What It Takes To Become a Good Project or Product Manager In IT

If you're a Product and/or Project Manager (PM) working in software development (like myself), you should always look for new opportunities and challenges to do your work better and more efficiently. Having read 2 cool eBooks on product management, The Product Manager Handbook by Carl Shan and Product Management Guide by Intercom, I've compiled a list of quotes and excerpts that reflect how seasoned PMs and Product Managers perceive what it takes to become a truly competent and professional PM and how to motivate your team to be more productive and exceed any client's expectations.

  • The goal of a Product Manager is to help a development team build the best product possible by prioritizing assignments, helping design beautiful user interfaces and smooth UX, guiding engineering to avoid roadblocks while leaving them autonomous, and working with all other parts of the organization to provide transparency and input into the product development process.
  • Companies would ideally like their PMs to have strong technical skills (e.g., substantive knowledge of what they’re talking about; ability to estimate projects, plan resources and delve into details). But generally, the more technical you are, the better it is as it gives you a leg up against the army of MBA’s that also want to be PMs.
  • The background of the “perfect” PM varies across companies and even teams, but usually has the following attributes: Leadership, Analytical & Data Skills, Technical Skills, Initiative, Product Design Skills & Customer Focus, Strong Work Ethic.
  • Good PMs are familiar with Wire-framing (using tools like Visio, Balsamiq), fundamental UX and UI design principles  (high-resolution mockups; concepts of user flow), as well as graphic design (Photoshop and Illustrator).
  • As a PM, you should have a personal narrative that you feel comfortable sharing with others, as well as internalizing. You should be able to tie together a cohesive story. The things you pursue in the future should in some way be compounding upon the things you’ve done in the past. Look at the amount of opportunities you receive to learn new things.
  • From a metrics standpoint, you can measure a product by the following – Retention, Engagement, Virality
  • One of the most admirable qualities I’ve ever encountered in people is their ability to have a very strong sense of what direction a product should take and the ability to articulate that reasoning clearly.
  • Key metrics measuring the success of project development and teamwork: Quality of relationships with peers, Regularity of high-quality product releases, General team organization on a day to day basis. 
  • A team without a PM is going to be heavily focused on execution but may not know if they are going in the right direction. The big value any good PM provides is being a strong customer advocate, helping people gut check if they're moving in the right direction, if they're addressing the right market/audience, if they're being competitive and relevant to the customer.
  • Oftentimes, PMs act like jack-of-all-trades, master of none. We do a lot of talking to customers, either through customer interviews, internal dogfooding, and/or collaboration with user researchers.
  • One thing I would be extremely skeptical about is the ideas that people have. Eighty percent of ideas that people come up with never yield good results.
  • When it comes to execution, attention to detail is a must! The buck stops with you. Be aware of your accountabilities, who is responsible for what, and don’t be afraid to speak up when something needs to be done.
  • Every day, I look around and ask myself, “Are people around me happy?” If I feel they’re not, especially regarding the things in my control, I feel I'm not doing my job well. Are my developers happy? Are my testers happy? Are my leads happy? If everyone seems like they don’t need me, then that’s an ideal situation.
  • Being a good PM means learning how to communicate effectively. You’re going to have to come in and rely upon the engineers to do the coding, so you need to make sure you can easily explain what you’re trying to get done and what you need to get done.
  • Examples of strategies developed for securing a role as a Product Manager at technology companies: First off, spend a lot of time learning as much about your product as possible. Secondly, sit back and think strategically about how you would actually use this product yourself. Thirdly and finally, take a macro-level view and think about the scope and scale of the product.
  • When it comes to product management, your goal is to make sure you’re building the right product, with the right set of priorities, in a manner consistent with company goals, while constantly advocating for the user.
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  • A PM is like a sports coach. You don’t manage the players directly or negotiate their contracts. All of your influence is indirect. Your success, and ultimately your team’s success, lies in your ability to lead. If the players don’t respect you, your job becomes impossible.
  • As a PM, your intuition will be raw, but you can overcome that by talking to customers.
  • I used to catch myself asking other people questions when I already knew what they were going to say.
  • There’s so much stuff that happens each day that your memory gets overloaded easily with. I quickly realized I had to stop trying to keep everything in my head. Nowadays I write everything down immediately, even if I plan to do it right away.
  • “You can’t do what you want by doing something else.” Do what you love.
  • Avoid “nice-to-haves”: as a PM, part of your job will be to make sure that the team feels like they are using their limited time efficiently. This means avoiding work streams that are “nice-to-have’s” that won’t necessarily change the the “answer” or the direction of the product.
  • Influence without authority!
  • Do your homework; be a sponge. Go to extra professional development opportunities to get up to speed and make sure to become as knowledgeable as possible. Be a learner and respect others. Tell your team you want to learn from them and you want to grow from working with them. This will always reward your efforts!
  • You do have to motivate people in addition as well. In my opinion, the vehicle for motivation is the product vision that you’re pitching.

Do you have any other bullets to add to my list? Feel free to do so in the Comment below!

Artur is our PM working on eHealth, FinTech and gambling projects. He's a results-oriented professional who's gained PM's / Product Manager's experienced across different areas including Web, Mobile and Software Development with leadership responsibilities, people management and others skills including problem solving, planning, organizing and managing budgets.

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