11 Commandments of a Product Manager: Salary, Startups, and the Life of a PMAnyone who has taken courses on product management is likely to have numerous questions about how to enter the market, find a team, and how the job interview process works. Thus, we have compiled a small guide with some basic principles that will help you get started in your Product journey.
1. You can complete a million PM courses, but still remain a theorist at the end of it all. In order to switch over to practical application and start making money with your knowledge, you need to know a few secrets.
So, you and your team make the necessary preparations and then enter the market with one of the company’s products:
● You create a website and purchase ads on Facebook (although you will most likely lose money on the marketing, but gain valuable experience in the process). This strategy will boost your skills as a PM and help you learn how to make the right decisions.
● Next, you need to find a Senior Product Manager in the company and ask him/her to assign you a task, so that you can help him/her and boost your skills at the same time. After you help the PM for 3-6 months, you can then consider yourself a Junior Product Manager.
Many novice PMs hone their skills on the GoPractice stimulator. This is a tool that simulates how a fictional grocery company runs its business. It’s a sort of Sims game, but for work. The simulator helps you to boost your analytical skills, but in order to learn how to read real users’ feelings towards a product, you will need to work in a real company.
Naturally, every new PM wonders where it will be better to work first: in a large business or in a small company. The former option is for experienced product managers who still have a lot to learn in practice. Over time, this type of work can often become boring and some product managers switch over to working in startups.
2. In many professions, development in a single specific area can be fundamentally important, but the PM is lucky in this regard: while working in many different fields, the PM develops an important skill – how to understand a new field in just a few months and create a high-quality product as a result.
But a PM can experience difficulties if he or she has worked ‘offline’ for an extended period of time, and then decides to try his/her luck in the Digital sector. Completely different toolkits are used to create and promote online products. In order to quickly understand the online sector, the PM will need to completely immerse him/herself in it and delve into all the nooks and crannies of the online world.
3. It is just as important for the company’s leadership that the new Product Manager passes the trial period and adapts as quickly as possible, as it is for the PM him/herself, especially if this process is listed as one of the goals in the company’s metrics. Even more so if the company is a startup. It can be difficult for a novice, since he/she will be constantly bombarded with tasks that are not directly related to his/her primary responsibilities, and at the end of the trial period it can quite easily turn out that the novice PM didn’t have enough skills for the full-fledged position. If a Junior PM has a mentor, then the team doesn’t need to expect to be led completely by a novice. However, a good product manager needs to show plenty of initiative, especially in a Junior position.
4. A PM must be able to feel when a product needs to be ‘let go’ and transferred over to support. For example, Mikhail Karpov came across just such a moment when he was involved in the Yandex.Job project. He realized that the product’s days and his life as a PM are actually two different paths.
The PM is not tied to the product for life. The PM must prepare the company for the fact that one day, he/she will want to change the product or shut it down altogether.
The first alarm bell that should sound when a product needs to be switched over to support is when you realize that you are doing way too much to bolster or improve the product, but the metrics are at a standstill, regardless of your efforts. You will start to see that you are constantly busy with some small and unimportant tasks while you could be bringing the company much more benefit with your time.
Of course, only a completed and relatively mature product should to be switched over to support; one that went through all the initial stages of user interaction. This pivotal moment usually comes after around three years of a product’s life. At the same time, a startup ceases to be considered one after about a year post-launch. When you start looking for people that will take the product off your hands and support it, you will most likely encounter difficulties as well. First of all, the process in and of itself will be a pity to go through. And secondly, it will be necessary to prove that the product has run its course and that the people taking it over won’t need to put in a lot of time and effort into its support. That is, you will need to prove that it won’t distract them from working on their current, awesome projects. Or you can always support it yourself and start developing a new one.
5. From time to time, beginners have a ‘fountain’ of ideas: when they want to cram some kind of ‘cool’ technology into a new product. This usually happens to former developers or those who have failed to realize their potential in past projects.
The client doesn’t need this ‘cool’ technology - the PM just wants to satiate their own ego with its implementation. All the user needs is a solution to his problem..
6. The Product Manager, like other positions, has its own prospective career paths. You can become a Senior Product Manager, or maybe a CPO and work with a team of other PMs, or you can switch over to your own startup and become CEO.
There is a frequently asked question regarding the hiring process for the Product Manager position: How many stages does the job interview have? For example, in some teams, this usually consists of two or three interviews of about 50 minutes each. The first interview is conducted by a Senior Product Manager. The second interview consists of completing some sort practical task, such as an analysis of a particular product feature. This stage can be moderated by several people from the product team. The third interview is a one-on-one interview with CEO.
That helps to evaluate the communication speed, and how the answers are structured by the candidate. How long the candidate takes to make decisions. Naturally, soft skills and other relevant competencies are evaluated at the interview as well.
7. The Product Manager must understand that not all of his/her ideas will be welcomed by the target audience.
Even Facebook, after launching its new feed algorithm, has lost a lot of its audience and continues to lose its user base because of it. There was a lot of negative criticism when it was launched, but the company didn’t drop the feature because due to the new algorithm, the people who stayed brought in more revenue than those who left.
8. Different stages of the product’s life call for the manager to develop a different schedule for solving various problems; when some objectives take priority over others, and at some point, the priorities switch places.
If the sprint is set to a weekly basis, then on Monday you need to formulate a plan with the team. On Tuesday, check the tasks that shouldn’t be stuck on idle. And on Friday, hold another meeting with the team, where they will discuss what they managed to accomplish during the week.
9. Sometimes a PM receives a task that belongs to a field in which there really is no real way to approach it from a product perspective. In such cases, it can be useful to ask the company’s leadership to bring in product managers from other companies who will share their experience on the matter from the task’s very beginning. If a new product requires resources that the company may not necessarily have, it’s best not to look for yourself but rather to transfer this over to HR.
10. The PM must understand that when running a product-service and a product-tool, you don’t need to reinvent the bicycle: the stages are the same, the metrics are the same, because first and foremost, we work with people.
11. Another delicate topic that comes up over the course of the PM’s career is the increase in salary. The timing and the way this topic is discussed should be based on the particular principles of the company. At some companies, this is evaluated once a year, and at others, two or three times a year - in any case, you need to show some tenacity and initiative in the matter. And it’s also worth noting that negotiations for a promotion are best held at the end or beginning of the year and shortly after successful releases. Another good time is after someone decides that they want to leave the team, and they want to transfer part of their tasks over to you.
Feel free to use this handy little work guide to find a good team and create interesting products.