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What is Product Management?

B2B vs B2C Product Management

Product management is a dynamic role that is part fulfilling (large ceiling for impact), exciting (diverse interesting problems), and challenging (broad responsibilities and ambiguous challenges). 

Thus, the Product Manager role is one of the most desired and fastest-growing jobs in the market; ranked as a top 10 job according to Glassdoor for the last 5 years.

What is Product Management?

Product managers strategically direct every stage of the product lifecycle (from research and development to testing and positioning) to build technically feasible products that fulfill both user needs and business objectives.

Said differently: product managers analyze business, tech, and user goals to define product solutions and guide a product team to deliver them. 

You might find yourself some weeks focusing on discovery and research for an upcoming product in the planning phase with customers, business, and doing your own heads-down analysis to identify the potential opportunities. Other weeks, you might be working closely with product design and engineering on various UX issues and bugs from customers. Or, with sales and product marketing when launching a product. 

“Product managers need the following four things: the brain of an engineer, the heart of a designer, the tongue of a diplomat and the herding skills of an Australian Shepherd” - Noah Askin, INSEAD (link)

Product Management responsibilities could be broken down into 2 dimensions:

(1) Internal vs external

  • Internal: more work with internal business teams, engineering, design
  • External: more time with customers, marketing, and sales

(2) Tactical vs strategic

  • Tactical: more day-to-day execution and delivery
  • Strategy: medium to long-term strategy of the product and in relation to company goals

The priorities for these activities change based on the product’s lifecycle stage, but with these dimensions we can plot a Product Manager’s responsibilities

How does the Product Manager role differ across companies?

Your responsibilities might differ broadly based on a number of factors such as your product’s life-cycle, company size, and role’s specialization. 

Product life-cycle stage

Based on your product’s stage, your responsibilities and where you spend most of your time will differ. Here are some example responsibilities,  

Pre-product launch responsibilities
  • Discovery and research with potential users 
  • Working with product design to help craft the user experience
  • Defining market size and product differentiation compared to competitors
  • Crafting MVP requirements / roadmap
  • Determining technical feasibility with engineering
Early in product launch responsibilities
  • Collecting and analyzing customer feedback
  • Tracking important product metrics
  • Iterating roadmap to find Product Market Fit
  • Working with sales and marketing on marketing campaign, pricing, and specifying target market 
After Product Market Fit validated responsibilities
  • Collecting and analyzing customer feedback
  • Tracking important product metrics
  • Prioritizing product improvements  

Company size

There are some key differences based on the companies size.

Note, some enterprise companies could have teams that operate like an early stage company to benefit from quickly pivoting and the entrepreneurial mindset (like Google X:

Small Company (early stage)

You will have more ownership and influence of entire product but typically impacting less users. It is more common to wear multiple hats and work in areas besides just product. If an early employee, PMs might be asked to create designs, help pitch to investors, sell to customers, help make business strategic decisions, or even code the application itself. You will gain expertise in many areas (like a swiss army knife), but won't go deep in one area.

  • Key to success: Skilled in structuring ambiguous problems and taking initiative 
  • Drawback: ambiguity can be stressful for some and more unpredictable working hours
  • Compensation: Higher ceiling but also higher risk. Typically your cash will be lower but you will have more equity in the company
  • Common challenge: Setting roadmap priorities without as much customer feedback or market feedback
Big Company (enterprise)

You will typically impact more users (existing customers), but will have more specialized ownership of only part of the product. More process and structure will be in place with a clear scope of your responsibilities. You are more likely to get more time for mentorship and the ability to more deeply hone your skills in one area.

  • Key to success: good team player who can work with the right stakeholders to achieve results
  • Drawback: not as exciting and more political
  • Compensation: Lower ceiling but more long-term stability
  • Common challenge: Getting consensus on product direction

Typical specialized product roles

Various related roles similar to Product Manager will go deeper in some activities where they might be more likely to own the activity entirely instead of only influence.

You can learn more about these relates roles by selecting here.


Product Management can be a very rewarding career, but is also very broad so make sure to consider some of these factors and read my other articles to help you on your product journey

Andrew's Articles are for professionals who are trying to break into or excel in Product ManagementAndrew's Articles are for professionals who are trying to break into or excel in Product ManagementAndrew's Articles are for professionals who are trying to break into or excel in Product ManagementAndrew's Articles are for professionals who are trying to break into or excel in Product Management
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