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From unskilled to becoming a skilled Product Manager

A Fireside Chat with Marty Cagan - what to watch for in a downmarket, certification myths, resources, and scholarships for jobseekers

Product Management is one of the most sought-after career choices for many, yet it is an extremely challenging and demanding role. We sat down with Marty Cagan last week to have a casual conversational fireside chat. Our participants especially wanted to hear Marty's thoughts about current market dynamics which they had submitted prior to the event. We looked at the themes and shortlisted a few for this event. Read on to learn more and all the resources that were shared at the event.

How to elevate your skills in a down market?

We live in a world where many things are broken - processes, systems, societal norms, tech, healthcare, housing, childcare, manufacturing, and others. We cannot afford to become obsolete. We need to learn the skills to innovate with a founder-like mindset. This means we need to unlearn old habits of working and re-learn scrappy ways to imagine and build things to solve the messy problems of today. Additionally, human skills such as storytelling, influencing, emotional intelligence, situational awareness, and creativity become core. This is something most leaders are suggesting to focus on. Marty reminded us of an article he recently wrote about Time to Build which aligns with the essay that Marc Anderson published in 2020 about It's Time to Build. The importance of human skills has been emphasized by Ken Norton as well. With a nod to all these leaders, our Founder Bosky has also been championing these skills and they form the basis of all our learning tracks in PMDojo as well.

Marty also reminded us how there have been a number of ups and downs in the market before and every single time, companies are forced to innovate. When this happens, companies need people who have the skills above to creatively solve messy problems. Our Founder, Bosky also talks about how learning how to build, innovate and storytelling are key to honing so that they can become our superpowers. These are the skills that not only help us avoid becoming obsolete but also in many respects help us future-proof our careers.

"You cannot learn to become a Product Manager from Twitter." - Marty Cagan

Get real-world and industry experience instead. Gain knowledge, and confidence to elevate your career in a down market. Join as a Product Manager, UX Designer, or a Software Developer. Spots fill up quickly and our cohorts are always sold out. Apply here:

How do you find red flags when interviewing at companies?

No company is perfect and while both jobseekers and companies try to put their best foot forward, there are a few red flags to keep in mind while evaluating them as jobseekers.

It is important to understand the different kinds of environments you may find yourself as a product manager. Marty shared about how working in a feature team versus a product team will look very different. Working at big tech versus a startup will look very different. Interviews are not meant to be a 1-way street and as candidates, we should 100% be asking questions to:

  • The team members we will be working with the most

  • Our potential manager

  • Members from other cross-functional teams we will be collaborating with

Some of the questions that we recommend that you try asking to find any disconnects and use the information to assess a "mutual fit" are as follows:

  • Ask how product management looks like in this team (or company)

  • Why did the last person from this team leave?

  • When was the last time someone from the team failed and how was this handled? Why was it a failure?

  • What does diversity mean to you? (watch out for superficial responses)

  • What is good, bad, and ugly about working here?

Are certifications needed to get a job as a Product Manager?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions for anyone looking to transition into product management. We were really interested to hear from Marty on this and it proved something we had been saying all along. Certifications do not really matter and are considered red flags by Hiring Managers.

Marty shared, "Every one of them I have seen is utterly useless and ridiculous. I don't know any Hiring Manager at a good product company that does not think they are ridiculous as well."

While some job descriptions at a few companies might look for education in product management, it is important to evaluate learning but apply those learnings to get experience. For anyone looking to transition into product management, you will most likely find yourself in a chicken and egg problem. What is important here is to learn product mindset skills and apply them in a real scenario to launch a real product. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Start a side project to demonstrate how you think and solve the problem

  • Make an internal transition

  • Take on a stretch project to help a product team

  • Join PMDojo's Product Accelerator programs to learn and apply those to gain real-world and industry experience

Marty reminded us how we have so many unskilled Product Managers in the market at present. This is a gentle reminder that one cannot just become skilled in the craft of product management by doing a course or a certificate. One needs to learn and hone product thinking skills.

This is similar to what Kaustav, a Sr. Product Manager at Intuit also talks about. Check out what he says below and how you can learn and gain real-world experience past traditional courses and certifications:

At PMDojo, our Fellows learn from a curriculum that has been designed by hiring managers themselves. Our Founder Bosky has been in tech and product field for over 2 decades herself and has used her experience hiring, building and coaching product managers and designers into creating PMDojo. So instead of learning product and design skills at a superficial level, Fellows at PMDojo are learning live and getting to apply all that they learn to ideate, design, build and launch a live product in the market.

Below you can also hear from our Fellow Fortune, on why she choose PMDojo compared to other courses or programs.

We hear this from Fellows who join PMDojo every single time. Apply to one of the 3 learning tracks of PMDojo Product Accelerator to learn and gain industry experience to stand out in your job search. If you are looking to gain real-world experience, knowledge and mentorship to transition into a role in product, learn more by registering for our live Q&A Session or apply here.

Resources for those who have been impacted by tech layoffs

Here are a few resources for anyone impacted by tech layoffs or searching for product roles:

  • Never Search Alone: Book with ideas for searching for jobs

  • Watch a playback of our event with Carey Flack, Growth Product Manager at Adobe who recently went from a layoff to 4 job offers

  • Join a learning community like PMDojo to upskill or reskill with mentorship, networking and gain real-world experience to stand out in your job search

  • Apply for scholarships to upskill with PMDojo (between 15%-50% of scholarships are available)


Scholarships for people impacted by tech layoffs

PMDojo has scholarships available to make it easier for you to skillup and learn from some of the best leaders in tech, UX and product🎉. These scholarships are open for Lite and Core Tracks that can help you pay between 15% - 50% of the scholarship fees.

PMDojo’s curriculum is multidisciplinary and has been designed by Hiring Managers and help you gain industry experience, learn, stand out and elevate your career in product roles. We have a 6 and 10-week, apprenticeship-style programs where you learn in a live and immersive way to collaborate cross-functionally, and launch a live product in the market while being supported by senior leaders from the tech industry. You can also check out the incredible Pitch Day that took place a few weeks ago from our last cohort. PMDojo has 3 unique learning tracks to support your learning goals:

  • Core Track: Collaborate as a cross-functional team (including a developer) to take a real user problem from ideation, design, and launch. In 10 weeks, you will launch a live product in the market and measure impact with live learning, mentorship, career support, and confidence

  • Industry Track: Everything in Core Track + you get matched up with a real company to help launch a product for them in 10 weeks

  • Lite Track: Take a real user problem, test it and design a validated interactive prototype and build a compelling portfolio in 6 weeks. You will get to work solo with access to office hours

⭐️ Spots fill up quickly and their cohorts are always sold out.⭐️ Apply here: ­­­­If you have any questions, simply join us for a live Q&A Session to learn more.

🎥 Event Recording

If you want to catch up on the event, feel free to watch it below.

If you enjoyed this post, don't forget to subscribe to our blog below.👇


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