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The US is on an economic precipice. Many lost their jobs, but as more and more businesses open up, at least partially, the country could be on a road to a revival. But there’s a job in the tech sector that’s nearly always in demand, before, during and after the pandemic, the product manager (PM).

Job hunters are always on the lookout for an ideal work situation: One that uses skills; is in a good, if not nearby location; one without toxicity, and one that pays well, all characteristics of a job as a PM. It’s considered one of the fastest-growing professions, and has a median average of 68% of US adult professionals between the age of 30-49 years-old. Of those, 43% had a bachelor’s degree and 40% had a master’s degree.

FunCorp’s COO Denis Litvinov compiled research on the path to become a PM for both the job seeker and the potential employer. He hopes to use the 100 interviews he conducted with PMs to offer employers tips on choosing the right PM for the job. He noted that there are potentially hidden traits that don’t appear in a prospective candidate’s resume that can be “brought out” during the interview process.

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Litvinov used a timeline to depict the path to PM:

  1. Study engineering in school.

  2. Work as a developer.

  3. Become a team leader or head of the department or all development.

  4. CTO (chief technical officer), which will solidify experience in managerial administration (necessary for PMs).

Litvinov described PM candidates as “people with definite signs of right brain hemisphere development, such as human sciences education, experience as a designer or marketer, and well-developed communication skills. And at first glance, everything seems logical, because it requires, for example, a good imagination to invent new features, but this is only at first glance.”

The critical problem of people with a soft science mindset in a PM position, he said, “is the inability to analyze and interpret incoming information accurately, especially when it is scarce, and the inability to differentiate between what is essential and what is transient.”

He added, “PMs need to understand the core values of the product and to produce to perfection by hundreds to thousands of iterations.”

Of course, a PM should have intricate and detailed knowledge of how tech products work, and whatever his/her/their company manufactures, produces or develops.

Image: FunCorp

Top 7 traits for a PM

The Fun.corp COO broke down the seven essential traits a PM must have from the perspective of an employer interviewing job seekers, and suggested the followed be top considerations:

  1. Loves math

Their educational background must be math-focused, in high school and at university.

2. Embrace monotony

They should prepare for projects with a long-lead time that requires patience. In other words, embrace monotony. Litvinov said: This includes fishing, marathon race, triathlon, etc. A hobby where it takes months and years of monotonous daily work before you get first results.”

3. Top chefs

Candidates should not only be able to prepare complicated (actual edible) dishes, but have a genuine love of cooking, and he said “it could be one of the non-verbal signs of a good PM, because it has similar flow resources-process-result. Like top chefs, PMs must function in a high-pressure environment.

4. Success, not failure to launch

Still, Litvinov says, even if a prospective employee’s previous business venture didn’t necessarily pan out, while discussing the experience, an employer can gather information on how the candidate thinks; what was right? Wrong? He added that it doesn’t even matter what their initial business had been, even if unrelated to the company, and said, “even a taco truck will give a lot of needed experience.”

5. A little too under-the-radar

While the interviewee doesn’t have to be a social influencer with a grand following, it helps to have somewhat of a reputation in the narrow, high-professional communities. PMs should consciously build their own personal brand, or they may encounter problems along the way.

6. Post-graduate work, please

Their coursework should include many business courses, or even be an MBA. Those with graduate work, Litvinov said, will be able to “draw upon a wide array of skills to help companies envision, deliver, and market the new and the next.”

7. Business fan

In some positions, knowing a candidate’s personal interest is generally irrelevant, but for a PM, knowing what they’re interested in and participate in outside of work “will be a massive advantage for both sides.” What’s irrelevant, Litvinov is too much of a focus on “standard job interview politeness,” and employers need to consider having “a deep understanding of your industry as a user. You need to be able to feel enthusiastic about the problem your product solves, or how it makes your users’ lives better.”

Lastly, Litvinov said: “The role of a product manager is unique and it takes time to become one. To become a right leader, you should come with a diverse background, a problem solver, keen personal interests, strong analytical skills, and have an abundance of patience. Joining the world of product management plays a critical role in many tech-related businesses by solving the pain points for today’s customers or clients.”