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This question and answer session with Co.Lab co-founder, Sefunmi presented an opportunity for some aspiring Product Managers to ask pressing questions. Here’s how Sefunmi answered some of the questions asked:
A Product Manager is someone hired to bridge the gap between customer needs and business opportunities. All businesses have a goal and it’s the Product Manager’s responsibility to meet that business goal by figuring out what customers need
Summarily, it involves strategizing, first of all. That is, figuring out how to do things and what direction the company should go. Here the Product Manager carries out user research, market research, monitors trends and seeks out loopholes they can exploit for business needs.
Then there’s some proposal & execution that also takes place during the day. This involves working with a cross-functional team to push the product out the door and into the hands of customers. Honestly, there isn’t really a typical day central to all Product Managers.
In addition to having the technical skills required of the industry you work in, the Product Manager needs to have problem solving skills, customer empathy, great communication, and be organized.
There’s a catch-22 situation in Product Management. You need experience to get a job yet getting a job requires experience. An experienced Product Manager once told me that getting hired is a game of winning trust. So for any job, I’ll say win their trust by showing your work. Do you have practical or technical knowledge? Do you have transferable skills? Show your work.
For FAANG companies specifically, my advice would be to do a ton of networking. Most FAANG companies have an APM that allows you the opportunity to work in that company so take advantage of these opportunities by applying early and making yourself very desirable to the employers.
College is a great time to apply because there are opportunities for internships that aren’t as competitive as APMs. I recommend that students have as many side projects as they can, projects that actually solve real problems so that they can showcase that. In my experience hiring college interns for Product Management roles, the company always looked out for people who had built stuff or had a side project website they could look up. It creates talking points and gives the impression that you’ve been through product manager type work
Additionally, it is helpful to volunteer at a start-up and work on a project for them. Offer to solve customer problems or whatever else you can do as that is something you can add on your resume saying “I was able to increase this metric by x.” This is the kind of activity that makes you stand out.
Students should also network widely, write a lot, showcase your work, build in public, participate in hackathons, ask to shadow Product Managers, anything that could potentially teach you something helpful.
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You can read more about this here, but the bottom line is that project management is a factor of time, budget and resources. It is very ”organization-centered” and you need to manage all three of these factors and make sure you deliver on time.
Meanwhile the typical life cycle in product management is to define the problem as early as possible, see the full picture before strategizing and finally executing.
The Co.Lab goal is to give folks the confidence they need to confidently transition into careers in tech. The Product Management course is currently split into two. First is a four week, self-paced, end-to-end Product Management experience that runs in the spring, covering essentials and all you need to do to commence a Product Management career. Here you conduct user research to understand and come up with good problems. After which you structure the problem, document it and present it in the form of a proposal.
After the spring program, you may receive an invitation to gain real world experience at the eight week program where you can build on the idea you came up with in spring, as part of a cross-functioning team of two engineers, a designer, a developer and a mentor all working to ship a product that people could actually use!
The most important thing to remember here is credibility over credentials. Show, don’t tell is Product Management holy grail. Make sure to put yourself in real world situations so that you can gain transferable skills.
Build a product, even if it’s one that fails because then you can talk about the things that you didn't do well. Go to communities and find people with which to build the product. The outcome of this is that you become better prepared to transition and you have an opportunity to blend into the job environment more easily because it’s no longer brand-new to you
Don’t make the common mistake of simply stacking certificates for the sake of it. Try doing things more suited to Product Management and if possible, to the industry you’re interested in. you want to make clear, intentional steps, not just any steps.