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What is product management? Part 2: How do product manager roles differ?

| March 15, 2019
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At the start of every year, UserTesting gathers its entire sales organization to get aligned and inspired for the upcoming year. We hear from internal leaders, customers, and thought leaders in the industry. This year we were fortunate to have a product management veteran speak with the team about product manager roles and career paths.

Sachin Rekhi, founder and CEO of Notejoy, a collaborative notes app for teams shared some key characteristics common to product management roles and how their work is commonly structured within organizations.

Sachin’s talk is a great primer for those new to product management or has ever asked themselves,

What is product management?

We’ve broken up the highlights from Sachin’s talk into a three-part series which covers:

  • Part one: Product manager responsibilities, including strategy and execution
  • Part two: Product manager roles within product teams
  • Part three: Where product managers fit within an organization

Get started with part two below, or, you can watch his full presentation here.

How do product management roles differ?

We’re starting to see a specialization of product management roles happen now more than ever.

Different product managers in the same org may do different things. Sachin talked about the three main types that he’s seen in his career: Builders, Tuners, and Innovators.

Builders

These product managers work on existing products. Their responsibility is to improve and add features to meet the ongoing needs of their customers.

Tuners

Tuners are 100% focused on optimization. Rather than building new features, they’re all about improving existing features. They’re usually either looking at how to get more people to engage with the product or they’re working on how to increase growth within their existing user base by, for example, moving users from a freemium version of the product to a paid version.

Innovators

These are a distinct breed! They’re building brand new products, maybe at an existing company or as part of a startup. What’s challenging about this role is that they need to find product-market fit for a brand new product. 

Technical vs. non-technical product managers

Technical product managers, not surprisingly, tend to work on a very technical product. That being said all product managers need to be “technical enough”—they don’t need to know how to code but they do need to understand the software’s capabilities.

Product management skills needed at small vs. large companies

At large companies, product managers are able to leverage many specialists, which requires a lot of communication and collaboration. At smaller companies, product managers tend to need to wear many hats but don’t need to spend as much time coordinating.

Product management career path

A career in product management usually starts with a role as an Associate Product Manager. People in this role are usually focused only on Design and Execution.

As you get more senior your scope will increase to include Vision and Strategy and your path will go from owning perhaps a single feature to owning an entire product.

Team Manager and Director roles will often be solely focused on Vision and Strategy.

No matter what path your career in product management takes, being a part of a product team will give you the opportunity to make impactful contributions to building great products and experiences for customers.

Want to learn more?

You can learn more about Sachin here.

Learn more about Product Insight, UserTesting’s app designed for the unique needs of product teams, and register for our upcoming webinar, How to make great products in real time using fast customer feedback.

To learn how UserTesting can help you understand your customers through on-demand human insight, contact us here.