Throughout the recruitment process, Digital Product Managers often ask me to highlight the weaknesses of their professional skill set and where they are falling short. Most cannot clarify their ‘pulling factors’, nor identify what they need to expand upon in their CV. Employers are renowned for being fastidious in this particular market as one role can vary so much between companies, so highlighting particular strengths that are industry (even company) relevant is key.

Now in any other sector of IT recruitment, that would probably be quite an easy, straightforward task with a simple answer: (a) Stay strong in your specialised language, (b) Constantly update your arsenal with new languages and methodologies, and (c) Don’t get left behind.

For starters, Agile is one methodology at the forefront of current thinking. Experience in this particular field is usually important for all our clients currently looking for Product Managers, Developers, BAs and testers. If you want to work for a top digital media company, you need to be familiar with this aspect of development. When it comes to Agile, more is more – whether it is Scrum, Kanban, TDD or DDD. Learn it, be good at it and practice it in a commercial environment whenever possible.

However, as I mentioned, creating the perfect profile is not that straightforward. Digital Product has never been a black and white space in the IT vicinity. It’s a very grey area when it comes to selecting desirable strengths. Not every company will expect the same thing from their Product Managers and, more than ever, this has become true in the digital media world.

Technical Product Managers are expected to have a huge array of skills under the belt; some companies expect Wireframing, UX design, and Adobe skills, where as others look for an individual in a supervisory Project Manager capacity.

Don’t make the mistake that simply because you now oversee the project and have someone to do the Wireframing and UX design for you, that you don’t need to fully understand every move the BAs make and be capable of doing it yourself. It can be a huge Achilles heel when Product Managers assume they can quietly avoid the technical responsibility.

Like many manager roles, my clients look for people who are heavily committed, involved in every aspect of the project, and are happy taking the hands on approach.  They want people who live and breathe their products. Who are passionate about technology and new emerging ideas.

One highly debated topic in the product world right now is the idea of responsive websites. With the ever growing power of mobile device usage, Product Managers cannot afford to rely on web; they need to be able to function in multi platform products. Not all companies are fully sold on the idea of multi platform Product Managers yet and still believe in separating web and mobile. This is however is an outdated notion that will not last long as this year, for the first time, mobile usage overtook that of desktops. Responsive websites perfectly adapt to any size screen making them fully qualified to operate on desktops, smartphones and tablets with optimised content. Splitting online traffic between two different unresponsive sites is inefficient, unnecessary and soon will be an old fashioned operation.

In any product role, if you have experience in developing, testing or design, you immediately have an advantage over the rest. You have a clearer view on what needs to be done and what can be done within the platform available. The ability to work faster due to understanding the code in front of you is invaluable as a Product Manager. Granted, this is not an easy thing to learn for everyone, but it will set you apart from your competition.

I generally see two types of Product Developers in my line of work.

1. The first has graduated with a marketing/digital media type degree and moved into technical product as they follow the money and the trends. this profile is usually suited to supervising projects, being able to communicate with both the developers and front end business strategists.

2. The other has an engineering/comp sci degree, with deeper technical experience. They understandably thrive in an environment where communicating with developers and tester teams is the primary focus. 

Both have a place and are highly coveted in the Product Manager arena – choose the wrong company and we have a square peg, round hole situation, but get it right and you’re looking at a long term, positively challenging position where you are appreciated and compensated accordingly.

There are many other attributes that employers are going to look for when it comes to product teams. All need the ability to work well in a team, be able to understand and translate customer and client needs into actionable products and instructions. Product Managers are the link between business and technology.

They must be able to liaise with both. This is where product management blends both aspects from project management and business analytics. Some of a Product Manager’s responsibilities in certain companies, will be done by PMs or BAs in others. Often you will see a BA move into product management. This is a route frequently taken by those looking for a more creative role who want to be more involved in the development process, and from what I have seen in the market, product analysts are creative business analysts.

The ‘around the houses’ fashion I have gone about this blog, shows how expansive and varied a Product Manager’s role can be and how diverse they are depending on the firm you are in, but no matter what, you can never be capable of doing and knowing too much in Product.

In any line of work, knowledge is power. In the Product world, this is the absolute gospel.

Written by Max

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