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What is a Product Manager?

Product managers are the unsung heroes of the tech industry. They are the ones who are responsible for bringing products to market, but they often get overlooked in favor of the engineers and designers who build the products. However, product managers are essential to the success of any product, and they play a critical role in the product development process.

In this blog post, we will define what a product manager is and discuss the responsibilities of a product manager. We’ll also discuss why every company needs a product manager and provide some tips on how to hire a great product manager.

So whether you are a founder looking to build your first product or a CEO looking to take your product to the next level, this blog post is for you.

What is a Product Manager?

Product managers play a critical role in any organization that develops and sells products. Product managers define the vision and success of a product from conception to launch and beyond. They work with a variety of stakeholders, including engineers, designers, and marketers, to bring a product to market that meets the needs of customers and achieves the company’s business goals.

Essentially, product managers must understand user needs, identify opportunities, and direct the creation and optimization of products. To do this, they must:

  • Coordinate cross-functional teams to ensure that all team members are on the same page and working towards the same goals.
  • Be a decision-maker using strategic thinking and guidance from the product team.
  • Work with product, engineering, customer support, and sales teams to ensure a strong product launch and ongoing success.

Product managers typically sit at the intersection of the technical and business teams. Their positions can vary in seniority, but they are generally considered to be mid-level to senior positions. Within a technical team’s hierarchy, product managers typically report to a vice President of Product or a Director of Product.

Characteristics of a Product Manager

To be successful, product managers need a deep understanding of the product development process, the market, and the customer. They also need to be able to gather and analyze customer feedback, collaborate effectively with engineers and designers, and communicate effectively with stakeholders.

Successful product managers are:

  • Customer-centric: Passionate about understanding and meeting the needs of their customers. They should be able to gather and analyze customer feedback to inform product decisions.
  • Strategic: Be able to think strategically about the product and the market to develop the product vision that meets the needs of users and the company’s business goals.
  • Technically savvy: Have a strong understanding of technology to communicate effectively with engineers and other technical stakeholders.
  • Collaborative: Work effectively with a variety of stakeholders, including engineers, designers, marketers, and sales reps to build consensus and get everyone on the same page.
  • Decisive: Be able to weigh the pros and cons of different options, and make quick and effective decisions that are in the best interests of the product and the business.
  • Data-driven: Collect and analyze data on user behavior, market trends, and competitor activity to inform decisions.
  • Resilient: Need to be able to deal with setbacks and learn from mistakes.

By no means a requirement, but there are a few product manager certifications to be aware of when assessing qualified product managers.

Exceptional product managers are a dynamic blend of skills, qualities, and attributes that can be as diverse as the companies, industries, and products they serve.

When Should You Hire a Product Manager?

The best time to hire a product manager depends on several factors, including the size and complexity of the product, budget, and experience of the team. In general, it is a good idea to hire a product manager as soon as the product starts to take shape. This will help to ensure that the product is developed in a way that meets the needs of customers and achieves the company’s business goals.

How can you determine when you need a product manager’s expertise? To get a clearer picture of your timeline, consider the following triggers:

You might want to consider hiring a product manager if: Your product isn’t performing well in the market. Poor sales, lackluster customer feedback, or low adoption rates could indicate a need for professional product management to improve your product’s quality and market fit. You’re experiencing difficulties in coordinating and prioritizing product development. Your team needs help to streamline the development process and allocate resources. Your team lacks a clear product vision, strategy, and roadmap necessary to guide product development. You’re looking to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace and outperform your market alternatives.

Also, keep in mind that not every company necessarily needs to bring a product manager on board right away. Hiring a product manager can be a significant financial commitment for smaller startups. The salary for a qualified product manager can vary but typically ranges from $80,000 to $150,000 per year, depending on experience and location. If you’re not financially prepared to hire a full-time staff member, you might want to consider starting with a part-time or contract product manager to meet your immediate needs. You might be able to have someone within your existing product development team to serve as an interim solution.

Looking to Hire a Product Manager?

Hiring a great product manager is an investment that is well worth making. Product managers play a critical role in any organization that develops products. When hiring a product manager, look for candidates who have a strong track record of success, and a deep understanding of the product development process, the market, and the customer.

If you think it’s time to hire a full time product manager or curious about the market, check out DevRel Careers. By hiring a great product manager, you can give your company a competitive advantage and increase your chances of success in the marketplace.

Eric Pitt

By Eric Pitt

Eric is a product marketer and user experience researcher. He writes about product positioning and customer segmentation strategy.