How to improve your Product Management career and grow in your job

I have recently been interviewing Product Managers about their jobs and writing interview Q&As for those who may be going for a job in Product Management. ( Refer to 'Your Career' for a list of articles). The aim is to provide individuals who want to get into Product Management with ideas, insight, inspiration and encouragement – one common thread that spreads across all the interviews is that everyone had a different role before they entered the world of Product Management.
Brian Lawley gives a webcast entitled “How to accelerate your product management career.” I have given a summary of the 20 odd points that he raises. In the hope that this will also help those who are currently working as product managers and those who want to break into product management.
  1. Career goals: where you are honestly have 1/3/5/10 year goals – start with the 10 year goal and work backwards. You need to sit back and do some real thinking about this. 
  2. What’s the difference: why do some people advance very rapidly while others move slowly or stagnate – it about the techniques you use and how you manage up.
    How does your boss view you: attitude and productivity: you need to be organised and get on with people – you also need to be a good leader. 
  3. Productivity = deliverables: both strategic and tactical - day to day and important high level projects and tasks that are important to the company. Ensure you free up enough time to tackle additional responsibility – therefore the day to day work need to be under control. 
  4. Get a mentor: your boss, an executive, senior peer, paid coach - spend an hour a week with your mentor discuss where you’re at and how to rise above issues. 
  5. Be the bearer of bad news quickly and propose solutions and timelines. 
  6. Keep careful company: network with the right people. Show me your friends and I’ll tell you what type of person you are therefore avoid negative people they will drag you down. 
  7. Be an expert: have the relevant information in your head both your discipline (product management) and your market – use google alerts, read books & blogs to stay up-to-date. 
  8. Beef up your resume: and build your brand – put in extra time and help others, do volunteer work, get certification, take-up internal opportunities to lead. 
  9. Be a solution employee:manage your boss by giving them a weekly update and get input on areas you need but have recommendations to issues that are raised. 
  10. Always give the team the credit:be humble and give credit to others – however when things go wrong be ready to stand up and take the blame. 
  11. Choose right: the boss (gauge this at the interview) choose the right job and company, get into a company and market that is rapidly growing. 
  12. Be a good communicator: be concise and always have the correct tone. 
  13. Hire only those who can over take you: You are who your team, therefore hire stars and that will reflect on you – your team will push you up, while your mentor will pull you up. 
  14. Truly care about people: – you will work with them again – never speak badly about anyone. It will come back on you. 
  15. Always be professional:don’t make issues personal get perspective before communicating –practice listening. We have two ears and one month.
  16. The last thing you do: you are always remembered by the last thing you do at a company its the last thing you do that people will remember you by. 
  17. If you can’t stay positive then move on: You don’t want to be branded as the a negative person. 
  18. Don’t sit on the fence: be committed to your job or decide to move on. 
  19. Build your network: - people are treated as assets – your safety net is your network. 
  20. Know what your good at: – hire people to complement your skills – do the things that your good at.


  1. Hi Derek

    How come you haven't interviewed me yet??

    By the the blog!!

  2. Thanks for the feedback - your turn is coming soon - along with the other Lead Product Managers in our group.

  3. By the way, I'm trying to do some research to pin down exactly how much the PM job varies across the technology industry. If anyone wants to participate in the survey, here's the URL:

    All responses are confidential, of course. If you participate, you get a copy of the Forrester study based on this information.

  4. Nice Post.

    I need some guidance as in how to mould my career. To start with, I have been working in an IT Startup where I have been promoted to the post of a product manager within 1.5 yrs. Looking at the industry, I definately feel I am very young as I just have exp of 1.5 yrs.

    The problem is "I am confused": I have been working mostly on product specs (PRD's, Design Specs - UI / UE, Documentation, Use cases etc.). Is this the right direction or am I lagging out from the crowd? DO you think I need a change as in this time of recession, appraisals are almost NIL in the organization.