Unlike many careers, Product Management doesn’t have a standard definitive educational path to enter the field. Because Product Management often varies by company culture, product, and industry, it can be difficult to pin down a specific set of skills and tools that satisfy every variation. While Product Managers benefit from having a wide range of skills in their toolbox, the most successful Product Managers possess an innate sense of curiosity and desire for life-long learning.
Importance of Continuous Learning
This curiosity and continuous learning allow Product Managers to remain at the forefront of their industries. Product Managers must continually expand their knowledge and skills to be agile and responsive to stakeholder and customer needs and effectively communicate. As technologies and products continue to evolve, the Product Manager’s skill set must also evolve for them to remain relevant.
To advance in their career, Product Managers need to develop skills that, on the surface, may not seem directly related to Product management. While developing new techniques, knowledge, and skills in software development, sales, and marketing aren’t direct responsibilities of a Product Manager, having the ability to understand and effectively communicate with individuals in each of these departments is vital to successful product management. It opens the door to greater job opportunities. For instance, having software development knowledge and skills can help Product Managers have more realistic expectations of the Dev Team or a greater appreciation of a particular feature’s complexity. Making an effort to extend one’s learning beyond their own job description can facilitate better communication and demonstrate an appreciation of various teams’ work when collaborating on a product.
Benefits of Continuous Learning
Entwined in the career benefits of a curious mind and ongoing learning are the benefits to an individual’s life outside of work. Keeping neural pathways active will not only make you more productive but can also improve your mental health and acuity. Learning to embrace challenges, both personal and professional, from the perspective that it is an opportunity for growth and enrichment rather than an obstacle can increase motivation and resilience. Improving one’s emotional intelligence and communication skills will allow for increased professional collaboration as well as healthier and more rewarding personal relationships.
Resources for Continuous Learning
Understanding the importance of continuous learning, the question becomes where do you start? With a myriad of learning options available. The channels for learning range from certificate courses in product management to full-fledged MBA programs. It’s important to be strategic and write out a personalized learning plan which can serve to keep you motivated and ensure that areas of growth align with short-term and long-term career goals.
First determine the amount of time and resources you can commit as this may narrow your options. Then consider which format of continued learning has the greatest appeal – several choices exist such as online courses, in person programs, meetups etc. Next research the available resources and select the option(s) that work best for you. The goal here is to personalize the learning approach to fit your needs. While there are many options out there, a few that may be a good source to start with are listed below.
Blogs and newsletters
There’s an abundance of blogs and newsletters, some curated better than others, that share content for learning more about product management. Most product managers may not have the time to sift through every available resource to find one that suits their needs and career path. In general, you probably don’t want to go overboard—and there’s no way you’ll be able to read every article or blog. However, by identifying a handful of mentors, influencers, and leaders, you can find topics and leadership styles that resonate with you. Feel free to experiment with multiple learning sources you subscribe to, but don’t be afraid to weed out anything irrelevant.
If you’re looking for more relevant sources as well as access to industry events, consider looking into online product management communities. Attending events and networking can be a very different kind of learning experience and connect you with more opportunities. These communities also represent an opportunity to learn industry best practices and how they vary among influential companies. Every approach is different, but learning from the best can give you an idea of how to create your own product management style that works for you.
Domain events allow product managers of all levels to hone their skills and learn about the latest advances in their industry. The breadth of industries that PMs work in means that their techniques must be adapted for their own field. From healthcare to human resources to technology, every field has something to offer when it comes to staying responsive and agile as a product manager.
As a product manager, it can be hard to adopt many different methods of continuous learning. Regardless of what a PM opts to do, keeping a curious and open mind will serve them well. As technology continues to evolve, so will the products we create. A willingness to pick up new skills and expand their knowledge will give product managers a leg up.