Careers in Product Management

Product Management is one of those all-encompassing yet somewhat difficult to pin down management roles that not only varies between industries, products, but also company size. The word gets thrown around with other popular job roles like project management, product ownership and even mini-CEO.

Ultimately, product management involves not only creating products and brands, but also ensuring their success and longevity. A product manager is probably closest to being a product ‘CEO’ with the product responsibilities but without as much influence.

Product Managers are not as much responsible for the day to day aspects of product development like a Project Manager would be. Rather they are responsible for the overall strategy and development plan which form the framework of the day to day business of product development as well as a continuous improvement plan based on customer feedback.

How do they achieve these expectations? Through managing the following areas:

– Market Research to get an insight of what the user wants, what the competition is like and how the product is going to gain a footing and edge.

– Build a Business Strategy to implement the lessons from the research and aligning them with the corporate strategy for a great user experience.

– Plan a product development roadmap mapping its life cycle from design to a satisfactory delivery to the customers.

– Be involved in feedback and user driven data for analytics and continuous improvements.

In short, a product manager is an “advocate for an optimum version of the product(service)” driven by customer expectations, throughout its journey from inception to the sale invoice and beyond. This article on a typical day in the life of a Product Manager sheds light on what PM’s do on a daily basis.
 

Why choose a career in Product Management?

Product Management helps you bring together your skills and learnings from your teams to yield a great product (Product Manager Job Description). And while it can be a lucrative job role with many experienced senior professionals eyeing it for obvious reasons, there are these other boons that ensure that your possibilities can open up further.
 

Easy to switch

Professional burn out is a reality. After a few years of working in specific job roles, you may find yourself yearning for a career switch. But such desires can come with a cost of time and money associated with usually a degree or something equivalent.

Most product managers arrive as a career path switch from their previous roles as engineers, managers, tech jobs, or something even quite unrelated fields like the liberal arts.

Although specific MBA programs can help catapult your career in product management if years worth of real world experience is somewhat lacking.
 

Build on soft skills

Product Manager plays negotiator, communicator, leader, mediator, and essentially the popular coach who “gets” his team and can identify the weak and strong links.

He is motivated and has the ability to align the various cross-functional stakeholders to the priority – a common vision of a timely delivered optimum version of the product that the users desire.

Interpersonal relationships, conflict resolution, collaborative approach, strategic thinking, listening, speaking, writing, and all other communicative expressions are his strengths.
 

Flexibility

It is a versatile job role in demand in virtually any kind of corporation. Though the gritty details may vary, the skills one develops in one industry can be translated into another.

The virtues of the job role are in its management skills as mentioned before and not so much on the core technical aspects of the product. This clears the path for various options starting from what industry, type of company, or product he may want to switch to in the future.
 

Ultimate learning experience

The cross functional/discipline interaction for product development, strategic vision, and problem-solving abilities can really add to their knowledge value.

This means anyone who is looking to start their own company gets the advantage of learning how various functions work together and how aligning user experience and corporate vision is an integral part of the product development life cycle and the key to success of an organization.
 

Salaries and career growth in Product Management

 

Listed among the top five job titles in USA in 2020, by Glassdoor, job growth (over 12k job openings in 2020), increasing trends in salaries (median at $118k), and high job satisfaction (3.9/5), are the leading reasons for its popularity. Many veteran PMs cite that one of the most rewarding features of the job is the satisfaction of the end user.

Product Manager salaries tend to depend a lot on the industry, company, and location. Here’s a look at some of the typical salaries for product managers in various popular locations around the world.
 

Location Salary Range (Approx.)
London (UK) $52,000 – $170,000
San Francisco (USA) $100,000 – $250,000
New York (USA) $90,000 – $200,000
Toronto (Canada) $70,000 – $112,000
France $60,000 – $95,000

Source: Hired.com
 

In India, the average salary for a Product Manager is about INR 17 lakhs a year which translates to about $22k in recent exchange rates, a competitive salary for mid-level professionals. And according to research, their demand has jumped by 32% from 2017 to 2019.

Push in eCommerce PM roles, increase in digital financial services led by banks etc. and even the service sector, have managed to propel its demand for now and even more in the future. In comparison to PM job growth, Software Engineering jobs have increased by 21% in the same period.
 

How to become a Product Manager?

 

Product Managers have to wear the hat of Jack with a wide knowledge of pretty much all the trade areas involved in product development and improvement. This has been established well in the previous sections.

And while a lot of the skills of a PM are inherent to the individual – communication, problem solving acumen, negotiation, story telling, etc – a lot more needs to be honed for the technical aspects of the job.

Data analysis, operations management, strategy management, market research, marketing and sales, brand management, and other analytical tools can be essential knowledge (Syllabus for MBA in Product Management).
 

Most of the top business schools have a healthy sprinkling of relevant courses for product management. And a lot of their alumni have managed to build successful careers in PM roles for various domains, from technology to finance.

Below is a non-ranking based list of top schools with a good turnout in product management.
 

Business School Product Management Employment Statistics Product Management courses
NYU Stern 3.8% in PM roles

$125,000 average salary

Digital Marketing Fundamentals, High-Tech Products, Marketing Metrics, Strategy in Technology, Customer Centric Digital Entrepreneurship, Advertising, Brand Strategy, Consumer Behaviour, Data Mining and Business Analytics, and more
Carnegie Mellon Tepper 8.8% in PM roles

$7,000 average base monthly salary

Management of Innovation and Product Development Track with courses on Market Research, New Product Management, Organizational Behaviour and Influence, Negotiations, Corporate Finance and more
Harvard Business School 6% in Strategic Planning roles

$135,000 median salary

Technology and Operations Management, Marketing, Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development course
MIT Sloan 11.9% in PM roles

$138,000 average salary

Enterprise Management Track with courses in Marketing Innovation, Competitive Strategy, and more to be successful in Product Development and Innovation Management roles
Berkeley Haas 20% in Marketing roles to become PM and Brand Managers

$132,000 average base salary

Marketing Research, Product Management, Pricing, Brand Management, Marketing Analytics, and more.

Product Management Executive Program offers quick training for professionals looking to move into PM roles

UCLA Anderson 11% in PM roles

$131,000 average base salary

PM as part of Brand Management and Marketing Analytics specializations
University of Texas, at Austin, McCombs School of Business 9.4% in PM roles

$126,000 average base salary

Brand and Product Management Concentration with courses in Market Analysis, Strategy, Data Mining for Business Intelligence, Consumer Behaviour, Connecting with Consumers in a Digital World, New Product Development and more
Northwestern Kellogg 13% in PM, Brand Management and General Marketing

$125,000 average base salary

Marketing Specialization with courses in Marketing Research and Analytics, Customer Analytics, Consumer Behaviour, Pricing, Launching New Products and Services, Strategic Brand Management and more
Michigan Ross 11.8% in PM roles

$115,500 average base salary

Integrated Product Development, Market Research, Consumer Behaviour, Brand Management, Customer Experience Value Creation, Marketing Analytics, and more
Stanford GSB 10%

$145,000

Courses under Marketing specialization and more

 

Other schools like Purdue Krannert, Michigan State University Eli Broad, Ohio State University Fisher College, University of Pennsylvania Wharton, have good PM training programs as well.

For more insight, you can check out our article on best MBA and Masters Programs in Product Management.
 
A lot of seasoned professionals gain these specialized hard skills over their years of work. They usually land their first PM job within their current organization through volunteer projects aligned with the role.

But targeted business programs like MBA can really help to build knowledge in these areas. This former IT/Software Engineer talks about how he changed his career to Product Management.

Besides the program structures themselves clear the pathway for managing strict deadlines, team work with peers, networking, and problem solving in a collaborative capacity.
 

These cover the basics for pursuing a career in Product Management. Do you see yourself wearing a PM hat? If you do, check out these articles on the topic in our PM archive (More on MBA jobs here).

And if you need any professional help to get into the top business schools for product management jobs, you can come knocking on our virtual door here: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com
 
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5