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Product Management Requires Skill, Not a Degree

Customers
Product
Strategy
New PM
Prioritization

14 October, 2021

James Tobias

James Tobias

Senior Product Manager at Mapware

James Tobias, Senior Product Manager at Mapware, unveils how he successfully built a product starting from ground zero.

Problem

To be delving into managing or upgrading any product, you officially don't need to be a degree holder to fit that role. Several tactics must be derived that are systematically necessary to be ensured to process that. Well, I have a degree in geography, which helped me to work for geographic software companies. So I worked my way into product management directly from customer support. Then all I was doing was answering phone calls, emails, writing tickets which helped customers solve problems. Therefore, it became a natural fit to move into a product management role because I was already working directly with customers, similar to working as a liaison between engineering and product management.

I did manage to get into product management, but I did not have a product/business background. So I struggled at first, and I had to learn everything on the fly. And while pursuing that, I only learned the specific method that my company and my manager cherish. So over time, I had to broaden my product management experiences, trying to observe from others.

Actions taken

To gather more versatility, when I went back to my school and received my MBA, I obtained that fundamental business background. I have done experimentation on different products & managers to ensure about other things than business. I started with legacy products already developed, and I was only just maintaining and fixing bugs there.

As a new product manager, I took a mobile application through the entire software development lifecycle. It allowed me to do design, prototyping, and UX/UI stuff and also allowed me to do actual agile two-week sprints to develop over time and go through the process of creating, then prototyping, testing, and then releasing the product as I've mentioned before. My job was basically to gather requirements. Once I had the criteria, I had to prioritize them. And once I prioritize them, they move it into the current sprints and work with engineering to identify sizing and then continue the determination until processing the road trip from that prioritization.

I generally use a MoSCoW prioritization strategy so that I can know what needs to be done in the future. I also have accomplished pragmatic marketing certification to build more foundations for myself.

Lessons learned

  • The engineering team can sometimes think they are always correct. As a product manager, it is my duty to have done due diligence in order to have data to support any decisions.
  • It's normal to encounter failed products or decisions. It's okay to accept this fact, just make sure to learn from the experiences.
  • Do more proof of concepts, don't get too far down the line.
  • Product management does not require a formal background in business, however doing self-study or having a formal education in business can improve the foundation of knowledge on which a product manager works.

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