5 Paths To Your First Product Manager Role

5 Paths

The most common question I get from aspiring product managers is how to land their first product manager role. Unfortunately it's not an easy question to answer because there isn't a single straightforward path into product management, but instead a variety of paths from which product managers typically come from. I wanted to share the five most common paths that I've observed for individuals landing their first product management role and how to increase your chances of landing the job through each path.

Understanding User Psychology: Meet Your Happy Chemicals

happy-chemicals

As product designers, we aspire to build product experiences that are not only useful (solve a real pain point for our users) and usable (effortlessly allow our users to accomplish their goal), but ultimately delightful (elicit a positive emotion from users). I find product teams are usually pretty good at building useful experiences, identifying pain points through market research, industry expertise, and their own experiences. Similarly we've established a strong set of best practices around building usable experiences, through significant design methodologies and established guidelines. Yet the dimension we continue to struggle with as an industry is repeatably building delightful experiences.

The challenge with designing a delightful experience is inherent in the very nature of needing to elicit such an emotion from our users. It requires us to get into our user's head enough to deeply understand what in fact will create such an emotional response. To build this muscle, I've found it incredibly helpful to invest in learning about human psychology. And specifically there have been a few frameworks that I've found particularly insightful and applicable to understanding user psychology. In this series of posts, I will share my favorite user psychology frameworks that will help you design more delightful product experiences.

The Best Product Managers are Truth Seekers

truth

One of the personality traits I value most in successful product managers is they are inherently truth seekers. Truth seekers have a strong bias towards discovering the truth being their primary motivation and what ultimately guides their decision-making. It takes incredible humility and curiosity to embody this trait, but when it exists, the benefits are felt throughout the entire R&D team.

Designing Your Product's Continuous Feedback Loop

feedback

While every product team I've worked with leverages customer feedback to inform product decisions in some way, most fall short of designing their customer feedback loop to maximize the benefits to the product team of gathering, recording, and synthesizing feedback. They also often treat customer feedback as a point-in-time activity as opposed to a far more helpful continuous process. I wanted to share some of the best practices and techniques I've used for developing a product's continuous feedback loop, designed specifically to maximize the benefit of the customer feedback that your organization is already hearing.

My Daily Learning Ritual

time-to-learn

Ever since I committed to being an infinite learner, I've been executing on a daily one hour learning ritual. While it's easy to say that continuous learning is important to me, I knew that if I didn't proactively dedicate time in my day to it, it wouldn't become a habit. So I set aside an hour first thing in the morning with my morning cup of coffee (or two) to this ritual. Over time I've refined what I actually do with that hour to maximize active learning of relevant skills and drive as much efficiency as possible in the process. I wanted to share my process in case it's helpful for formulating your own learning ritual.

I ultimately settled on a learning lifecycle of discover, consume, share, discuss, and write. I'll talk about each of these phases in-turn and it's importance to my overall learning process.