Product managers are one of the most sought-after jobs at just about any company, especially for newly minted MBA graduates. In this article, I’ll explain why that is the case, and pulling from my years of experience as a product manager, walk you through exactly what it is that they do.
What is it and why is it such a popular role?
The answer will vary depending on company size, type of product (physical hardware vs software), etc. I’ll touch on those differences later, but fundamentally, a product manager is the person responsible for the success of a particular product or product line. That’s what it boils down to. You’re measured on the financial success of a product. And whatever it takes to make a product successful, that’s what you do.
As you might imagine, there’s a lot that goes into the success of a product, but ordinarily a product manager is heavily focused on the business, and they’re examining various parts of the business like marketing, sales, supply chain, pricing, customers, and market data. And depending on the size of the company, there may be teams focused on all those functions, and it’s your job to influence and work with all of them to make a product successful.
Product Managers are the Quarterbacks
One analogy I like to make is that product managers are like quarterbacks in American football.
As a quarterback, you make the plays happen, and you work with your team to execute, and your team is made up of a lot of different roles. You’re not personally executing all those roles, you’re not the one catching passes, running with the ball, or blocking, but you influence how a play is executed and you have to be familiar enough with everyone’s role, to be an effective play caller.
So too, as a product manager, you have to be familiar enough with your various stakeholders in sales, marketing, pricing, supply chain, etc, to effectively launch a product, be successful with it, and take it to the end of its lifecycle.
All of what I described it what a product manager is at its core. But there are some differences based on company size and type of product:
- Small companies – Wear more hats, you’re more involved and hands on with certain groups, and you yourself might take on some of those other functions entirely, like engineering, or pricing
- Large companies – Fewer hats, more focus on running the business, working with other groups and being the connection point on delivering a strategy
- Physical products – You have to worry about supply chain, which is a whole ‘nother animal in and of itself
- Software – Don’t have to worry about supply chain, which is nice, and you have closer communication with customer and engineering for iterative planning and updates
At the end of the day though, you should be the expert on the business of your product and have a stake in making the product line successful.
Ideal Role for Recent MBA Grads?
Now why is this role so sought-after, especially for recent MBAs? If my description so far hasn’t implied it yet – the reason this role is so popular is because it applies almost everything you learn in your MBA program. Virtually every function of business is involved in this role to one degree or another.
For non-MBAs, it’s appealing for a similar reason. You get ownership of a product and a number, and it’s up to you to help deliver results. You get alot of practical business experience in doing so that can turn into doing the job more effectively, or transition into another role and be a good fit.
To top it all off, these roles tend to be well-paying because companies want to attract good talent for such an important role that requires the candidate to have strong business sense and be a great communicator across different functional groups.
At this point, hopefully you’re convinced that this may be a future role for you – it’s one I highly recommend everyone do at some point in their career as the experience you gain is invaluable.
Thanks for reading – I’ll see you around!