Developing as a Product Manager

BY James Gadsby Peet ON FEBRUARY 20, 2017

There are no guides to Product Management

As Ken Chin points out, the best way to learn about Product Management is to speak to people who have been doing it for longer than you. Unfortunately, because it is a relatively new discipline, there aren’t that many out there – and those that there are, are in high demand. It’s worth seeking out those people who have been working close to Product Management as there are a few more of them.

Your first steps as Product Manager

At this stage in your career you should be trying to become the best PM you possibly can by focussing on the basic skills and techniques you need. Learn by speaking to people, reading extensively, getting to conferences/meetups and watching videos from around the web. In order to earn the trust of your leadership, you need to make sure you can deliver as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Senior Product Management

Once you’ve learnt how to be a good Product Manager youself, you need to learn how to help other people improve. This benefits your own team and the performance of the wider organisation, increasing your own impact. You’ll need to learn to consider the whole Product Team as your responsibility, taking on the management of disciplines that you aren’t necessarily skilled in. You need to get obsessed with creating and leading a ‘great’ team – that is your measure of success over and above your own personal contribution.

Head / Director of Product Management

The biggest change is when you start to manage other Product Managers. At this stage you’re not going to be hands on with any particular Product and this can be challenging to understand what good looks like. Here, the way that you add most value to the organisation is by making sure that these people are great. Hiring will be a big part of what you do and you can’t settle – OK means no – otherwise your team won’t be great. You’re still earning trust and respect of your fellow leaders through delivery, but now it’s the delivery of your team. If you are able to get that, then you can influence processes and decisions outside of your own product team’s direct control.

Chief Product Officer / VP

The company is your product and you’re completely removed from the day to day delivery of your services / products. Your role is now to develop other leaders from across the organisation, not just product managers. Broader business results are the measure by which you earn trust as you now have responsibility for the overall way the organisation is set up. You’ll be solving challenges that will go to the heart of your business such as finance, mergers / acquisitions and your cultural set up.

James Gadsby Peet


James Gadsby Peet

I've been in the digital industry for over 10 years and have worked across small and large charities, as well as my own freelance projects. I am now Director of Digital at the sector leading creative agency William Joseph. Having been at Cancer Research UK for the last four years, I have been able to work on high volume, high profile campaigns such as Race for Life, Dryathlon and the much-quoted #nomakeupselfie. In that time I helped drive forward the charity’s digital product and marketing capabilities to be some of the most respected and successful in the sector. I'm always excited to work with other organisations, share expertise and swap cat gifs. Give me a shout!