Most In-Demand Product Management Skills in 2022 and How to Learn Them

Product managers are responsible for each organizational stage of a product’s life cycle, including development, pricing, and sales-based analysis. As a result, this position requires a unique combination of skills to ensure both product launch and career success.

In this article, we will cover a series of these product management skills. We will also explore educational pathways into this promising field, including product management bootcamp — an excellent way to learn product management in a comprehensive, practical setting.

Most In-Demand Product Management Skills in 2022

  1. Broad Business Knowledge
  2. Market Research and Analysis
  3. Development
  4. Pricing and Revenue Modeling
  5. Prioritization
  6. Design Knowledge

How long does it take to acquire in-demand product management skills?

Columbia Engineering Product Management Boot Camp is designed to help you launch or accelerate a career in Product Management through a hands-on, 18-week curriculum.

1. Broad Business Knowledge

Effective product management requires a working knowledge of business fundamentals — especially those pertaining to finance, sales, marketing and logistics. Specific areas of focus may include consumer research, competitive intelligence, budgeting, cash flow, P&L interpretation, and an understanding of business case development. By exhibiting this type of foundational knowledge, new product managers can hit the ground running, focusing solely on their role’s unique tasks without incurring an additional learning curve.

2. Market Research and Analysis

Before a product is ready for consumers, general market metrics and their associated product implications must be considered. Product managers play a big part in this process, ensuring that the product roadmap is detailed, accurate,and reflects up-to-date market data. It’s important for managers to resist the urge to act on intuition alone. Rather, successful product managers rely on market research, consumer surveys, and competitive analysis to act on market opportunities, address potential threats, and avoid setbacks.

3. Development

Development is the critical first phase of a product’s life cycle, and warrants consideration as a specific product management skill. For example, if a product’s development process is comparatively technical (e.g., computer chips/semiconductors), it may help if the manager has a working knowledge of electronics, engineering, machinery, or a similarly applicable concentration. However, it is still necessary for a successful product manager to balance technical knowledge with business acumen and project management skills to ensure a successful product development phase.

4. Pricing and Revenue Modeling

Significant product management focus is applied to forecasting and planning. Pricing and revenue modeling are critical subsets of this focus, where product managers help establish a product’s communicated value. In turn, the product’s communicated value is then considered by a cross-functional team to determine that product’s set price and intended revenue source. This information is then applied to a revenue model offering a first look at a product’s financial viability. It is important to note that, while product managers may be responsible for bringing a great product to market, the ultimate pricing of that product is usually determined by a broader, cross-functional team. This is why it’s so important for successful product managers to have excellent soft skills to help facilitate this phase of the product life cycle; working seamlessly with all stakeholders to bring a profitable, strategically priced product to market.

5. Prioritization

Successful product managers are, by nature, diligent prioritizers. The product life cycle is easily interrupted, so keeping up task-level vigilance while maintaining a product-level perspective emphasizing strategic priorities is critical. In addition, product managers must navigate resource shortages, budget issues, and human error; quickly adjusting priorities in the face of change to maintain the essential order of tasks, their dependencies, and how they impact key product milestones in order to hit the all-important product launch date.

6. Design Knowledge

Successful product managers know that usability plays a key role in product reception and longevity. By leaning into the customer understanding personas identified in their market research and analysis, product managers gain a keen sense of the important design elements which will provide the desired ease of use, unique features to solve problems, and new ways to create a valuable, personalized experience for the consumer. For example, if a company is designing a slow cooker aimed at those who have never used one, product managers may suggest a simplified user interface that allows for a more comfortable, straightforward experience. They may also desire a unique, differentiating feature allowing the user to check the slow cooker’s progress via their mobile phone and adjust settings through an app.

Best Ways to Learn Product Management Skills

The product management industry continues to change to reflect parallel trends within technology, business, and manufacturing — and this constant change underscores the importance of learning and honing skills required for product managers. A strong skill set allows product managers to remain both relevant and efficient in meeting the profession’s numerous demands.

Luckily, there are several educational options for broadening your product management skill set; these include a product management bootcamp, a traditional degree, or self-guided resources such as an online course.

Bootcamps, in particular, are highly effective in providing broad industry knowledge through hands-on, practical instruction aimed at simulating real-world experience. These courses are both comparatively quick and comprehensive in their curricula. What’s more, those who complete project management boot camps create a portfolio during the course, so they have real-world examples of their work to show employers and demonstrate their practical skills. This is very attractive to employers, letting them know the candidate will be effective on day one of their employment.

Traditional collegiate degrees, though generally less hands-on, may appeal to aspiring product managers who wish to learn in a more gradual, communal capacity and potentially gain experience through internships. Self-taught options can also serve as a viable alternative, assuming the learner is able to exercise self-discipline in navigating course material and can demonstrate that self-taught knowledge to prospective employers.

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Top 5 Soft Skills for Product Management

While hard, technical skills are key product manager competencies, there is another set of skills that are just as important.. Soft skills — communication, problem-solving, creativity, adaptability. — are equally crucial learning factors for the uninitiated.

These skills, when properly developed, complement a product manager’s technical knowledge and increase their value to employers. Such balance is arguably important for any career, but in product management, it is a necessity.

A chart that highlights the top 5 soft skills that all product managers need.

1. Communication

Product management involves bridging a variety of different production phases — some of which encompass different objectives, which all benefit the product. Cohesion, in this regard, is dependent on strong communication. Product managers must exemplify transparency in both verbal and written internal communication, keeping all team members apprised and accountable to successfully launch a product on time and on budget.

2. Critical and Analytical Thinking

A product’s development, release, and sustained longevity all rely on consistent critical thought. As markets fluctuate and consumer expectations change, so do aspects of a product’s life cycle (and, potentially, its overall existence). Therefore, product managers need to be vigilant in understanding market data and effectively interpreting and channeling it into actionable insights. This will allow for more informed production and revenue modeling.

3. Organization

Organizational skills are a must for product managers, as they often pivot quickly between different methods of strategic and logistical thought. On any given day, product managers can go from product development meetings to high-level planning discussions with analysts or corporate executives — and this intensive routine requires a sound, meticulous level of organization. This skill is deeply rooted in personalization; some managers will find balance with a simple pocket planner, while others might make use of digital calendars or alert-based resources to stay on time. Regardless of the medium, the end result must remain the same to ensure a smoother internal process.

4. Adaptability

Like organization, adaptability is not just a helpful product management skill but a cornerstone of professional success. As discussed earlier, a product’s intended market is likely to fluctuate — sometimes rapidly and without warning — and product managers must keep their teams calm and collected to weather these storms, avoid inner turmoil, and take advantage of emerging trends. An unflappable, composed demeanor can be infectious within production teams, and it is up to the product manager to lead by example in this regard.

5. Leadership

Strong leadership will make or break a product’s life cycle. As leaders, product managers should not only embody the skills listed above (both hard and soft), but they must also guide their team members to develop in a similar manner; helping them become more autonomous, innovative, and driven. Product managers of all skill levels need to be motivators, unifiers, and voices of reason; they should strive for a balance of strict accountability and positive reinforcement. This approach will keep teams on track to meet deadlines while fostering a culture of mutual trust and respect.

FAQs

Still confused about aspects of product management? Here are a few frequently asked questions pertaining to the field and its necessary skills:

What is a Product Manager?

A product manager is responsible for a variety of strategic, tactical, and logistical elements related to a product’s development and release. Product managers are typically present in the planning, manufacturing, and retrospective analysis stages of a product’s life cycle. They create and maintain product roadmaps informed by market research and data insights.

How can I improve my product management skills?

To hone (or initially learn) key product management skills, one should consider the field’s three primary educational pathways: bootcamps, traditional degrees, and self-guided options. A product management bootcamp tends to be the most comprehensive and hands-on of these options, offering a relatively expedited learning process that simulates real-world experience via practical instruction. However, degrees and self-taught methods hold their own benefits for those wishing to learn in different environments.

What does a Product Manager do?

Key product manager skills often include, conducting market research, helping define the overall product vision and requirements, formulating strategies for a product’s release, helping construct revenue models to determine product pricing, and analyzing user feedback and data to spur better decision making. Furthermore, product managers act as leaders, liaisons, and organizational gurus to keep their products’ development efficient and on pace.

Do product managers need to code?

There is no rule stating product managers must be versed in coding, and the constructive use of such skills will often depend on the company or product development cycle in question. That said, a product manager can never have too many technical skills, and coding can be beneficial on several fronts — such as database navigation and the understanding of development interfaces. These skills are not necessarily vital to all product management roles, but they can only make you more marketable when pursuing new positions.

Is product management a good career?

Product management is currently a strong career path — in fact, according to CareerOneStop, job opportunities within the general marketing management industry are “very likely” to be available in the future, with a projected employment growth rate of 7 percent by 2029. The median salary for marketing managers (a general term which includes product managers and brand managers) in the United States was $142,170 as of 2020. When paired with the job’s opportunities to exercise different skills and gain new experiences, this outlook makes product management a rewarding field for interested professionals.

A graph that breaks down the annual wages for product managers in the U.S.

Related Careers

Interested in a different technology- or development-based career path? Here is a list of guides for a few in-demand roles:

  • How to Become a Full Stack Developer (Step-By-Step Guide): Due to their knowledge of both a site’s front and back end, full stack developers are among the most coveted positions in web development. In this guide, we offer an overview of full stack development, including the skills and educational experience needed to master the role and confidently seek employment.
  • How to Become a Digital Marketer: A Guide to Career Options & Salaries in 2021: Digital marketers blend tech-savviness with traditional marketing prowess, making them some of technology’s most well-rounded professionals. Here, we take a closer look at the digital marketing industry in 2021, exploring the industry’s multitude of career options, applicable educational pathways, and job salaries.
  • How to Get Into Cybersecurity (All Experience Levels): Cybersecurity has quickly become a crucial digital consideration transcending industries. Our guide on cybersecurity outlines how to obtain employment in this rapidly growing industry, regardless of experience level, pinpointing key skills to learn and potential educational options to pursue along the way.

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