How to ride the Product Management wave – why consultants make great PMs

How to ride the Product Management wave – why consultants make great PMs

Product management is booming, globally. It has become an increasingly popular and lucrative exit route and opportunity for current and former consultants to move from consulting to product management. Almost every business needs them nowadays but there aren’t enough experienced Product Managers to go around. So hiring managers often look for people with the right transferable skills.

Movemeon co-founder, Rich, talked with Henry Latham about a product management career after consulting. Henry is a product management guru and founded his own company, Prod MBA. Henry answered the questions ‘How to move from consulting to product management’ and ‘What transferable skills do Consultants need to move into PM’. They also gave tips on how to start or accelerate your product management career and much more.

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Let’s start with the basic question, what is product management and what does a Product Manager do?

As a Product Manager you are not directly involved in what is going to build, it’s more about how to build something.

Product management is about creating value, coming up with unique ways to solve problems and delivering that value to the customer. Depending on the product, you work closely together with people from different departments and have many different touchpoints within the company. It’s a very broad area, which is why it’s very popular to work in product management.

What are the most transferable skills consultants have, that you need in product management? 

The number one that hiring managers look in product management is communication. Consultants often work with different clients or stakeholders where communication of any kind is very important. If that is something you’ve received training on or you have a lot of experience with, then you ticked that first box. 

The second thing is strong analytical skills. An ability to detach oneself, analyse the situation and say what is going on in an objective way and how one might improve that. 

The third skill is strategy. Consultants have that understanding of what they should and shouldn’t focus on. That strategic piece for understanding the market, revenue models, etc. is very powerful.

Fancy a job in product management? View all jobs here!

Is product management specifically something digital? Is it about tech and tech skills?

The definition of a product is actually any vehicle that delivers value

Nevertheless, the big career opportunity has been in the explosion of building digital products. That’s why the demand for Product Managers in tech companies, for example, increased.

Working with tech products or companies, we as the Product Manager don’t need to have tech skills but we need to have an understanding of how things work. It always depends on the company or the role you’re looking for but in general, companies have a development team or tech people for a reason.

As a PM it helps when you have a technical understanding of what’s going on. It’s definitely beneficial when communicating with developers but not necessary. When you are a good communicator, you’re extracing ideas from your team. You then try to understand what these technical implications (ideas) might be and how different tools or pieces fit together within the product to form a feature. 

So the three steps for a PM basically are:

  1. Discover problems to solve for a specific audience 
  2. Come up with a solution or set of solutions to deliver value and discuss that with developers or the tech team
  3. Find a way on how do to actually execute, whilst also generating revenue for the business

What does the product management career track look like? What is the team structure & who are you working with?

It depends on the company you are working for, so it’s hard to generalise that. 

When you start your career as Product Manager, your path would be to move to Senior Product Manager afterwards. There you focus more on managing the product strategy rather than on execution as you would at junior or mid-level. After that, you might become a Lead Product Manager, where you work more in a strategy and coaching role for other Product Managers in the organisation, usually in a larger company. Other career steps after Senior PM might be the Product Director or VP where you’re usually managing multiple products and PMs directly and you move even more in the direction of stakeholder management. 

As a Chief Product Manager (CPO) you’re then managing the financials, making sure your directors have different resources for managing their individual products etc.

View all the jobs we currently have online here.

What are the biggest challenges in PM and how do you navigate them? 

No market need – 42% of products fail because there is no market need. That’s why we really have to understand what is the problem we are aiming to solve with our product.

Lack of differentiation from a similar product that already exists – We need to make sure that our product brings added value and it’s unique in a specific way. 

Execution – It’s not always easy as we might have technical challenges, we need an understanding of technical debt etc. If you can communicate effectively and get your team to communicate effectively with you, then then you’ll be able to execute in a good way.

What are the methodologies or technical frameworks you need to know as a Product Manager? 

Don’t get too stressed by technical frameworks when you consider a career in product management. The real foundational skills are less technical and more like soft skills. Have a look at Prod MBAs framework about the four key competencies to adopt when you want to work as a PM. 

Fast-track your path to Head of Product by building a real product from zero to revenue, mastering your own product playbook & crafting a compelling CV. Join Henrys bootcamp or book your application call here.

What is the difference between Product Management at large companies versus smaller companies?

In an early-stage company or a start-up it’s still about discovering what it is we going to do or build. What is our market? What is that product that is going to unlock lots of growth? You’re basically doing a bit of everything from managing execution of the development team, having an impact on the product strategy, working with quantitive and qualitative data and communicating with the relevant people within the organisation. 

In larger companies, you work less on execution or have less impact on it. You mostly work on stakeholder management. 

P.S. Find out how other Movemeon candidates experienced and managed the change from consulting to industry in other interviews that we have published on our blog.

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