I was very fortunate to have stumbled across Product Management during my internship at Skyscanner in 2017. And now, I can’t think of any other job that I’d want to do. However, more often than not, when I tell family and friends about my new role, they have never heard of it. So the purpose of this blog post is to provide some insight into this relatively new (and blossoming) area in tech and answer the question – what is product management?

Firstly, what are products? When people think of products, they tend to think of the finished article – a toy, a washing machine or a chair. In tech, one might think of an app or a website. However, unless you’re in an early-stage startup, it’s more likely that you will be focusing on a very specific area of the product. For example, a PM at Facebook might work on the Newsfeed. I currently work in the Booking Services team at TripAdvisor – a team that handles consumer payments, supplier payouts and booking management for TripAdvisor Experiences.

When summing up my job, I typically say that I “work with engineers and designers to build products”. At a tech company that builds software products, you will of course be working with engineers (duhhh). It’s most likely that you will also work with designers, however, this does depend on the project you’re working on. For example, more technical projects such as data migration or building APIs will not necessarily have a user interface.

“So you’re a manager..?”
*Looks me up and down*
“What age are you..? Like….twenty?”

In some senses, the job title can be misleading. Product Managers work very closely with their engineering team and designers – but you’re certainly not managing them. Read any book about Product Management and it’ll likely explain that PMs are responsible for the ‘What?’ and ‘Why?’ but the ‘How?’ is outside the role of the PM. You’re not telling engineers or designers how to do their job. In 99.9% of cases, they will have a much better idea than you. So unless you are a more senior Product Manager, managing other PMs in your team, you won’t be managing anyone.

So what does it mean to manage a product? PMs are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of a new product launch. Given this responsibility, they are involved right from conceptualisation all the way through development to market launch and analysis. At the early stage of a project, the PM builds the business case, maps the user journey, prioritises features, decides on scope, produces specs, works with designers to develop prototypes and presents the project to the wider company. During implementation, the PM helps to prioritise work for the engineering team and completes testing. Post-launch, the PM must analyse how the product is performing against pre-defined success metrics and uses data to decide on next steps.

Clearly, Product Managers have a lot of responsibility – and it’s by no means an easy role. However, you get to work on a huge variety of different projects, learn from people across all business functions and develop lots of skills. If you’d like to know more about some of the projects I’ve worked on, check out My Product Internship at Shazam. In that blog post, I talk about two projects I worked on last summer – Shazam for Mac and iMessage.

Over the next few months I aim to release more blog posts where I will talk about:

  • My experience getting into product
  • How to position yourself to become a PM
  • What to expect in the PM interview process
  • What to expect when you land your first PM role

Hopefully this blog post provided some insight into the question – what is product management? If you’d like to have my next blog post sent straight to your mailbox, please subscribe to my mailing list below. Feel free to reach out to me at simon@simoncurran.com. Until the next time – thanks for reading!