Guest post by Rob Feinstein, a widely-respected Product Management Executive. 

My first job out of college was as a newspaper reporter. It's the sort of career choice that intrigues people, so I'd often get asked: How can I get started as a writer?

My stock answer was simple: start writing.

I give the same advice to anyone interested in getting into product management: just start.

Here are five ways to start acting like a product manager, even before you make it your job title.

 

1. Think about your favorite product, and how you would improve it.

Consider consumer products you use in everyday life, because you have a keen sense of the user experience and why it’s worth your time. Great products still must improve. Complete the sentence that starts, "Wouldn't it be great if it could also ...?".

2. Get used to finding pain.

Great products take away pain. So next time you hear a user request a new feature, do your best to understand what's the pain that's causing them to think of it. Users are way better at articulating their pain than identifying a solution.

3. Cozy up to data.

Former Netscape Communications CEO Jim Barksdale once said, “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.” It's critical to learn to use numbers to make a business argument. Whether you’re a small business or Fortune 100 corporation, big data is readily available to you.

Pick a business problem, gather data, and start analyzing the numbers. You don't need to be the world's greatest Excel whiz to get started. Simple math - like ratios or trends over time - will give you insights.

4. Attend standups.

These 'standups' involving the Product, Development, and Engineering teams are quick, probably no longer than 10 minutes, and cover what everyone is working on. Product people use them to make prioritization decisions or clarify requirements. Ask a product manager if you can join them at the next one.

5. Volunteer.

All of the above should give you some terrific ideas for a project your company should pursue. Be proactive.

  • Find a problem you feel like you can solve -- whether that’s at your company, in an organization you volunteer with.

  • Create a plan to fix the problem, then present it to your manager. Good product managers look at the details and use them to find solutions.

When you do any of the above ideas, you'll get a very practical idea of life as a product manager. It's a mix of left-brain logic and right-brain creativity. It calls on all the persuasiveness of your communications skills - written and verbal. You decide what’s right for you: product management will either drive you nuts or be the best job you could imagine.

Interested in learning more about product management? Come join us this coming Wednesday at WeWork for Knowing Your Customer: Product Innovation.