What does a Software Product Manager do?

In 2011 I pivoted my career to the tech sector.

I started to teach myself how to code. Yet after publishing my first Windows application I realized I didn’t want to be a Software Engineer. Writing code full-time didn’t resonate. And then I discovered the “Product Manager” (PM) job title. I didn’t know what a PM did, but was drawn to being part of a product team without being responsible for writing code.

A PM is often described as the “CEO” of the product. The person who guides a product team to ship the right product on time. I think of right product as a product that is useful to users. A product that solves a user’s problem(s). On time is a future date set by the team as to when the product should be delivered.

A PM will collaborate with Designers, Engineers, Data Scientists, and other stakeholders to build and release the right product. Similar to a basketball point guard, a PM is a facilitator. A PM enables every member of the team to contribute toward shipping the right product. And even though the title is “manager”, a PM typically doesn’t manage anyone (unless it’s other PMs).

In the realm of books, I’ve found reading about builders is the best way to learn about Product Management.

In the realm of blog posts, the two posts linked below provide a baseline definition of the Product Manager role. They also capture the essence of how to be a great Product Manager.

How to Hire a Product Manager

by Ken Norton

https://www.bringthedonuts.com/essays/productmanager.html

Being a product manager requires wearing multiple hats. I often joke that much of the time your job is to be the advocate for whoever isn’t currently in the room — the customer, engineering, sales, executives, marketing. That means you need to be capable of doing other people’s jobs, but smart enough to know not to. Great PMs know how to channel different points-of-view.

Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager

by Ben Horowitz

https://a16z.com/good-product-manager-bad-product-manager/

Good product managers know the market, the product, the product line and the competition extremely well and operate from a strong basis of knowledge and confidence. A good product manager is the CEO of the product. A good product manager takes full responsibility and measures themselves in terms of the success of the product. The are responsible for right product/right time and all that entails.