Product School

7 - How to enter your first Product Management role?

Find a role with problems you are passionate about solving, then build at least one core skill while delivering solutions.

Why It’s Important

Being a Product Manager is hard. If you are not passionate about solving problems, you will not be able to overcome the challenges of the role. Without at least one core skill, it will be difficult to demonstrate that you can deliver value as a Product Manager.


How to Use This Principle

Start by identifying the overlap between your existing skills and the demands of the Product Manager role. Build upon your problem-solving experience at work, at school or even in your daily life to uncover transferable skills that will allow you to demonstrate value as a Product Manager. Focus on those skills where you can deliver the most value in the near term.

Real-life application by Diego Granados, Product Manager at Microsoft

The depth and complexity of the job of a Product Manager can’t be covered in a few paragraphs in a book. One of the first things you have to learn is that Product Management is not about launching products and features, but rather about solving problems—products and features are just a way to solve them.

Product Managers, regardless of the company, are typically in charge of some part of a product. For example, it is not like you are the PM for all of TikTok, the PM for PowerPoint or the PM for Google Drive. You can be part of those teams and own one piece of the product, solving user problems specific to that area. Another example is that you can also be a Product Manager for an internal tool, solving completely different problems unrelated to external users and their problems.

As I explored different opportunities to break into Product Management, I realized that I had to look beyond company names and products, and I had to focus on understanding the problems that these companies were trying to solve—and more importantly, the problems that I was going to solve in these companies. 

My first product management roles was at Cisco, where I worked with wireless technologies to help customers like hospitals find medical devices quickly and efficiently to make sure nurses and doctors had the things they needed when working with patients. From day one, I was invested in the problem we were solving.

Very quickly after I joined, I realized that breaking into Product Management is just one part of the process. After you start your first job as a PM, it’s time to focus on building at least one core skill like execution or strategy, among others. A few months after I joined Cisco, the Sr. PM leading the product left the company and I had to step up and develop my core skills as a PM, like execution, which led our team to launch our first product 6 months later.

There is no doubt that there are many ways to transition into Product Management, but your journey doesn’t stop after you get an offer. As a new Product Manager, you have to focus on building at least one core skill while delivering results and create amazing products that solve your customer problems.

How to grow as a Product Manager?

Set your aspirations, ask for opportunities, set goals with managers or mentors, solicit feedback, and put in the work.

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Principle Eight - Product Manifesto

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