Planning a transition from engineering to product management? Being an engineer, if you have decided that you don’t want to continue in the future with what you are doing now, switching to a product manager’s role is one great option. A product manager is the ‘specialist-generalist’ or a jack-of-all-trades. He coordinates with sales, engineering, design, and business development, to make the product better and grow the business.
The role requires understanding bitter truths. The company that is hiring you is not interested in how cleanly you can write software code. Instead, they are interested in business growth and what you can do about it.
In this post, we will take you to a rollercoaster ride of transitioning from an engineer to a product manager.
Planning your Transition from Engineer to Product Manager
Understanding what the product management role is
Simply put, product managers are to products what Chief Executive Officers are to companies. A product manager is responsible for every facet of product development.
That means any problem associated with a product is your problem, and you will be held responsible if anything goes south. Sounds vague, right? As a product manager, it is your job to do whatever it takes to make the product sell.
A product manager’s role is to:
- Define the goals and scope for the product
- Determine the necessary actions items
- Communicate the strategies to the team in a clear format
- Focus on processing and building
- Determine if the product matches the expectations
- If everything goes right, repeat all the processes
However, the role of a product manager also depends on at what phase the company is in.
That is if the company is just a startup, the product manager will be responsible for:
- Understanding the market
- Defining the product
- Hiring the team
- Picking the best features to be included in the product
At the later stages, it is about:
- Tuning the products to its users
- Making something that the users get with ease
- Testing the assumptions underlying the product
Once the product matures, the focus shifts to:
- Increasing the production
- Putting the right metrics around it
- Growing the number of users
- Optimizing the product to perform at a larger scale
Now that you know what a product manager does, it is time to get what it needs to be a product manager
For starters, stop thinking like an engineer. You need to think from the customers’ perspective – what they want and what they need. The goal is to be empathetic. You have to change your mindset from Software Engineer to Product Manager for building systems and solving problems.
To get into the shoes of a product manager:
- Seek opportunities that offer valuable preparation. Ask your current product manager to take you under their wing so that you can understand the basics of the role.
- Get started with your product thinking. Try to take a holistic viewpoint of products since a product is a culmination of many different things. Identify and understand engineering manager vs product manager to be able to fit in better.
- Try to get a deep understanding of what professionals in numerous departments in a company perform regularly. This is important because it takes a whole team from different departments to create a product. Be it design, marketing, sales, R&D, manufacturing, or other teams, PM works as the binding agent. As PM, you will be managing every aspect of product development. Hence, it is crucial you understand each professional’s role in product development.
- Understand the business model of the company. Determine how a company produces and sells products.
- Develop a critique mind. Review a product and tell what you like about it, what could be better, and what could be avoided.
- Try to get an internship as a product manager because most product manager roles require prior experience. In the beginning, the title is not necessary – keep solving problem after problem.
Most importantly, try looking for opportunities that can help you strengthen your candidacy for a product manager’s role. Getting the practical knowledge is the key; you can also take up online courses on product management.
We hope you find this article informative. If you have any query, feel free to drop it in the comments section.