Jul 10 2023

A Guide to Building a Successful Career in Product Management

Product management is a dynamic and evolving field that requires a unique set of skills and qualities. In this blog post, we will explore the key factors contributing to a great product manager, the steps to land your first job in product management, and the essential hard and soft skills needed for a successful career.

Jade Bennett, CEO and Founder of Middleton Executive and the creator and host of The Product Edge podcast, interviewed Paul Napper, a seasoned Product Leader and founder of Paul Napper Web Design. Drawing insights from Paul’s experiences, they delved into the intricacies of the product management role. What did they uncover?  Keep reading to find out… 

What Makes a Great Product Manager?

According to Paul, a great product manager possesses expertise in their subject matter and can distil information from various sources. They exhibit empathy not only towards customers but also towards other roles within the organisation. Gaining practical experience in areas such as sales and customer support helps aspiring product managers develop a deep understanding of the challenges faced by different stakeholders, enabling them to make well-informed decisions.

How to Land Your First Job in Product Management:

To land your first job in product management, showcasing your passion for business and technology is crucial. Three things you can do to enhance your chances:

  1. Taking on side projects or volunteer opportunities that involve product-related tasks can provide valuable practical experience.
  2. Pursuing formal education or attending courses focused on product management can provide a solid foundation of knowledge and best practices in the field.
  3. Networking, participating in industry events, and seeking mentorship from experienced product professionals can also enhance your chances of securing your first product management role.

The Hard and Soft Skills for a Successful Product Management Career:

A successful career in product management requires a combination of hard and soft skills.

Hard skills include technical competencies such as requirements gathering, user story development, project management methodologies (e.g., Agile), and familiarity with industry tools and technologies.

Soft skills are equally important and include effective communication, collaboration, leadership, problem-solving, and critical-thinking abilities.

Developing these skills through continuous learning, practice, and seeking feedback will enable you to excel in your product management career.

What to Expect in Your First Product Management Role:

Starting a new product management role involves a learning curve. It is essential to recognise that becoming an expert in the subject matter takes time and that companies understand and allow for a ramp-up period. Building relationships with team members, understanding their pain points, and observing current processes will provide valuable insights for your role. Embrace the opportunity to absorb information and gradually contribute to the organisation’s success.

How to Find Value and Purpose in Your Product Career?

To find value and purpose in your product management career, align yourself with the vision and objectives of your company. Understand the customer problems you are solving and the impact your work can have on their lives. Challenging the status quo and saying “no” when necessary, may be challenging, but it becomes easier with experience and the ability to back decisions with data and evidence. Adapt to different organisational settings and find the right fit for your skills and natural tendencies to thrive and bring value to product development.


Building a successful career in product management requires a combination of passion, skills, and continuous learning. Understanding the qualities that make a great product manager, taking deliberate steps to land your first job, and developing the necessary hard and soft skills can pave the way for a fulfilling and successful product management career. Embrace the learning curve, find purpose in your work, and contribute to creating products that positively impact customers’ lives.

For more insights, listen to this podcast episode in full, subscribe, or listen to The Product Edge on your preferred podcast app.

 If you’re looking for more resources or information about all things Product, check out The Product Edge or follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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