Are you wondering how to become a product manager and what the role involves? The many pathways can be overwhelming, but our comprehensive guide will provide a step-by-step roadmap to help you succeed in this career.
Companies are racing to create digital products and services that satisfy the whims of their users and enable growth.
Enter product managers. They:
- Guide and educate management on the demand for products in different markets.
- Ensure that products align with the company’s revenue and marketing goals.
If you’re analytical, love problem-solving, have an eye for detail, and enjoy building relationships, this guide to becoming a product manager is for you.
(Related: Why Do So Many People Hate Their Jobs?)
Do You Have What It Takes To Become A Product Manager?
I won’t sugarcoat things for you.
Not everyone is cut out for a career as a PM. Many people are drawn to the career because of its perceived perks and opportunities for growth (that can be substantial).
Don’t even think about becoming a product manager unless you possess:
- Strong verbal communication skills. You will spend days wrangling developers, designers and copywriters, aligning them around a shared goal while resolving inevitable conflicts.
- Strong stakeholder management skills. You will need to manage the expectations of your boss and other senior leaders (especially when things don’t go according to plan).
- Ability to handle unpredictability. You will spend your days in a blizzard of rushed meetings interspersed with email sprints. Forget about finishing work at 5 pm or having a routine (You’ll often feel that your real work begins at 5 pm).
- Strong sense of ownership. The buck always stops with the PM. Even when it doesn’t. This is not a career for people who like to wash away responsibility and blame others.
Here’s a reality check for anyone aspiring to become a product manager:
Failure is part of a PM’s job. You will have product failures. Learn to process failuire quickly by 1) accepting that it happened and 2) mining it for learning opportunities. Don’t throw pity parties.
How To Become A Product Manager In Australia.
If you’re still reading, it means you’re strong (of foolish) enough to test yourself as a PM. Let’s help you get there.
As your skills and experience expand through multiple projects and industries, your instinct for product creation will evolve.
1. Expand Your Hard Skills.
You will need a broad base of technical skills. While coders focus on coding and accountants focus on spreadsheets, you will need to become a jack of all trades.
In addition to developing product management skills, you will need to a strong foundation in:
- Analytics. You’ll need to learn how to make data-driven decisions, and ensure that your team does the same.
- Finance. You’ll need to understand how to read a P&L, calculate profit margins and differentiate between EBITDA and revenue.
- Coding. Your developers won’t respect you (and will run rings around you) unless you have decent coding chops. You don’t need to become an elite programmer, but you do need to know how to read and debug code.
(Related: What Is The Right Career For Me?)
2. Get An Undergraduate Degree.
Which degree is best?
- The good news – PM careers don’t have strict university prerequisites. While most employers will insist on an undergraduate degree, they are quite flexible on the degree type.
- The bad news – career product managers we surveyed believe that certain degrees are much more effective at preparing you for the realities of the job.
Here are the best degree pathways, according to career PMs:
|Bachelor of Computer Science (+ Psychology / Economics / Business)||Gives you a baseline in coding, improves your reasoning while teaching you about the intersection of technology and society.|
|Bachelor of Business (Management) / Bachelor of Business Administration||Teaches you how to manage resources and lead high-performance teams.|
Opt for diverse minors across statistics, humanities, marketing and communications for a well-rounded knowledge of different industries.
3. Start With An Entry Level PM Position.
You have to start somewhere! Most product managers in Australia often begin by taking on an internship or an entry-level position at a company they aspire to grow within.
Entry-level positions also allow you to become familiar with your new role without the added pressure or stress.
The reputation you build in your first entry-level role will pay massive dividends in your later life. Build a stellar reputation by always overdelivering and positioning yourself as person people can depend on.
4. Gain Additional Certifications & Skills.
Certifications are optional for all product manager positions; however, they can provide added credibility and showcase your diverse skill set to employers.
Bootcamps are another way of fast-tracking your learning. You’ll pick up essential product management skills, such as:
- Creating buyer personas.
- Ensuring product market fit.
- Collecting user feedback.
(Related: How To Achieve Your Career Goals In 2023).
5. Create A Product Management Portfolio.
A portfolio is essential – it showcases your work whilst allowing you to publicise your career highlights.
What If You Don’t Have Any Products To Demo?
Build a product (e.g., an app or a plugin) in your spare time. Assemble a small team (developer, designer and you) and work together to conceptualise, design, develop and deliver a real, marketable product.
Your portfolio should:
- Visually communicate your contributions to a product or business.
- Turn your products into case studies that provide concrete evidence of your work.
- Highlight the learnings from each experience.
6. Network Your Butt Off.
Product managers are just as successful at relationship building as they are in the technical aspects of their work.
The networks you develop early in your career will assist you in gaining further projects later in life and help you build lasting professional relationships.
You can begin by:
- Contacting other product managers in the industry to seek advice.
- Make a point to attend industry conferences and seminars.
- Connect to mentors on social media or LinkedIn. Don’t be shy! Simply shout someone a coffee in exchange for 15 minutes of their time.
(Related: 10 Highest Paying Jobs In Australia).
How Much Do Product Managers Earn In Australia?
I studied 50 job ads for product managers on Seek and LinkedIn in January 2023, across technology, banking and government sectors. Here are my findings.
|Junior PM (less than 2 years)||$110,000|
|Mid-level PM (2-3 years)||$140,000|
|Senior PM (3+ years)||$160,000|
What Are The Responsibilities Of A Product Manager?
As a product manager, you will oversee the creation of new products from inception to launch.
You will play a big part in developing attractive, marketable products that the company can sell for a profit.
- Create a vision for the product.
- Evaluate how it stacks up against the competition, including pricing and quality.
- Analyse data and market research to assess how well the product performs.
- Review online metrics like searches, engagement, and traffic to ensure customers find what they need.
A product manager’s role will vary slightly within each industry. Ensure you research responsibilities and salaries for similar positions.
1. Conducting User and Market Research.
An intelligent product manager can quickly identify customer pain points and gaps in the market.
They do this by:
- Monitoring consumer preferences.
- Analysing market trends.
- Researching competitor products, which informs the development of innovative, problem-solving products.
Surveys and focus groups are a surefire way to gather research.
In Australia, these can easily be organised through third-party companies or for free online. Existing customers are worth approaching as they offer valuable insights and feedback that will help to refine the product.
2. Liaising With Product Development Teams.
A product manager must collaborate with various teams, such as sales, engineering and marketing.
Like any managerial position, it’s crucial to solve conflicts quickly and effectively when they arise by communicating with all team members and keeping an open mind to others’ perspectives.
(Related: 10 Rules For Nailing The Corporate Dress Code).
3. Managing The Product Life Cycle.
The product life cycle sees the product transform from conception to development to the marketplace. Each stage requires unique treatment to maximise time and resources.
The product manager will:
- Develop a roadmap.
- Keep track of the status of each feature, modifying accordingly.
- Assess how their decisions affect the consumer directly.
- Assess (ongoingly) the product’s success in the marketplace.
Bottom Line About Becoming A Product Manager.
We hope you’ve taken notes from our comprehensive guide on how to become a product manager in Australia. It is one of the most critical positions in a company, tied directly to sales revenue.
You’ll be challenged to clarify and define the many goals of a company and create solutions to solve unique customer needs. And you’ll celebrate the greatest of wins when your product does exactly that.