Who are these Mini-CEOs? (Product Managers)

By, Krunal Barabde

Why do we do MBA? Some of us want to change the career path, some want to become entrepreneurs, some to move in managerial roles, but one thing is common in all everybody of us were not happy with what we were doing earlier. If somebody looks deep inside he/she will realize that it has less to do with the boss/work/company but with the freedom at work. We all like freedom, responsibility, authority to take decisions and deliver results, that’s what a product manager does at work.

A product manager’s are also called as Mini-CEOs [i] and perhaps are the unsung heroes of the industry. Perhaps one of the prime examples in front us today is Marissa Mayer CEO of Yahoo, is a ex-product manager of Google. Being a product manager is not only about acquiring particular skill set but it is about discipline[ii]. Product Manager’s most of the time is lone ranger in his team and if you are lucky enough may get smallest team in the organization. Product Managers role starts from sniffing for new product ideas until launch and collecting the customer feedback, PM follows product through entire product lifecycle.

Product Life cycle is the process of 5 stages Ideation, Screening, Prototype, Testing, and Launch. Ideas can come from internally or externally. Internally, ideas can be generated through different departments/subsidiaries within the company ( Teeth Whitening Strips were developed by the P&G by pooling ideas on their common portal “Ask me” across all departments). Externally ideas can come from customers, supplier’s etc.  Product Managers are constantly sniffing for new product ideas.

In screening stage, all ideas are evaluated to check the fit for the company and customer, once selected. PM’s pitches the Idea to higher management, in a company with multiple product managers and limited budget it is important to be politically active to gain the support of the higher management. After budget allocation, PM’s role is to get its baby delivered through different departments. It is a test of PM’s interpersonal skills, especially in big corporation where multiple products are in pipeline, getting your product delivered in time is as a challenge.

Prototyping is all about checking for standards and benchmarks and market testing if there is customer acceptance, meeting sales target. In last stage of Launching the product, A PM works the strategy with marketing team to make a big splash while launching the product. In addition, post-launch PM monitors the feedback from customers. However, if the product fails either of the tests shall be dropped right away.

If a product is a big hit then PM is credited for the success of the product. As we through the product life cycle a work cycle of PM, along with getting all numbers right it is important to get your equations right with the cross functional authorities. Because, as all success is credited to the Product Manager so is all failure, any lag by any functional department can also prove detrimental to products fate.

When one cycle ends another starts again sniffing for ideas until the launch, every time a new challenge the process continues and hence needs discipline approach. Yes, it is a tough job, but it has challenge and fun quotient which might excite many aspiring CEOs.

A Product Manager typically list following responsibilities:

  1. Perform Market research
  2. Develop and present business plans based on the new ideas
  3. Develop and maintain cross functional relationships
  4. Planning, Prioritizing, and Managing the development of products from conceptual stage through product life cycle
  5. Collaborating with sales, marketing to ensure go-to-market strategy, plans and activities
  6. Ability to handle pre-sales and post sales delivery functions
  7. Managing and Mentoring product development team

Most of the time desired qualification is MBA, in technology companies’ student with engineering background are given preference. However, industry experience is given more importance. Getting entry-level job in this field is very difficult and on average, a Product Manager’s salary is $100,000 per annum.

In 2014, 1097 H1-B visa applications were filed, in general technology companies had highest visa petitions with Google-55 applications, Amazon 42, Ebay Inc. 30, Paypal 23, Oracle America 21, EMC Corporation 17, Facebook 14, Wal-Mart 11, Cisco Systems 11, Linkedin Corporation 10 etc .  Future for product managers seems to be bright since, with improvement in economy many companies are investing in new product development in order to maintain the competitive edge into the market. Companies like Amazon, Google which believe in consistent innovation require product managers. Globally, in emerging economies like in India and China have shown spike in demand for product managers.

Finally, to get a product manager one needs to have passion; passion measurable but is sensed, you can learn all skills and discipline, but passion for the work is developed overtime. Jonathan Rosenberg Sr. VP of Products in Google, took an interesting way of identifying talent for Product Managers role, he asked the candidates to talk about thing that they were passionate about. This brought best out of the individuals.  Therefore, find your passion, get your math skills clear, improve your interpersonal, and always be ready to take risks to be successful Product Manager.



[i] http://thenextweb.com/insider/2013/10/12/product-managers-mini-ceos/

[ii] Professor Ram’s Theory

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