How to make a career change to product management?

That is a question that I get a lot in my talks and in my inbox so it seems to be a hot topic. Here’s my suggestion on how to make this career move.

First step: Study

Even though this is a relatively new career, there are already some good courses you can make to understand better the digital product management world. There are 2 courses that are mandatory for anyone who is willing to be a product manager:

  • Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO): this course will give you the basics on how to work as the product person of a software development team which is using agile methodologies. There are many courses available all around the world. It is a 16-hour, in-person course that will help you understand how modern software development works and what’s the role and responsibilities of a product person in this process.

Besides these 2 mandatory courses, there are other very helpful courses that I recommend:

  • Lean Inception: an 8-hour, in-person course where you’ll learn how to align people and build the right product. Even though the public agenda only shows courses in Brazil, you can ask Paulo Caroli for in-company training anywhere in the world.

Books are also a good source of knowledge, but if you have a chance to attend a course, I recommend doing so in addition to reading books. Some of the books I recommend on new product creation are:

And about product management are:

Next step: career change!

Ok, so now you studied the craft and are ready to make this career change, right? What’s the best way to do it?

The first advice is that it is easier to make a career move in the company you are now. It’s quite difficult to change career moving to a different company, no matter what career you are now and the one you are moving into. People will hire you for the experience that you have. If you have no experience as a product manager, it will be quite hard for someone to hire you as a product manager.

So, to make this career change, the best option is to do it in your existing company. Before any move, you should consider discussing this career move with your manager. She may be able to help you in this transition.

If your company already have a well-established product management function, it is possible that they will accept apprentices, i.e., someone with good experience in other area and who is willing to move into product management. At Gympass we call this position Associate Product Manager (APM). It is valuable to have someone with good experience in the business domain willing to make the move into product management.

However, if your company does not have a well-established product management function, there are two ways you can make this career change:

  1. The easiest way is to move to a company that has a well-established product management area, but you should make the move to this new company first into your existing area (marketing, customer support, legal, finance, etc.) and once inside that company, make the move into product management. It’s quite rare for companies to hire someone from another area directly into a beginner product management role. Normally, for these beginner positions, companies prefer to move someone internally from another area that already has a good knowledge of the business.

Below I’ll cite some people that made the career change from some other areas to product management, so you can see their profiles or even connect with them to talk about their career changes. Some of them even wrote about their career change challenges and learnings:

Lean Product Secrets

The Lean Product Secrets brings together the hands-on experience of three successful digital products enthusiastic. Get to know their secrets for idealizing and evolving products, and their combined experience on Design Thinking, Lean Startup, and Product Lifecycle Management.

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The thing is, two of these E-Books are in the way to their printed edition, so they won’t stay available as E-Books on LeanPub for much longer. For this reason, we decided to create a special bundle price to let you keep a copy of these E-Books.

We will keep updating the E-Books until they are officially released. This way you will have early access to their official first edition releases:

https://leanpub.com/b/leanproductsecrets

Written by

Digital product development advisor, mentor, board member. And open water swimmer!

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