‘Just get out there and make products’ is bad advice, and here’s why

2019-02-08 // Career and development // Product Management //

Are you the kind of person who has significant financial means, or who enjoys working long hours to the detriment of your family, physical health, mental health, or social life? If so, this post, “Want to be a Product Manager? Just get out There and Make Products”, on the Mind The Product blog is for you.

If you’re not, then join the club! I don’t believe that becoming a Product Manager, or any kind of knowledge worker, is dependent on those privileges. Like anything, yes, it’s more difficult if you don’t have those advantages, but it’s by no means impossible.

Here are some thoughts on the same question posed in the MTP post; “How can I break into Product Management?”.

  • If you aren’t having success breaking into Product Management just yet, look at overlapping/complimentary roles. Business analysis, project management, product owner etc roles are all fantastic routes into Product. You’ll build essential skills and experience. If you can do that on a team that has a wonderful Product Manager, all the better!
  • Already a knowledge worker? Work to broaden or develop the skills that your current role uses. There are a million articles out there on the skills that great PMs demonstrate.. be honest with yourself and put together a development plan. PM “Responsibilities” by John Cutler isn’t a bad place to start.
  • Being a great PM isn’t just about building shit. It’s about understanding problems and solving them in valuable ways. Finding ways to flex those muscles in your job, whatever you do, is the key. For example, mastering problem solving techniques. Demonstrating that experience when Product Manager job opportunities come around is great.
  • Online communities. Jump in and out as you wish. They’re asynchronous and don’t place excessive demands your time. Join conversations, lurk, build a network.
  • Build a CV/résumé/portfolio that demonstrates how purposefully you’ve approached this. Highlight the skills you’ve built and the outcomes you’ve helped facilitate. Big yourself up. All of my experience before Zendesk was outside of Product Management, so I take the time to highlight the applicable skills and achievements from those roles.

What other routes into Product do you know for people early in their careers or looking for a change in direction? Share your thoughts with me on Twitter.