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Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

What a Product Manager Does (and How to Land the Job)

As a personality type, a connector is someone who knows a lot of people in a variety of social circles, who’s always eager to make an introduction or get you in touch with the resources you need.

In the professional world, product managers are connectors. They evaluate the needs of the customer and company, then gather the resources and work across departments—including engineering, marketing, development, and more—to make that product a reality.

But what does that look like day to day, and how do you land that type of gig? To find out more, we sat down with five product managers to learn about their career paths and what brought them to their current roles. Read on to discover how they got to where they are now—and how you can do the same.

1. Bill Devine

Product Manager, Indiegogo

Before jetting off to the tech scene on the West Coast, Bill Devine earned two degrees at the University of Akron in Ohio—first studying marketing in undergrad; then earning an MBA with a focus in e-business.

To put that education to use, he moved to San Francisco to work for a company that built mobile products for clients of all sizes, from small startups to technology giants like AOL and Adobe. He was able to get his hands into product management, business analysis, and even some design and wireframing.

Devine followed that passion to Indiegogo, an international crowdfunding platform with an increasing a focus on mobile. As a product manager there, he interacts with teams from across the company, including marketing, analysis, and design, to determine the best products to create for the customer—and then actually create them.

See Jobs at Indiegogo

2. Prinyashu Jain

Product Manager, ZestFinance

After studying chemical engineering in college, Prinyashu Jain followed her passion for data and computational challenges to the credit card fraud industry. Following that, she worked in consulting, until she figured out how to combine her interests of working with customers and analyzing big data into a role at ZestFinance.

In her position there, she collaborates with the company’s business teams and decision makers to get a better idea of what the company needs, then takes that to the engineering team to make it happen.

See Jobs at ZestFinance

3. Neha Kumar

Chief Product Officer, Recombine

Growing up, Neha Kumar had no shortage of career goals. “I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to be a scientist, I wanted to make websites,” she recalls. And that’s exactly what brought her to the U.S.: “This idea of a liberal arts education; that I could study multiple things and do multiple things.”

As she dug into that education, she discovered even more interests—in genetics, anthropology, and psychology. That unique combination led her to pursue a graduate degree in genetic counseling. “I wanted to figure out a way to make genomics part of everyday healthcare,” Kumar explains.

After a stint in healthcare consulting, she came across Recombine, where she builds products that personalize medicine through genetic testing and works with physicians to make sure those products are serving patients well.

See Jobs at Recombine

4. Nicole Ellis

Product Associate, DogVacay

Nicole Ellis isn’t a newcomer to the world of animals; prior to working at DogVacay, she trained exotic animals. And that includes her personal pet: “My dog is a bit of a celebrity in the dog world,” she admits.

With that kind of in-depth knowledge, Ellis was a natural fit for DogVacay. She started in a customer service role (as the company’s third employee!) but worked her way up through a variety of roles to eventually join the product team.

As a product associate, Ellis works with everyone from the development team to the customer service representatives to customers to build the very best products for users.

See Jobs at DogVacay

5. Jeff Grant

Director of Product Innovation, InVue

Jeff Grant pursued his passion for product development at Stanford. There, he connected with a professor who started a toy invention company and came on board as an intern. The company was eventually acquired, and Grant continued to work there for 10 more years, until he and his wife moved to North Carolina.

There, he quickly discovered the Charlotte-based product company InVue. He pursued the opportunity to work for the design-oriented firm and found a position heading up the product team.

Grant jumped in full-force, and now spends his days designing prototypes, collaborating with engineers, and making innovative solutions come to life.

See Jobs at InVue

Photo of product management courtesy of Shutterstock.

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