This simple question has no easy answer. People come to product management from a host of backgrounds. Here are a few things to consider:
- Most employers expect PM candidates to have experience. This creates a “chicken and egg” impasse as those wishing to become PMs have trouble getting hired to get the experience the market desires.
- The most common path we’ve seen is transitioning from a non-PM role, e.g., engineering, marketing, to a PM role within a company that has a spontaneous need
- Very few PMs are hired right out of college although it’s not unheard of (most we’ve seen have MBAs)
- There seem to be a massive number of people trying to break into product management (perhaps at a 20:1 ratio to practicing PMs). This makes getting that first gig even more challenging.
How you become a PM often depends on your current/previous experience. Over time, we’ll address more and more “paths” into product management (check back for new “Related Questions” in this FAQ).
Here are some tips that can help you learn about PM and build your network to increase your chances of landing a PM job:
- Get training in tech product management. A good course will give you an end-to-end perspective and help you identify your weak points.
- Study and/or take training on Agile (a set of software development values/principles). You should also learn about Scrum (an Agile framework).
- If you work in a firm that has a product management function, let your leadership and PM leadership know that you’re interested in exploring PM.
- Network with PMs both inside your company and at events like meet-ups. Ask them questions about the work they do and the organizations they work for.
- “PM” your own product idea, even if you don’t plan to take it to market. Read about “product discovery” and generate artifacts like a Lean Canvas and product roadmap. It will give you practical insight into important aspects of PM and may provide you with artifacts you can share with prospective employers.
If you’d like help landing your first tech PM gig, check out what career.pm has to offer.