In this blog post, we will look at professionals who switched from marketing to product management and what they learned on this journey.

Our partner Sean Ellis made a poll on LinkedIn to find out more about people’s experience in switching to product management. From this survey, we learned that most people came to product management from marketing, which turned out to be a great starting point.

So we decided to talk to a few people who successfully made this transition and answer the following questions:

  • Why did they decide to switch from marketing to product?
  • How long did the transition take, from the moment they decided they wanted to switch to the moment they got the PM job?
  • What was the hardest part of making the switch?
  • Which skills did they find useful?
  • Which skills did they already have and which ones did they have to learn?
  • How did they learn the skills they lacked?
  • What was the journey like once they made the switch to a product role? Did their marketing background help further down the road?
  • What would be their advice to someone from marketing who wants to switch to a PM position?

Note that we are taking a broad look at this transition, where you can approach the product through a wide spectrum of roles between marketing and product. For example, you can get a step closer from marketing to product by taking on a Product Marketing role. Another way marketing people made their way to product management was to start by becoming a product evangelist.

Test your product management and data skills with this free Growth Skills Assessment Test.

Learn data-driven product management in Simulator by GoPractice.

People who participated in this essay

We want to thank the following people for helping us get to the core of this topic. Your time and experience are an immense help for the product managers to-be.

  • Georgia Vidler (Ex Head of Product at Canva)
  • Lauren Davis (Associate Product Manager at Indeed)
  • Adam Greco (Product evangelist at Amplitude)
  • Sean Ellis (Co-founder at GoPractice, previously led growth at companies that reached IPO)
  • John James (Chief Revenue Officer at Hybrency)
  • Joan Lockwood (Head of Growth at Huggg)
  • Bailey Lenart (Former Product Manager at Xero)
  • Ethan Garr (Former Co-inventor at RoboKiller)
  • Kelleri Nicole Riegel (Sr. Product Manager at Fairygodboss)
  • Joni Hoadley (Former Product Management Leader at Sonos)
  • Jasmin Ward (Co-Founder at Cribber)
  • Maja Voje (Founder at GrowthLab, Ex CMO at OriginTrail)
  • Louisa Tsai (Sr. Product Manager at Starface World Inc.)
  • Malene Mandrup (Product Marketing at Zuum Transportation)

We would also like to thank Sean Ellis and Ethan Garr, the creators of the Breakout Growth Podcast who provided some content for this blog post. Feel free to subscribe to get updates on new episodes and content at https://breakoutgrowth.net/subscribe/

Q: Why did you decide to switch from marketing to product?

Based on the answers, there are two primary reasons why people decide to switch from marketing to product:

  • Many people realize at some point of their marketing career that most of the levers that affect the overall business and its growth lie in the product itself. This is a trigger for many to start shifting to product management.
  • In some cases, people who have a marketing job title are actually doing the job of product managers without realizing it. This is especially true in small early-stage companies. When a startup is born, few people are involved. At that point, the division of labor is vague and everyone in the team is responsible for many things at the same time.

Joan Lockwood (Head of Growth at Huggg)

I’ve been working in marketing for 14 years—since 2007. [My job] morphed into Growth Marketing over the years, having identified my ability to grow online communities and scale companies rather quickly. As I grew my skills, it became apparent that product was just as important as creating demand. This happened for me in 2012 when I was global head of PR, when the product and user experience was intrinsic to growth. It was from this point forward that I started to involve product/user experience in my strategies.

Bailey Lenart (Former Product Manager at Xero)

I was appointed to a Product Marketing Manager role because of my ability to communicate and demonstrate the value of our products to accounting professionals. I had incredible opportunities to travel and present at conferences as well as work closely with Product Managers around the business to clarify the value propositions and lead on our go-to-market strategies. But I found myself losing my spark without understanding why. I was feeling burnt out despite my workload being quite manageable. About a year into the role I hit a real low point and I asked myself who I wanted to be when I grew up? I looked at an experienced Product Marketer and the Product Managers I had been working with and realized it was Product Management that interested me. The deciding factor was the type of problems I like to solve.

Georgia Vidler (Ex Head of Product at Canva)

I always wanted to be a product manager, it seems. I joined an incubator back in 2011 in Sydney and found myself in an amazing environment, surrounded by young and motivated people, like myself. I saw the impact you could do with a comparatively little effort, building products in an online space. That was when I realized I really want to build products.

Funny enough, at the same time, Canva was kicking off: They had just launched an early access page, and only a year later did they launch publicly. I was mind blown by the product. I was still working in Marketing, yet I felt I wanted to be a part of the Canva product, but I obviously had no skills in product yet. So joining the company as a part of Marketing and then making my way to the product role became my goal.

Adam Greco (Product evangelist at Amplitude)

I believe that digital experiences (website and mobile apps) have gotten too complex to be owned by the marketing team and have seen a steady shift in ownership to the product team.

Lauren Davis (Associate Product Manager, Indeed)

I transitioned within my company, to be a PM for a product I had worked on before in a growth marketing capacity. The product actually started out fully owned by marketing, no product involved. So in those early days I had a lot of opportunities to act like a PM (honestly without knowing it) and grow the product. My situation was unique, but I think it’s really just an example of taking on projects/roles that are tangential to where you want to go.

Malene Mandrup (Growth & Product Marketing, Zuum Transportation)

In June 2020, I was recruited as the first full-time marketing at Zuum Transportation to grow the marketing team. I focused on building the team, setting up tracking and performance infrastructure. Once the basics were covered, I started focusing on product marketing as we were planning on launching two new SaaS products in the first quarter of 2021. That’s when I realized my passion for product marketing and the importance of building a product with product-market-fit before spending a lot of money and effort on growth and acquisition channels.

Q: How long did it take for you to go from marketing to product—from the moment you decided you wanted to switch to the moment you got the PM job?

Most people tend to stay between a half and full year. This might be just enough time to search for opportunities, study, or take a few courses to catch up on the knowledge you lack. Be picky and clear about what will make a difference and teach you something valuable. Try starting with this free test to see which gaps you can quickly fill.

Also important is being open to new opportunities and staying pro-active. For example, you can take some tasks from the product team that you can handle or start a pet project that you can spend some time on. Having the required skills even before you start a proper PM position can benefit you when actually making the switch.

Bailey Lenart (Former Product Manager at Xero)

The journey took about six months from realizing I wanted to be a Product Manager to getting the role. When I look back retrospectively, I actually wanted this job from the moment I joined the company. I just didn’t realize it and focused on roles which seemed within reach. There was a lot of imposter syndrome about not being technical enough, but that was just a story I was telling myself.

Louisa Tsai (Sr. Product Manager at Starface World Inc.)

From the initial work to the title change it took about nine months. I had already unknowingly been doing product work for several months, had my performance improvement plan for three months, and then the trial period was six months before I got an official title change.

Georgia Vidler (Ex Head of Product at Canva)

I was still in Marketing when I decided I desperately wanted to join Canva as a product manager, so it was a long game for me. So I tried to make my way in using marketing, and then was working my way to move into product. So I joined Canva as a Marketer with a focus on international branch and then started moving towards the product role there. I was constantly asking “Do you mind if I move into product?” and always got a response “No, we need you in International marketing as we seem to be doing well”. Eventually the Growth and Marketing team grew big enough so I could hire enough people. So, I raised a hand again and asked “How about now? Can I get a little bit of product?”So I was given an olive branch and got a bit of my first real experience in the product field.

In the end it was the combination of the right time and place and the great ideas I was proposing.

Q: What was the hardest part of switching from marketing to product?

Depending on career track, skillset, and other professional circumstances, people might face different challenges when transitioning from marketing to product.

For some people, the main challenge is learning to effectively communicate with engineers. For others, it is the transition from being an autonomous individual contributor to becoming a team player and doing things through influence and collaboration. Another challenge is learning a lot of new things and skills on the go when the right opportunity comes along.

Sean Ellis (Co-founder at GoPractice, previously led companies that reached IPO)

The most difficult part of making the switch was underestimating how much I really had to learn about product management. Initially, I thought it was largely about defining my vision and working with the development team to turn this vision into a tangible product. It wasn’t until later that I learned how limited my knowledge was in product management.

Lauren Davis (Associate Product Manager, Indeed)

For me the hardest thing was that I had to learn so many new skills all at once. I made the transition really fast when an opportunity arose. It would have been nice to learn and practice some more skills in advance.

Joni Hoadley (Former Product Management Leader at Sonos)

One of the biggest challenges in making this transition was my lack of experience collaborating with engineers. However, I had taken a programming class in college so I at least knew conceptually what the engineers were doing and I could speak their language.

Kelleri Nicole Riegel (Sr. Product Manager at Fairygodboss)

For me, the hardest were the soft skills. I went from being largely autonomous and able to function on my own to herding cats. People skills are my biggest growth opportunity.

Adam Greco (Product evangelist at Amplitude)

For me, this was a massive shift and a very difficult decision: For almost 20 years, I was known as “the Adobe Analytics guy” and taught people how to be successful in digital marketing analytics. Moving to Amplitude meant walking away from a lot of history and skills I had built up over decades.

Q: Which of your marketing skills were most useful when you switched to product?

Good analytical, project management, and execution skills are important in both marketing and product roles. They help a lot with the transition.

Work experience in tech companies is also useful, because you understand how products are built and tested, and you know the language and terminology.

Many people find soft skills such as communication, negotiation, and empathy useful in transitioning from marketing to product. Sometimes trusting your intuition based on your past experience can be very helpful.

A good midpoint role before becoming a product manager is product marketing manager, the person involved in the positioning, messaging, and branding. Product marketing managers also gather and process customer feedback, and manage some aspects of customer relations after the product has been launched. Asking the right questions and analyzing the right data can prove to be an essential part of the job.

Lauren Davis (Associate Product Manager at Indeed)

I had good analytical, project management, execution and interpersonal skills, which have all helped. I had to work on (still working on) my ability to influence others, stakeholder communication and being confident in leading a team and others.

I use storytelling, presentation skills, project management and performance marketing skills in my PM job daily.

Georgia Vidler (Ex Head of Product at Canva)

Something I brought along from Marketing and growth is the gut feeling, and not only the metrics. The metrics simply show you that something is getting too complex in the product or people are getting stuck at some part of the product, but it’s more about your own experience.

Not all product teams are created equal so sometimes their work just cannot be measured, and that’s OK. For example, you might be working on a big project that is due to simplify some area of the product, and you may find it doesn’t move any number on your dashboard. But was it still worthwhile? Yes, it absolutely was.

Maja Voje (Founder at GrowthLab, Ex CMO at OriginTrail)

What definitely helped as well is just being present in tech companies before. You understand the language, approximately how things work, and what the mindset and the culture is.

Coming from growth, I am great with numbers, metrics and generally tackling the unknown. This is even more important in product management, where you have to put even more strings together.

Following the growth process—growth sprints for a few years before did also make all the agile concepts, rituals, and workflows much easier to understand. Also, I write things down like a maniac and follow up on everything. This proves to be useful again and again.

Joan Lockwood (Head of Growth at Huggg)

The skills that I brought to the table were based on bringing many “products to market” having worked with Developers (since 2007), Product managers, and CMOs, made me familiar with roadmaps, project strategy, UI, analytics and app launches, also user testing, market research, customer journey mapping, A/B Testing are also within the tools known to a PM.

Sean Ellis (Co-founder at GoPractice, previously led companies that reached IPO)

As someone who has spent a lot of time in very early-stage startups, the skill I found most useful is really breaking down my hypotheses and working to systematically validate or refine them. This requires a very flexible mindset and the ability to ask the prospective customer the right questions and analyze the right data. In the past, I really thought product/market fit was largely a function of luck, but I now believe that you can follow a process to find product-market fit.

Jasmin Ward (Co-Founder at Cribber)

The people skills, being able to talk to clients and persuade customers to do trials or come on board, like the sales side of it. Understanding branding and marketing channels did help greatly too as we would experiment with them on my team a lot.

Malene Mandrup (Product Marketing at Zuum Transportation)

The skill that helped me in my transition to product marketing is data-driven decision making. Working in digital marketing is extremely data-driven, from working with budget allocations across dozens of channels and thousands of campaigns to creative testing and conversion optimization to forecasting ROI and LTV. As a Product Marketing Manager, data is a critical component in making important decisions about the product and how, when and where to market it.

A soft skill that I think is really important in product marketing is empathy. It’s a product marketer’s job to understand, accept, celebrate, and be the voice of the customer, the sales team, the product team, and the brand all at once. Creating product positioning that makes customers feel connected requires empathy.

Q: Which skills did you already have and which ones did you have to learn to move from marketing to product?

Moving to product means having many things on your plate. With this in mind, experts point out that analytics, project management, and the tools that marketing specialists use always come in handy. Knowing how to prioritize tasks is something you often need.

No one expects you to be a fluent data scientist or run complicated SQL queries. But you need a general understanding of these terms and their usage. You might not always have someone from the tech team at hand, so you must know what you need from the engineers.

Anyone moving to product should also work on analytics. Your daily routine will include event tracking, funnels, and dashboards reporting on product’s health. Make sure you are good at it.

Balancing data with other sources of information about customer needs might be a great bridge on the road from Marketing to Product.

Louisa Tsai (Sr. Product Manager at Starface World Inc.)

I don’t come from an engineering background, so I had to learn what the tech stack was and how I could use it to answer questions that I had.

Maja Voje (Founder at GrowthLab, Ex CMO at OriginTrail)

There will never be a developer to set things up for you or a data scientist available to service you if you do not invest in general understanding of those areas to at least understand what is the MVP that you need.

I was already great in session-based analytics, but I had to double down on user-centric analytics. It was critical for our success to implement new event tracking, set up funnels and dashboards and create views for different stakeholders with metrics that matter to them.

Most setups are a mess: Forecasting, understanding the supply chain, and purchasing. In short – everything that I did not find that exciting in business before suddenly became a huge priority to catch up to. Luckily I always had great colleagues supporting me on such quests.

Other skills that I worked and improved on are related to prioritization and project management. Being able to make a fast decision during sprint planning on what is the most important work our developers should focus on was something that I had to learn.

I also got better at creating basic wireframes and flowcharts to better describe product requirements. This also includes writing better user stories.

Malene Mandrup (Product Marketing Manager at Zuum Transportation)

One of the most important skills that I had to acquire when transitioning to product marketing was balancing data with other sources of information about customer needs such as gathering qualitative data and customer feedback.

Successfully working with the product and engineering teams is a critical part of product marketing. Building a great relationship with these teams can be a challenge, especially when you don’t have a technical background. To build trust, credibility and strong communication with those teams, I needed to have a better understanding of product management and the technology, processes and workflows they used.

Q: How did you learn the skills you lacked when switching from marketing to product?

To learn fast and keep the imposter syndrome at bay, it is important to gain knowledge using as many sources as possible, including peers, mentors, books, webinars, and courses. Joining accelerators and product boot camps might be a good way to build up your network and get hands-on experience

Sometimes it helps to simply look at what product managers in your current company are occupied with. If you have the chance, don’t hesitate to join meetings with the product and engineering teams to get a better understanding of their technology, processes and workflows.

Googling also helps to dig out information and advice. It may sound chaotic, but sometimes you can find invaluable gems while sorting through the ton of information you find through search. You might also find good examples of documents and templates to use as reference.

Following seasoned product managers via social networks is another good way to stay up to date with the latest news and important product launches.

Kelleri Nicole Riegel (Sr. Product Manager at Fairygodboss)

Reading a lot, watching people around me do the same things, finding a mentor who believed in me, lots of pep talks to overcome my feelings of inadequacy, and tons of webinars and a willingness to know I wasn’t going to know everything and that I would always be learning.

Lauren Davis (Associate Product Manager at Indeed)

I lean a lot on trusted peers for advice. I pay attention to how PMs I look up to act. I look out for good examples of project documents, analyses, and use them as reference whenever I need a place to start.

Sean Ellis (Co-founder at GoPractice, previously led companies that reached IPO)

Initially, I acquired skills through reading product management books. Then I evolved my skills by hiring experienced product managers and learning from them. But my fastest improvement in product management skills happened when I began to collaborate with Oleg Yakubenkov on the GoPractice Simulator program.

Louisa Tsai (Sr. Product Manager at Starface World Inc.)

For most of my career I’ve always been the only PM, so a lot of the learning was googling for resources and advice online. I did take a Udemy course on the basics of product management, which helped but at that point I had already been doing the basics of PM without realizing it! I also asked my manager and friends for book recommendations. So books that I read that helped me better understand UX include Don’t Make Me Think and The Design of Everyday Things.

Maja Voje (Founder at GrowthLab, Ex CMO at OriginTrail)

I took a bunch of online courses, had a coach for Jira, countless people within the organization that showed enormous empathy and were crucial in achieving the missions, and most importantly, I continue to learn. I follow a bunch of awesome product people on Twitter and LinkedIn. I first used GoPractice to learn how Amplitude works and I stuck around for more than a year to learn more useful stuff about project management, analytics in general and growth as well. It is a really unique interdisciplinary and hands-on approach. Love the team!

Malene Mandrup (Product Marketing Manager at Zuum Transportation)

I acquired a better understanding of our customers by joining customer meetings and participating in projects related to customer research and feedback. I also learned about qualitative customer research methods through GoPractice Simulator, including in-person interviews, focus groups, email surveys, and customer feedback surveys.

I also proactively joined meetings with the product and engineering teams to get a better understanding of their technology, processes and workflows.

In addition, I recently read the book “Product-Led Growth: How to Build a Product That Sells Itself” by Wes Bush, which includes both high-level strategic frameworks about product growth and tactics like onboarding, product adoption, etc.

Another book I recommend is “ Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success” by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown, which covers how to analyze, ideate, and prioritize growth opportunities across the entire funnel and what prerequisites are needed before you’re truly ready to grow. Another great book that teaches how to build and grow a product is “The Lean Startup” by Eric Reis.

John James (CRO at Hybrency)

I acquired the skills by doing. I would ask questions from my engineers, pay them extra hours to teach me the basics. I would train them about how to think in terms of building products that customers will use and buy. They taught me how their world works. It’s really translating two ‘languages’ – but now we can speak each other’s language. I always get them to think to themselves ‘what would a non-engineer do when using this feature’, ‘what would a boomer user do’, for example.

Jasmin Ward (Co-Founder at Cribber)

I joined an accelerator called the plus 8 accelerator which is a national accelerator in Australia. These six months were extremely useful as we were taught by guys from the US who worked at DropBox. I also did GoPractice Simulator which was fantastic for two reasons: an amazing knowledge acquisition, and it was great due to the community as I was in the UK while my team was in Australia. I also did the Scrum Alliance course. Working with developers was also hard and this course helped a lot.

Q: How was your experience after you switched to product? Did your marketing background help you further down the road?

It is never easy to take a different path from what you’ve been doing before. Something that can support you on this journey is keeping clear goals, not being afraid to make mistakes, and learning fast with the help of your team. It also helps to keep in mind that you are pursuing one of the most challenging yet hot jobs on the market.

Don’t forget to ask for help when you need it—switching to a different role is challenging enough on its own, so getting extra anxious about not feeling good enough is off the table. Juggling between several sensitive tasks needs strong nerves. Consider any situation as a runway for your plane to soar, not a road to hell.

Get ready to take responsibility. Finger pointing is not allowed in product management—whatever goes wrong is under your jurisdiction. So make sure to keep in mind all the little pieces and find out what tools work best for you when it comes to monitoring the product and processes.

Louisa Tsai (Sr. Product Manager at Starface World Inc.)

It’s been good for the most part. Some days I question my life choices, especially when I’m in back to back meetings for hours or wake up to 30 Slack messages because everything is on fire. Other days it’s great and satisfying, especially when you release something and actually see positive results.

My marketing background has really been helpful. I’ve been acting as a bridge between what development and engineering can do in relation to marketing, especially since as a growth PM, a lot of my work overlaps with marketing anyway. This leads to me being able to ask more in-depth questions when marketing has an ask for product and development, which helps really flesh out the product requirements for that feature. It also helps me get a better holistic view of the company and how/where product fits into the company structure.

Kelleri Nicole Riegel (Sr. Product Manager at Fairygodboss)

Some days it was hard. I didn’t feel like I was good enough. Some days, it’s still hard 10 years in. Some days it’s really exciting; others it’s frustrating. Very few days are the same. It’s never boring. The unpredictability of what I may do next is what gets me out of bed everyday.

Maja Voje (Founder at GrowthLab, Ex CMO at OriginTrail)

Eyes on the prize, baby! Have a plan on how you will deliver the results that you were hired to do, but do not become a slave to a plan. Develop a brilliant mix between serendipity and intententionalty in the organization.

The beginning was very challenging, since my scope of responsibilities expanded brutally. Marketing for me in retrospect is like a happy bubble in which you mainly interact with people that are somehow similar to you. Well, not in the product role.

Quickly you realize that you have one of the most holistic jobs in a company, that you are like a “CEO within a product” and you can never shy away from the not-so-sexy parts of the job such as logistics, accounting, forecasting, staying in the office by freaking 2:00 AM to launch something for a week to provide moral support.

What is crucial in this transition is:

  • Ask for help when you need it—attend additional training, ask your colleagues for advice, get mentorship in the organization and hire additional help if you need it.
  • Get used to living in the “everything around you is burning, but you are fine” state of mind. Work on your leadership skills and your personal growth mindset.
  • Extreme ownership: it is not Daisy the UX designer, remote developer Yuri, or marketing assistant Gabe who takes the fall. You as a leader are responsible for your team performance. No finger-pointing culture allowed.

Bailey Lenart (Former Product Manager at Xero)

My marketing background was more helpful than I give it credit. Especially a few years down the track when this ‘non-technical’ product owner developed into a Platform Product Manager, building products for developers. What came in handy was my understanding of the support needed to take a product to market.

Q: What would be your advice to someone who wants to switch from marketing to a PM position?

Becoming a product manager definitely means always learning. If you think that product management is shallow and clear waters, where you simply need to check the metrics from time to time while keeping an eye on the developers’ backlog and celebrating launches, it is not for you. On the contrary, product management is more about putting your ego aside and learning fast from every experience.

A good idea is to act like a product manager even if you are still in a different role. Take advantage of whatever product opportunity comes your way: ask current PMs whether you can help them, check out what the tech team is up to, watch and listen as much as you can. Be an expert of your product. Take time to learn your product inside and out, regardless of your current role.

Product managers don’t have a clearly defined background. However, being an expert in something related to the field can be a game-changer and make the transition much easier.

Lauren Davis (Associate Product Manager, Indeed)

Start acting like a PM in your day to day role now. Try to take advantage of any project that helps you learn/get better at a skill that will help you be a PM.

Joni Hoadley (Former Product Management Leader at Sonos)

If you can, I recommend offering to help with a project that would allow you to gain some hands-on experience in that area. Also, consider getting trained as a CSPO. The more you can prove that you can work with engineers, the better your chances.

Jasmin Ward (Co-Founder at Cribber)

My only advice is to read as many books as you can, take as many courses as you can (the best one is GoPractice). You don’t have to know everything from the start, so even if you join a big company this can also be applied. Put your ego aside and learn as much as you can. Don’t pretend you know everything. People will help you along the way if you ask for help.

Sean Ellis (Co-founder at GoPractice, previously led companies that reached IPO)

Not surprisingly, my advice would be to take the GoPractice Simulator program. For 17 years I’ve understood the importance of product skills in driving growth, yet I was very underdeveloped in these skills until about two years ago when I began learning from Oleg.

Joan Lockwood (Head of Growth at Huggg)

Product managers come from all different backgrounds, there is no “one size fits all” product manager. They come with backgrounds in engineering, data analytics, sales, marketing and design—all skills are valuable. Ideally, to start as a Product Manager, you need to be skilled in at least one of these areas. A person should have some experience working with (designing and ideating) products or managing projects, end-to-end.

Maja Voje (Founder at GrowthLab, Ex CMO at OriginTrail)

Three simple things that will make a radical impact in our work are:

  • Become a really fast learner: Ego aside. Get your analytical stack right, set up key metrics and targets and get the ball rolling. On average it takes an employee six months to understand the new area, especially when it comes to complex technological solutions. You will have one month at best to show tangible progress, so call all your buddies that have skin in the game, study the industry, competitors and winners thoroughly and make new friends with industry leaders. Become a sponge that absorbs knowledge.
  • Double down on customer discovery: Team up with the head of growth, marketing, customer support and/or sales to build a stellar customer discovery operation in your company. Set up the number of insights and a KPI for your team and include the team to participate in usability testing, customer interviews, questionnaire design, and other methods that you are using. The best experiments you will ever run come from either product analytics or customer discovery.
  • Process is the queen: Growth process is applicable to many different areas in the organization. Follow the scientific method to make sense of what is going on when a product meets customers in the market wilderness.

Do what you can to not procrastinate the launches. It is easy to fall in love with the product, making it “perfect” and even becoming defensive that the customers do not get it. 90% of what we do will underperform, statistically speaking. Therefore the speed of launching is an absolute superpower of the organization that drives new business. Find those gems by following the growth process.

Malene Mandrup (Product Marketing Manager at Zuum Transportation)

  • Take the initiative to get as much experience as possible: Build on your current set of core strengths by taking on additional projects to grow your product management/product marketing skills. Whether it’s finding a way to participate in a product launch; helping produce content such as blogs, e-books, or webinars; or pitching in to help with sales enablement content, getting these types of projects can help you evolve your skill set and position you for a role in product marketing.
  • Be an expert on your product: Take time to learn your product inside and out, regardless of your role. This will enable you to work on product- and engineering-related projects, and use your skills of messaging to work more closely with your product.

Louisa Tsai (Sr. Product Manager at Starface World Inc.)

  • You don’t have to know everything but you have to be comfortable with telling people “I don’t know but I’ll find out.” There’s more than just a traditional “core” PM. Look at other types of product management that need someone with marketing experience (like Product Marketing Manager or Growth Product Manager). You’ll never be bored as a PM and you better like being able to answer lots of random questions (and also asking them!)
  • Also, don’t get hung up if you’re not from a “technical” background. While being able to code is nice and all, you’re not the engineer. What the PM needs to be able to do is talk to the engineers and tell them why/what needs to be built and let them figure out how to build it.

Bailey Lenart (Former Product Manager at Xero)

Tell people around you that this is what you want. Get a product mentor in the business that you are currently in. Interview for roles and ask for detailed feedback about your gaps. And really think about your motivations for joining the product.

If you want to be able to decide what to build, this job is not for you. You may be the captain of the ship, but your job is to get the ship safely towards your company or product’s North Star.

Ethan Garr (Former Co-inventor at RoboKiller)

  • Think about marketing and product through the same lens: Your business is built on product/market fit so the more you understand what that is and how you create value for end-users the more impact you can have. Yes, how you drive value in the business is different in product, but the end goal is the same, so start there.
  • Always work to improve how you use and understand data to drive change in the product. You don’t have to be a data analyst to be successful, but you do need to make sure that the decisions you make are based on sound analysis. Ask lots of questions that use data to turn guesses into facts, and when you can’t answer them, find the right people to work with and ask to help you.
  • Look for inspiration from people and products. If you think about the products you love and why you love them, you can often deconstruct and find inspiration to help you find direction.

John James (CRO at Hybrency)

  • Build a product no matter how bad it is, that experience is invaluable.
  • Get project management experience—those soft skills are critical.
  • Good product people are like arbiters. You need to be sensitive to politics and deal with many different departments who all want to get their own way. So I think experience in a role that exposes you to those political realities so you can handle that effectively will be immensely valuable as a PM.