Treat your PM Career as a Product

This article was written by PTC contributor Gaurav Hardikar

When I took my first role as Product Manager, I was transitioning from a Strategy Analyst role that was responsible for three different verticals at Trulia.

I still remember my previous boss telling me…

“It’s the first time you’re a Product Manager. Make sure you launch products well, and on time. People don’t remember your strategy if you never launch.”

Looking back, it was probably the most sound advice I could have gotten at that point in my career.

I bring up that anecdote to share a glimpse into my personal philosophy on Product Management while I was still early in my role and just learning the industry-wide expectations that can come with being a PM at a growing technology company.

Note that because Product Management is a relatively new role, that has dramatically evolved in the last 10 years since the internet & social tech boom, that role expectations are not terribly consistent and differ across all technology companies.

However, from my experience, we can simplify the three core skills required to become an effective Product Leader – Execution, Strategy, and Emotional Intelligence (especially before entering Executive Leadership).

Over the past year, I have started managing other Product Managers, and I developed a high-level rubric to guide them through their launches as they grow into their roles.

It is likely each company you have worked for has used some sort of similar matrix to define your role and what a “Product Manager” means to them.

Below, I have listed the generic levels of skill maturity needed to be an effective PM:

For example (and this is likely for most PM roles in mid to later stage companies), when taking on your first role as a PM it will behoove you to consistently deliver on objectives and expectations, before tweaking or pivoting your product strategy. This will help you establish a reputation of success before developing larger strategic questions. This will also allow you to specialize into your strengths (like growth, core product, specific technologies etc.) and gain a stronger reputation from your stakeholders.  

What I would like to leave you with, is some new thoughts on how to interpret this matrix and determine what is necessary in your organization’s current role and/or structure.

For PMs in early stage companies, it will likely help to be well-balanced across all three core skills due to the many hats you end up playing.

In a nutshell, treat your own career as a product. You want to be smart about how you develop your product chops – and not invest your time and effort inefficiently.

For myself, I quickly learned to master Execution before jumping back into develop Product Strategy and Emotional Intelligence. You may follow a different path in your career, but it all stems back to these core skills of Product Management. What path will you take?

About the Author
Gaurav Hardikar

Gaurav Hardikar
 is working in Product Management at Brilliant, a Series A startup revolutionizing the Smart Home Industry through the Brilliant Control, the World’s Smartest Light Switch. With an extensive background in Accenture StrategyTruliaZillow Group, and ShopkickGaurav has 5+ years of experience delivering bottom-line growth, leading teams, and building consumer products that delight millions of users.

Products That Count is one of the largest communities of product managers, leaders and entrepreneurs in the world. It provides insider access to founders and C-level execs such as Netflix Product VP, Crossing the Chasm legendary author, Trulia Founder, or Lyft CMO, via speaker series, podcasts, and invite-only executive retreats. Partners include WeChat, Yelp, LeanPlum, Pragmatic Marketing, and StartupDigest. Its venture arm, Mighty Capital, invests in companies building products that count once they have demonstrated product/market fit.