I’ve spent the last few days co-training a class for people who want to learn how to be great product managers and product marketers. It was a great class with people from different industries, different stages in their lives and looking to learn more about different aspects of their work. It was a great place to be for three days. The lovely part of it is watching people hit subject matter that they are not very familiar with and then with our help and talking through examples from everyone in the room learn new ideas which they can take forward in their lives. The level of sharing while retaining company confidentiality helps everyone learn a lot more than if slides were simply read out.
However on one of the last days, I realised that some people in the room had absolutely no background in basic marketing principles. Now, I know that with an engineering degree and an MBA, I have a lot more skills than most people. However, until that point I hadn’t considered why these two skills made such a powerful mix. You see, I think that many people who go into product management may come from the technical side of the house. They are ex-engineers or program managers. Without a basic underlying respect for marketing concepts, thoughts and models, the products that they work on have the potential of missing their target from a strategic point of view. This means that without knowing that they need to take the market, competition and channels into account, their solutions may be tactically executed, but not strategically supported.
On a tactical level, if you have had no formal training in even the basic 4 P’s, you may also miss critical aspects of success. And possibly the most critical of all is that without knowing that technology is only useful if it fits into human usage patterns, they may create a product that people won’t want to use.
People put up these questions online asking what it takes to be a Product Manager. It’s a delicate balance between a technical understanding, an understanding of markets and people – and the drive to make a product happen by blending all of these together in a creative whole. And that’s where the fun starts!