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Product managers are some of the best paid people in Silicon Valley, but what do they do exactly?
Exact salaries depend on the seniority, the industry and the experience level of the product manager.
But as a product manager you can expect to earn between $46,000 (as an associate) and $200,000 (as a director). The average salary of a product manager is $108,992, according to Glassdoor.
A product manager is responsible for product planning and execution throughout the product life cycle.
So what do we mean by product?
At a tech company like Google, for example, a product could be a software product like Gmail, YouTube, Chrome, StreetView or a piece of hardware like an android mobile device.
The role involves researching customer needs, defining product’s visions and ensuring customer satisfaction.
Product managers are responsible for expressing the value of your product to their team and explaining why its release would benefit the company.
At Google, the product management team works closely with engineers to guide products from conception to launch, and with business partners to generate profitable revenue streams.
Being a Product Manager
Product management demands competency in a wide range of disciplines including marketing, engineering, psychology, business and analytics.
You need to be a good leader as you’re responsible for leading a cross-functional team and ensuring that everyone is working towards the same goals.
Expect a Lot of Research
As a product manager, you’ll need to be able to collect data and draw conclusions from it. This includes market research, competitor analysis and customer research.
Experts have attributed research as the most important skill to bring to the job. You have to constantly research and bring new ideas forward to stay relevant in the industry.
Research is also key to out-doing competitors, finding their pain points and resolving them.
At a recent Start Me Up Career Kickstarter event, Senior Product Manager for Nike, Serge Bajic, recommended all aspiring product managers read Research Methods For Business: A Skill Building Approach.
A CEO With Less Risk
Product management is arguably the most similar role to a CEO there is within a company. This makes it a good pathway for career progression, offering you the best training you could get for running a company.
You’ll be exposed to similar challenges that you’d face running your own business, but with far less risk. You’ll be the CEO of the product, responsible for the strategy, road map and feature definition.
They’ll Be Variety
Life as a product manager is far from boring and great for the curious minded. If you think you’d get bored focusing on one domain all the time, this could be the job for you.
You’ll be coordinating with design, engineering and marketing teams to ensure the product is ready for release, its features are highlighted and it’s going to reach the right audience.
Talking to Customers
You’ll need to understand whether what you’re working on will be valuable to customers, and plan upcoming features based on their wants and needs.
A good product manager will have a backlog of product feature ideas ready for development. You’ll have to keep lists up to date by researching the current market to see if the potential product would likely be successful.
You’ll need to write comprehensive specifications to outline your products features and market it to the audience.
Data is crucial to making well-informed product decisions. You must be able to understand data and run analysis to determine different things – such as when a product should be put to market.
Excel is the platform used to run most data analysis. According to experts, a working knowledge of excel is one of the most important skills you need to be a good product manager. Excel is relatively easy to learn and a skill that can be transferred to other software too.
Summarising important information to be shared with stakeholders is another key responsibility of a product manager. You need to know what your team is up to, what new products are coming out and why they are valuable for the company.
It’s important to keep all stakeholders in the loop when decision making is involved. Documentation allows for the justification of decisions.
A Day in the Life of a Product Manager
Bajic described his day for us. He says you can expect between five and six hours of your working day to be taken up with communicative activities. This can include meetings, emails and slack communication.
You’ll be doing three to four hours of independent, productive work. This could include working on business cases, stories, analysing data, documentation, research and product discovery.
Such tasks will vary for every product manager, but you can expect to be responsible for the tasks outlined in the above section.
To get ahead and progress up the career ladder faster, many product managers will work extra hours. From waking up early to answer emails to responding to out of hours emergencies, there’s opportunities to show your commitment and make a good impression.
Product managers are bound by meetings, but other than that they have the freedom to structure their own days free from micromanagement.
Lots of Variety
A day in the life of a product manager will vary depending on what stage of the product development lifecycle their product is in. These consist of discovery, planning and execution.
But ultimately, the specifics of the role will also depend on the type, size and culture of the company.
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