Keith Cowing

Keith Cowing

Product guy. Entrepreneur.
Career advisor. Read bio

What skills do you need to become a product manager?

August 29, 2017

juggling

People frequently ask what it takes to become a successful product manager. I tell them all the same thing. To start with, you need a basic level of skill across a wide range of topics.

  • Engineering
  • Design
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Data and analytics
  • Strategy and prioritization
  • Communications and leadership

Then, to become world-class you need to build superstar skills in one or two areas. These one or two areas will be highly dependent on your personal interests, your natural-born skills, and your experience.

As you invest in your superstar skills, it becomes increasingly important to find a product, a market, and a company where flexing those specific muscles pays outsized dividends. Each company is politically driven by a different function and it’s important to keep that in mind. At Apple, for example, design and marketing run the show. At Facebook and Google, engineering drives everything. At Salesforce, it’s all about talking to customers. As you grow in seniority, it becomes more and more critical to be the right PM for the job. The top PM at Instagram might completely fail at Amazon Web Services and vice versa.

So build the base skills then carefully select areas where you want to develop your personal edge. For more on this topic check out A product manager’s list of things to read, watch, and listen to.

 

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