I’ve seen most tech career paths lead to product management. Few product managers rise above the rest where you know that person is going to be amazing. All of these individuals have had the following qualities.
Product management soft skills require you to be the thought leader of the organization. Empathy for your users and your stakeholders allow the best product managers to be able to synthesize individual needs and prioritize the correct initiatives to move the team and organization forward. The born leader is most likely going to be running the show in a few short years. Whether it is a startup or sitting on the c-suite they have their eyes on the next level and need the soft skills to understand the end user and the organizational needs. Vision for the product is strong. Strong product leaders have in their mind where their team will be in 6 months and which metrics their team will be achieving.
It’s a given to understand the technology being built and can have a serious conversation about the tradeoffs – a great product manager is able to measure the success of the piece of technology has added to the organization. New product managers often get caught up with releasing one feature set and move on to the next release. This maybe somewhat fine for the junior PM but it won’t get you far in your career. Understand why something is performing well. Communicate results to the broader team and have action items from the data will set you apart. Put these % increases you’ve directly impacted on your resume, throw it into conversation with the people around you. Great product managers can communicate how they’ve made an impact and prove it through data. Be results oriented rather than feature oriented.
Creative Thought Leader.
I push my teams to build towards building beautiful products that are easy to use. Great user experiences come from watching how people use and response to your product. Be open to learning and then adapting to the needs of your users. It will increase conversion, user delight and usually the UX will grow with you long term. Work with your team to have clean UX, watch user tests to understand patterns, and clear up confusion. There is an art form of mixing data with great design. Having a great design partner who understands this as critical as a tech lead.
Product Management is a team sport. It will always be a team sport whether your tiny team (product lead + founder) or a large organization where your PM skills are focused. To be successful, you have the vision and drive for the future of the business. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable, suggest a new idea, dig deep into data you have or understand the data you need. Find a community of other in your space that can share their experiences to push your knowledge gaps to the next level. Need that person? Reach out to me! I’m more than happy to bounce ideas around and help you push your product to the next level!