The makings of a Product Manager.

Put simply, product management is about creating an experience for customers and users. Exceptional product management is when that experience is so rewarding for the customer it influences their behaviours (think Uber), it solves problems that they didn’t even know they had (like Dropbox did) and they become die hard advocates for the product (à la Apple).

In an increasingly competitive landscape, brands and organisations that support a product-led strategy and invite Product Managers to the boardroom table will stand out. Customers have choice, and they expect to be heard.

Perhaps that’s why LinkedIn cited Product Management as one of the top 15 emerging roles worldwide in 2020.

There’s product managers and then there’s stand outs. Taurean Butler, Innovation Advisor at Tech Futures Lab notes 5 key qualities to becoming an exceptional product manager.

1. You’re analytical and creative. A must for great product management is the ability to be creative and metric driven. You will love to set clear goals and measurable tests that allow you to evaluate the decisions you’re making and the features you've added. It requires digging into the data, identifying the drivers and creating a picture of where to next.

2. You don’t have to be right, you do have to be adventurous. Successful product managers are open to change and are willing to pivot and iterate. No matter what you’re building, you never really know how people are going to respond until you put it into their hands. In a competitive market, the key is to adapt and change to solve the problems your users are having. So you’re constantly testing your hypothesis, and iterating the product to determine the right path forward, the right market fit, and whether it's solving the right user need.

3. You need to speak a lot of languages. From department to department, there’s often a coded language people use that can mystify their objectives. A motivating product manager knows how to relate and translate across all these different business units so they can sing the same song. Whenever you build a product you learn a lot - from an engineering perspective, from a legal viewpoint, or a design requirement. All these varied inputs require some level of deep dive knowledge that spans business acumen, customer empathy and technical understanding. Having an openness to keep learning from and conducting sometimes discordant players is important.

4. You’re for both now and the future. Being a product manager is like drilling the screws in on the train track while at the same time, convincing everyone else to build a spaceship. You need to be able to understand the details of what you’re currently building and why, so you can motivate and work with your team on the current development path all the while you’re convincing the leadership team and investors on the dream of what’s next. You need to have empathy and enough knowledge to work with a wide range of stakeholders - from engineers, to designers, to marketers, to the boardroom, to the shareholders. And most importantly, for your customers.

5. You’re a champion of the customer. This is the big one, because ultimately the customer is core to the success of your product. Everyday you’re thinking about how to design your product to give great value, fulfill needs, solve problems and facilitate actions your customers want. You’ve got your ear to the ground on customer needs, you’re constantly thinking about how to build something that’s a delightful thing, that’s easy to use and brings people back.

Make no mistake, this is a role that requires energy and passion. You need spades of empathy, to be able to listen and spot pain points for users at the same time managing and tending to business stakeholders.

But the reward is great - you’re able to be more nimble and more confident in your decisions.

If you identify with these qualities and you have a desire to create products, and services that will truly add value to both customer and company, start your journey today.

Tech Futures Lab offers a short 5 week intensive Learning Sprint in Product Management

that will equip you with the methodologies and fundamentals to become that exceptional product manager.


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Tech Futures Lab is an education facility of The Mind Lab, a NZQA registered Tertiary Education Organisation under the provisions of the Education Act 1989. Candidates who are studying on a programme delivered by Tech Futures Lab are enrolled with The Mind Lab.

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