Product Managers discover that getting everyone pulling together towards the same destination is rarely explicitly stated as a need, yet it constitutes part of the secret formula that makes their efforts succeed. And that neither the individual team members nor the functional leaders are fully focused on it. It falls to the Product Manager to fulfill a responsibility shouldered by nobody else, the same way it falls to the CEO to align work across independent functions. By realizing that something similar applies to projects you work on, you, too, can step up and play a vital role in aligning the activities of your teammates.
And this will be noticed, not only by your peers but also by leadership. It can lead to you moving up in the organization. Part of the struggle with moving up is moving into management, so that you can start working your way up the management track. You could look upon such a position from a traditional perspective like worker bee. Or you could think of it in a more modern way as an individual contributor. The Product Manager, despite that Manager in the title, is an individual contributor, and has to make the most of that role.
While acting as individual contributors, Product Managers are thrown right into the thick of management discussions, because of how their work gets them deeply involved in strategy. Strategy work often involves coordination of goals and processes across multiple functions, which means dealing with those functions from a higher, top-down perspective — in other words, thinking like a manager. You could call this role one of being an individual supercontributor. In your own individual contributor job, reach out to your manager and across functions to see how you can become a supercontributor, acting very consciously with a more comprehensive management mindset to broaden the scope of your individual contribution to the company goals.
Leadership is less about traditional top-down, directive managing and more about defining goals and motivating and encouraging performance toward those goals. This makes it possible to adopt a leader mindset without being a manager per se.
What is product management?
You can increase your career momentum by expanding your role to that of supercontributor, which blends into the leadership end of the continuum, as a stepping-stone to a formal leadership role and the management track. At any given company, the Product Manager role can be maddeningly non-standard, even undefined. From your previous jobs at other companies, you bring a mental list of product management responsibilities to your new employer, only to find many of those items are not expected or even understood. This pushes Product Managers, through no virtue of their own really, to look to best practices that ensure their efforts cover the full depth and breadth of what they should be doing.
This is a situation where it is helpful to define and structure your role by adopting a framework. A framework is basically a compilation of the required major components of your job, and within each component the efforts or tasks needed to fulfill it. The framework aims to identify all the pieces of your job which need to be successfully completed in order to do your job right, according to the best practices of your industry and other industries as applicable.
For example, a framework for product management might include Product Strategy, Product Development, and Market Success, where:. In this example, the major components are like the three legs of a stool which together support a successful product management effort.
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For your own job, adopt a framework to give it the full definition and structure it needs. If your company already has a framework it uses, make sure you fully adopt it.
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If the framework is non-existent or lacking, create your own structure by combining the best practices you can learn about over the internet. The framework becomes the list of responsibilities for which your contribution is crucial.
Log in to Mind the Product
You can tailor this framework to your exact job. Just remember to think big: if you could wave a magic wand, what are the things that are critical to succeeding at your job — including those things that nobody is asking you to do, but are necessary? Use the framework to make sure that you complete all the tasks that, combined together, make for great results at your job. It provides incredible clarity on what you should focus on, and also leads to greater actual personal growth. The last factor I would say that I have personally used is not to care too much about the domain of the company.
The Product Manager Career Path: What does it look like?
Despite my initial concerns about working on ads, I found that AdWords was a spectacular team to work on, mainly because it had great people. In most cases what brings day-to-day enjoyment and growth are the people you surround yourself with and how well your company is growing. You mention the importance of becoming a PM. Tell us about why this is so critical. There are three essential senses that a PM should possess:. It turns out that human beings are not built in a way that they can be great at all three simultaneously without putting in any work.
What is more typical of really good PMs is that they have a natural bias towards one of these senses. Once you've done that, you also need to focus on the other two senses that may not come as naturally to you. And you need to be at least in the top half in one of them, and in the top third in another one. Another point I called out in my presentation is that product management is one of the very few domains in which you cannot merely focus on your strengths.
You also need to work on minimizing your weaknesses. In my own personal case, I was naturally very strong on product sense and extremely weak on execution.
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To improve upon this weakness, I put myself in uncomfortable situations, working on many complex projects that required me to be organized, to communicate to a greater degree than I normally would, and to orchestrate large teams towards meeting particular objectives. Were you ever worried about focusing on your weaknesses so much that you would actually stunt your career? Not really. I think you do need to have the confidence in your ability to learn and in your ability to deal with unfamiliar situations.
I think given enough effort there is a clear path towards being able to improve each of these senses. Many will bring in experienced product leaders from across the globe in order to drive digital transformation and build capability in their local teams.
Tech startups are great places to experiment and learn on the job, but you may not get a lot of guidance or coaching. Before you join such a business, ask a few people about the organisational culture set by the founders. In particular, I would advise you to be cautious of those startups founded by private equity firms or ex bankers that simply clone a successful business models from another part of the world. In most cases they are optimised for growth in order to exit rather than the creation of long-term customer or business value. Because experienced digital teams are in short supply there are a number of c onsulting firms and digital agencies operating in Asia, such as BCG Digital Ventures, McKinsey Digital and Accenture.
How to Further Your Product Management Career in Asia
These are amazing places to learn and hone your skills but they are usually only engaged by a client for a limited period of time. As a product manager, at some stage you will actually want to grow a product over the longer term. Good luck with pursuing a product management career in Asia, whatever the location and type of business you choose. Local ProductTanks are a good way to find about the state of product in your chosen location and what the people in local businesses are like. Headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the company operates the JobStreet and JobsDB brands helping hundreds of millions of job seekers in seven markets across Asia to find employment and pursue their passion.
So where are the product manager jobs in Asia and what are they like?