A day in the life of a product manager – guest post for Silicon Milkroundabout

A day in the life of a product manager – guest post for Silicon Milkroundabout

This article was originally published on Silicon Milkroundabout’s blog in May 2014.

If you’re reading this, you’re perhaps considering coming along to Silicon Milkroundabout 7.0 this Saturday to find yourself a job as a product manager. I’d like to give you a flavour of what a day in the life of a product manager is like.

One of the great things about product management is that each day you’ll need to turn your hand to many different tasks. You could be reviewing user feedback on the latest mock-ups with your UX team; discussing options for resolving a nasty bug with your development team; working with the marketing team to find the right tone of voice for the product brand; and somehow still find time to explain some curious findings in your market research, and flesh out the next major phase of the product roadmap. You’re probably also organising a company bake sale. And helping with the next round of interviews. And so on.

In fact, if you want an idea of what being a product manager is like, take a look at Erich Brenn in this clip:

If the thought of keeping all those plates spinning sounds like fun, then you’ve probably chosen the right career.

There are many attributes of a good product manager, so I’ve tried to pick my top five.

  1. Empathy: the ability to appreciate the needs, pains and context of others.
  2. Communication: to be able to express and receive information clearly and in terms the audience will be familiar with.
  3. Curiosity: an insatiable desire to learn and understand, never standing still.
  4. Time Management: to make efficient and effective use of one’s limited time.
  5. Divided Attention: to be able to switch focus easily from the long-term to the short-term, and from the fine detail to the big picture.

Does this sound like you?

In practice, your future employer may also expect you to have an appreciation, if not direct experience, of UX design, development, marketing communications, finance, sales, market research and data analysis. That may sound like a tall order, but think about it this way: you’ll either be working with specialists in each of these areas, so it will be in your interests to understand their needs and speak their language, or your employer will need you to fill a gap until a suitable specialist is hired.

Years ago, I worked at a startup in which I was the IT guy swearing under a desk with a network cable, the customer trainer, web developer, product marketer, and occasional receptionist. It was perfect training for me to become a product manager.

People describe the role of a product manager in many ways, but I like to think it boils down to being responsible for bringing the right product to the right market, at the right time, and for the right price.

Your job will be to figure out what “right” is for the company that hires you. Best of luck!

If you’re looking for tips on how you can tell you’re doing your job right, you may also be interested in one of my earlier posts: 4 Key Ways to Spot a Successful Product Manager.

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Read more from Jock

The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management

by Jock Busuttil

“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”

— Lyndsay Denton

Jock Busuttil is a product management and leadership coach, product leader and author. He has spent over two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, which provides product management consultancy, coaching and training. Its clients include BBC, University of Cambridge, Ometria, Prolific and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). Jock holds a master’s degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of the popular book The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management, which was published in January 2015 by Grand Central Publishing in the US and Piatkus in the UK. He writes the blog I Manage Products and weekly product management newsletter PRODUCTHEAD. You can find him on Mastodon, X (formerly Twitter) and LinkedIn.

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