaif reference in it.


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Sameer Kamat

About Sameer Kamat

Founder of MBA Crystal Ball | Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter @mba_cb | Facebook


6 Comments

  1. Ajay   |  Monday, 17 June 2013 at 6:32 pm

    It is indeed a nice article.
    Sameerji, I always look forward to your articles that more often than not provide momentous insights into current global trends. Keep publishing and will keep reading! :)

  2. Sreeram   |  Thursday, 18 July 2013 at 8:37 am

    I have currently switched from technical consultant role to a product management role. Much of what you said is true.
    There is a greater need for someone to own the product and completely manage its life cycle, releases, enhancements and tracking its growth over a period of time.

    But at the end of the day, it is an investment group, largely seen as a cost center to the company. Also, in tech industry there is still a clarity of definitions required between Product management and Project management since IT is purely a project driven industry.

    With intense competition, companies are more often looking into differentiating groups like Product management with 1 larger objective – to increase the Product’s market share.

    It is indeed an exciting role and the best factor is it is unbounded – work as you own the product.

    Cheers
    Sreeram

  3. Sameer Kamat   |  Sunday, 21 July 2013 at 1:02 pm

    @Ajay: Thanks for your encouraging words.

    @Sreeram: I appreciate your insights, buddy.

  4. rajesh   |  Wednesday, 02 April 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Hi Sameer,

    I am a Chemical Engineer working in a Pharmaceutical company in India.
    I works as program manager for a generic launch product and I would like to transform from a product management in manufacturing premises to product manager convering end to end managment of the product. Considering my background how is the scope in product management in Chemicals or Pharmceutical industries?

    Cheers,
    Rajesh

  5. Ranjan   |  Sunday, 06 April 2014 at 7:48 am

    Sameer,

    Insightful article as always.

    I realize that companies hire for the PM role from various backgrounds, but as an mba applicant, it would be helpful if you can highlight/mention if there are any programs which are more suited to a PM role compared to a general MBA.

  6. Sameer Kamat   |  Tuesday, 29 April 2014 at 6:57 pm

    @Rajesh: Instead of leading you on a wild-goose chase, I’ll admit that I am not too familiar with product management opportunities in the Pharma industry.

    @Ranjan: More than the programs, your exposure to a particular industry would help you gain a foothold in the same industry after graduation. Electives are there in MBA courses, but their utility is limited.

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