Experienced product managers share several key skills like being good listeners and understanding technical concepts. On top of these, they must shine at specific “vocations”. In the course of a typical day they may practice any number of these. As the years go by they either become competent at all of them or pursue a different career.
- Technician: In a perfect world the products you build work flawlessly and customers are always happy. Our world is far from perfect though. Troubleshooting skills are essential for figuring out what went wrong and improving the product. Being able to come up with quick (and correct) solutions is invaluable. Product Management pros identify solutions that minimize resource spend and prevent negative side effects while maximizing customer satisfaction.
- Psychologist: Caring for people and facilitating their growth can do wonders to your team, your company, and your career. Good product managers are good listeners and excellent problem solvers. They are particularly skilled at making it possible for others to solve their own problems, just like good psychologists.
- Hostage negotiator: Some people choose to make their point by swinging a “big gun”. It’s crucial to disarm these hotshots and help them diffuse their anger. After the hostage crisis is over, make sure they understand the consequences of their actions.
- Detective: Being a good sleuth will ensure that you can get to the bottom of things quickly. There are no shortcuts for doing meticulous detective work. It doesn’t always involve technical skills – human blunders are more common than most companies would care to admit.
- Arbitrator: Make a sincere effort to keep everyone happy, starting with the customer. Because you are often “in the middle”, you have opportunities to mediate all kinds of disputes. Being a peacemaker will give you a major advantage; people will come to you with arguments and concerns that you haven’t even heard of. Helping resolve issues will help you better understand what’s going on around the organization and contribute to the company’s success by making people happier and getting processes to flow smoothly.
- Clerk: You must be organized. You have to do menial work like filing documents in the right folder and perform tedious tasks like maintaining an ever-growing list of feature requests. These kind of tasks pay dividends almost immediately, so you better learn to like them.
- Craftsman: Product management is a craft. Like other crafts, it involves creating beautiful things over and over again, honing your skills and techniques from one release to the next. Enjoy the feeling of accomplishment and pride when your finished work is delivered to the customer.
- Professor: Being lifelong learners, product managers like studying new things and researching hypotheses. More importantly, they love teaching and mentoring the next generation.
- Curator: Good product managers gather requirement and cull the list continuously, leaving only the masterpieces that will wow customers and leaves a lasting impression. Like the best art exhibits, your products should show no trace of redundant features and present a greater value than the sum of their parts.
While a good product manager could excel in all these professions, product management is a well-balanced combination providing variety and new challenges every day. I suspect that if product managers had to work in any of these jobs full-time, they wouldn’t last long.