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How to get an entry-level Product Management job?

Role Basics: What is Product Management?

Product managers sit between engineering and marketing teams. They’re responsible for understanding what users need prioritizing what features to build. 

Example projects in Product Management:

  • Understand customer needs 
  • Create a new product (or feature) that solves a specific user problem

Common activities in Product Management:

Product Management metrics: 

  • Growth. Daily, Weekly and/or Monthly Active Users. 
  • Engagement. The ratio between Daily/Weekly and Monthly Active Users.
  • Referral. Referrals per customer. 
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS).

Product Management compensation: 

Entry jobs pay $80-120K. (Though you can’t get them without prior work experience, unless you land a coveted Associated Product Manager role at Google or a similar company.)

Product Management career path: 

Great career. Product is one of the most important roles in many companies, so product leaders grow to lead larger product teams, business units and entire companies.

How accessible are Product Management jobs?

  • Time to learn. Product roles require 2+ years prior experience, and skills that take 500+ hours to master. 
  • Selectivity. Very selective. High-status education and job is very helpful, or exceptional performance at related roles like engineering, design or marketing. 
  • Ease of working remote. Depends on company culture and structure. If the engineering team is all-remote, the product manager can more easily be remote. 

Job Requirements: What you need to be competitive for product management roles?

Key skills for Product Management:

  • Understand key technology and design concepts
  • Wireframing in Figma (or similar tools)
  • Managing agile / Scrum ceremonies (Product Standup, Backlog Grooming, Sprint Planning, Sprint Retrospective) 
  • Managing Agile / Scrum artifacts (PRDs, Product Roadmap, Sprint Backlog, User Stories)
  • Familiarity with common project management tools (Trello, Asana, Jira)
  • Designing and implementing MVPs
  • A/B testing
  • Data infrastructure
  • SQL and data analysis
  • Spreadsheet modeling 
  • Unit economic analysis
  • Cohort and retention analysis
  • Customer and user interview
  • Writing 
  • Verbal communication and presenting 

Professional background for Product Management:

The most common paths to product management are Product Marketing, Engineering, Design, and Project Management. Product managers can have a wide range of background but need to excel. 

Prior accomplishments to be competitive for Product Management:

  • (Side project) Created a project from scratch, starting with a user problem, brainstorming features, developing and implementing an MVP, building the product, and distributing it to reach actual users. 
  • (Engineer) Working with a PM to implement, test and improve a set of growth features that increased signup 50% (new signup flow), monthly retention 15% (transactional notifications), and conversion to paid account 30% (paywall implementation)

Personal characteristics for success in Product Management:

Data oriented, good sense of design, focused on user need.

How to prepare for and get a job in Product Management? 

Projects to learn and prove yourself: 

  • Learn how to use Figma for wireframes
  • Develop a business MVP
    • Identify a problem you could build a solution for yourself (focus on a problem you have, someone you know has — and if you need ideas, look at the problems that Y Combinator companies are trying to solve and see which ones you could build an MVP for)
    • Create a business model canvas
    • Draft a landing page explaining what it is 
    • Conduct customer development — outreach, problem validation, customer validation
    • If you can find someone willing to pay for a product or service you’d could deliver, create a prototype of it using your time and off-the-shelf tech tools
  • Create a product roadmap
  • Create a product backlog
  • Learn agile process
  • Write a PRD 
  • Prioritize a product backlog
  • Project manage a project for a small business, club, nonprofit or political campaign
  • Take responsibility for redesigning a website for a small business, club, nonprofit or political campaign
  • Build a niche product and acquire 1,000 users for it — either by teaching yourself to code, or by using no-code tools
  • Create a low-fi prototype for a product
  • Create a high-fi prototype for a product
  • Conduct usability testing
  • Write the engineering tickets for your PRD
  • Design user flows for a startup you like
  • Learn to use SQL 
  • Learn to use common a/b testing tools and frameworks
  • Analyze a company’s acquisition cost, retention, and LTV by channel to help them identify where to invest
  • Do cohort analysis for a recurring revenue business

Key Product Management concepts and resources:

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