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Product management is a challenging job that doesn’t seem to receive much respect. In a highly competitive industry, product managers are frequently left to manage an assortment of tasks without the assistance of experienced assistants. Those holding this position could be confused as a result of this. CEOs may doubt that product managers are capable of guiding development teams, while the head of development may think that the product manager does not make the “right” decisions.

The truth is, a product manager is a bit like a musician in an orchestra: he/she directs it and puts all the pieces together. The audience hardly notices them, and their name isn’t mentioned in the reviews, while the real glory belongs to the musicians on stage. As such, most product managers prefer to stay backstage and work hard to create a great performance for their audience.

 In the tech world, there is a lot of misinformation circulating about product management. If you have ever considered a career in product management, you may have been told a degree in computer science is needed, or that it would be too difficult to find a job. This article addresses the five most common misconceptions and illustrates why they’re simply not true.

  1. Product managers just do technical things: 

Not at all-product managers are often required to work with product designers and engineers, strategists, project managers, and more. They are not necessarily responsible for creating products. They are often underrated due to their lack of technical background. Most of the time they are told: “That is not a product manager’s job”. In fact, product managers are leaders and business analysts. Their job is to decide what must be built and why, and then find the best possible solution to bring the product to life.

  1. You need a background in computer science or engineering: 

That’s not at all the case. Even so, this myth does hold some truth. It is important to understand that product management is a “people” role, not a “tech” role. Within a software development lifecycle, product management is a crucial aspect. Those pursuing product management are sometimes not required to possess a computer science or engineering degree: Although,  product managers would benefit from learning the basics of the technology. The product manager’s job is to provide a clear vision, define goals and objectives, and manage timelines. They are responsible for making sure that the rest of the team is on target with progress toward those goals and objectives. What many outsiders and beginners don’t know is that this role is often filled by people who don’t have computer science degrees. Although, it’s quite common for some product managers to have studied computer science in school. For students who were thinking about entering the software industry back then, a CS degree seemed a smart decision. So in the current market, there are a lot of PMs with CS backgrounds, who made the move into the product when it became fashionable.

Nonetheless, some of the best product managers don’t even have a computer science or engineering degree. While some companies do not require a computer science degree, if you wish to work for Apple, Google, or Microsoft, they will certainly ask for one. This is due to several factors. Companies tend to favour applicants with a high level of technical proficiency in a hot market because they feel that they will be better suited to the role. Developing products at these companies is a whole other level of complexity, and product management teams must remain on top of it. 

However, no matter how you slice it, product management is not about coding or technology. People are at the centre of it. One of the reasons some computer science graduates fail to be good product managers is because they lack soft skills such as empathy and humility. Product Managers need to be curious and analytical thinkers who can quickly gain an understanding of the business problem, its potential solutions, and its impact on the customer. You can take a variety of online courses about product management in your spare time. 

  1. Product Managers Are The CEOs of Their Products: 

Many people think that product managers are in charge of everything that the team produces. Thus, when something goes wrong, they yell at the product manager. However, that’s not what a CEO does. A CEO is in charge of the overall vision and strategy for the company. A PM, on the other hand, is responsible for the vision and strategic direction of a product. There is a difference between the two. PMs are responsible for establishing the vision for their product, but there are many different types of visions and many methods for creating them. It can sometimes involve creating a big “brand vision” that everyone can agree on. In other cases, it involves making an outline of the key features for a successful product.

  1. Product managers are just like project managers:

Many people compare product managers with project managers, but in reality, they are very different.  While Project Managers focus on delivering products, product managers are not focused on getting the product out the door by a particular date. They’re focused on creating value for customers. Sure, they need to manage priorities and time and resources—but that’s different from project management.  If you think about it, product management and project management appear to be awfully similar: plan a big project, execute on it, and finish with a great deliverable. They both require effective project management skills, like the ability to effectively communicate with the team, to create a plan to hit the desired outcomes, and then to make sure everyone sticks to that plan. And they are both usually done under tight deadlines. Project managers are concerned with budget, time and resources. While product managers work along the timeline and have a budget, their main job is to give direction on what the product will do. They are focused on the end product, not just the steps it takes to get there.

  1. Product Managers should be good at everything:

One of the first things that are usually said about product managers is that they need to know everything about the company, the industry, the marketplace and the competition. But this is simply not true. This misconception causes PMs a great deal of stress. Product managers work with teams of people who each have specific expertise in their fields to design and deliver a successful product. Although they aren’t conversant in every area, they must be able to communicate effectively with members of their team who are experts in those areas. 

Conclusion

Product management is one of the most misunderstood roles in technology. With a growing percentage of tech companies moving from software as a service (SaaS) to the product as a service (PaaS) and the advent of product-led companies, it is important to understand what it takes to be a product manager and the qualities that make for a successful product leader. Almost anything that has to do with a product can be answered by a product manager and then communicated to an appropriate stakeholder. Product managers are also responsible for creating and organizing product requirements, estimates and tracking progress. The focus is on creating actionable plans that can be executed by the development team. These misconceptions have persisted for too long and it is time they were dispelled. Product management is an important function and one that requires great skill and a broad range of experience across multiple disciplines, including technical knowledge, business acumen and an analytical mindset.

Amaka Odozi

Author Amaka Odozi

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