You’re the creative sort. You enjoy making music with your friends, reading great novels, and even dabbling in a bit of writing yourself. Your technology skills are sharp, and your active imagination allows you to visualize new ways of thinking. You love to solve problems. It sounds like product management could be the perfect career for you.
Why is that? After all, at first blush, “product manager” sounds a bit staid and not all that creative. As we’re about to discover, nothing could be further from the truth.
Let’s explore what product management is, what a product manager does, and why a career in product management is like being the leader of the band.
What is Product Management?
A well-designed, executed, iterated, and marketed product seamlessly solves problems and enhances people’s lives. Product management encompasses every element of a product’s lifecycle.
To the end-user, a product arrives fully formed and functional. Unseen is the cross-functional team of talented professionals that bring it to life. At the head of that team is the product manager, coordinating every aspect, ensuring user needs are met, and shepherding a product from idea to fruition.
The Mind, Heart, and Soul of a Product Manager
A product manager is where all roads meet.
A great product team is like a fine symphony orchestra. Each player (team member) brings their talent, expertise, and passion to the collective effort of delighting an audience with inspiring music (the product). At the center of the ensemble, standing assuredly between the orchestra and the audience is the maestro.
A great product manager is the maestro of product development. They are the creative masters of imagination, integration, analysis, and leadership. Like leading an orchestra, a product manager’s genius doesn’t necessarily lie in one specific aspect of a project but in the big picture. If not a virtuoso violin player, a conductor knows the fingerboard, how it should sound, and how it blends with all the other instruments.
Product management is not a solo effort but a singular one. They are the nexus between concept and customer, linking all the elements necessary for bringing a product to life. Product managers encapsulate the heart, mind, and soul of their teams and the users whose lives are made better, safer, or more convenient by the products they help build.
Characteristics and Skills of a Great Product Manager
With the broad outlines already discussed, what are some specific traits and characteristics that drive a great product manager? Let’s drill down into some of the essentials.
Who is the most important person on the team? It’s the customer. Of course, the end-user isn’t officially on the product team, but from a product manager’s perspective, they inform what everyone on the team does. A project is not about the genius of an idea but what that idea can do to fill customer needs and desires. Product managers must know their customers, industries, and markets inside out.
But the customer comes first. A product manager’s first focus is on the person using the product.
Like an orchestra conductor, without her players, a product manager is just wildly waving her arms, accomplishing nothing. A compelling product idea requires the right team to build it, and team-building is a critical skill in product management.
Teams, in a sense, are products in themselves, a cohesive whole comprised of individual parts. Crucially, product managers understand these “parts” as people and employ excellent leadership traits, including empathy and collaboration.
Sees the Forest for the Trees
Product managers are strategic, big-picture thinkers. They sustain a product’s vision through its many parts and processes. Crucially, they employ empathy with their teams and, most significantly, with their customers. They gather all pertinent information, analyzing how each element impacts the overall project and its lifecycle. With their broad vision, they foresee potential challenges and respond intuitively to solve problems and adjust to unanticipated circumstances.
Product management is a curious profession because its practitioners are curious by nature. Their curiosity motivates a desire to learn new things continually, new ways of thinking, and how it all fits together.
Merrimack College Product Management Masters and Graduate Certificate Programs
If product management isn’t a career path you’ve yet considered, this short article hopefully has you thinking differently. Alternately, perhaps you’ve worked on a product team and considering your next career move. In either case, Merrimack College’s top-rated Master’s or Graduate Certificate programs help you put your best foot forward.
The 33-credit master’s program features a curriculum allowing professionals to leverage their skills and experience into the most exciting and challenging product development leadership roles.
Courses focus on the following subjects:
- New product development and the principles of product realization
- Developing product specifications
- Marketing and business analytics
- Negotiation and conflict resolution
- Organizational leadership and decision-making
- Foundations of data management, statistical analysis, and data visualization
- Data governance, law, and ethics
In addition to the core curriculum, students choose between three concentration electives, including:
- Life Sciences
- Complex Technology
Product Management Foundations Graduate Certificates
If you’re ready to apply your creative, business, and STEM skills to a career in product management, the Product Management Foundations Graduate certificates are the perfect place to start. The graduate certificates enable students to move directly into their product management careers with the pertinent skills top industries seek. Each certificate focuses on either life sciences, software/web/mobile, or complex technologies. Credits are fully transferable to graduate programs.
Additionally, all graduate students benefit from Merrimack’s Career Resources, including the Graduate Cooperative Education/Internship program, Student Immersion program, and Career and Professional Development resources. If you’re ready to engage all you senses, talents, and skills to lead exceptional teams making great products, then product management is the career path you definitely want to take!