Starting as a product manager brings both excitement and challenges. Along the way, there are numerous valuable lessons to be learned in overseeing products, coordinating teams, and achieving success. Reflecting on my own experience, I share the top 12 things I wish I had known as a product manager, aiming to provide guidance to aspiring professionals starting their journey.

Tanay Shah, Senior Product Manager at Amazon

Definition of a product manager carries by company 

Understand that the role of a product manager differs from one company to another. If you feel like you’re not thriving as a product manager, it might be because of a mismatch between your skills and the company’s expectations.

The Loneliness of the Product Manager

Being a product manager can be isolating as it involves making tough decisions, managing stakeholders, and feeling like no one fully comprehends the challenges you face, despite being surrounded by teams and meetings.

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The importance of effective communication

Invest in improving your communication skills from the beginning and make continuous efforts to enhance them. Strong communication abilities are crucial for success in the product management role.

Building relationships for success

Prioritize building strong relationships as they play a significant role in achieving outcomes. These relationships foster open communication, enhance understanding of different perspectives, facilitate smoother decision-making processes, and create a supportive environment that allows for better problem-solving and overall project success. Additionally, these relationships can help product managers garner support and buy-in from others by effectively communicating the value and impact of their ideas, actively listening to stakeholders’ concerns, addressing objections, and aligning their vision with the interests and objectives of key stakeholders.

Deep dive into users, product, and market

Gain comprehensive knowledge about your users, the product, and the market. This understanding will not only increase your colleagues’ trust in your judgment but also yield substantial returns on investment.

Empowerment trumps individual brilliance

Encourage ownership and empower your team members. By fostering excitement and autonomy within the team, you can drive better performance collectively rather than relying solely on individual brilliance. Embrace the mindset that the right solution can come from any team member, enabling diverse perspectives to identify the optimal solution that truly meets the needs of the user.

Embrace tough questions

Don’t hesitate to ask difficult questions when something seems amiss. As a product manager, it’s crucial to seek clarity and understand the underlying aspects of a project.

Dealing with ambiguity

Accept that uncertainties are part of the job. Seek support from the right people and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you encounter ambiguity.

Overcoming intimidation

Don’t let intimidating individuals deter you. Build relationships, gain knowledge, and develop confidence to express and defend your viewpoints, regardless of others’ seniority or communication style.

Embrace the unknown and step out of your comfort zone

Many responsibilities as a product manager will require you to go beyond your comfort zone. Embrace these opportunities for growth and remember that it’s okay not to have all the answers.

Embrace uncomfortable conversations

Uncomfortable conversations are an inevitable part of the product management role. Acknowledge and accept this reality, and learn to handle these situations with composure and professionalism.

Align business objectives and product vision

Help teams understand how their day-to-day tasks contribute to the broader business and product objectives. This alignment enhances their understanding and motivation in fulfilling their responsibilities.

Conclusion

As an aspiring product manager, these lessons can serve as a guide to navigate the challenges and maximize your chances of success. From understanding the varying definitions of a product manager to building relationships, embracing ambiguity, and stepping out of your comfort zone, each lesson offers valuable insights to shape your path as a successful product manager. It’s the culmination of these lessons that will help you thrive in your role and create a meaningful impact in the world of product management.

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