How to Get In, Move Up, and Excel in Product Management

How to Get In, Move Up, and Excel in Product Management” with Panel – John Cook, Disruptive Products Guy, Nokia; Rashmi Menon, Product and Strategy Consultant; Sandy Cook, Senior Director of Product Management, Minted

By Pushpa Chandrashekaraiah

December 2013 Event

The panel moderated by Gal Josefsberg, VP Products at Social Chorus, provided a great mixture of PM perspectives from panelists working at both startups and big companies including experience from owning companies. It was a very interactive session with great participation from the crowd. Following are some of the topics discussed.

What are the top trends in the next 5-10 years?

John highlighted how ‘as-a-service’ types of businesses are growing and will continue to grow – it could even be ‘software management as a service’. Smarter gadgets that connect people and other gadgets will also continue to evolve. While Rashmi agreed to these trends, Sandy added a few more such as personal cloud and revolutions that are happening in the ‘payment’ world will open up more opportunities in the future. Bitcoin is a great example that is moving in that direction.

With such trends, PMs role will also need to evolve with responsibilities such as having a great vision for integrating products with new trends and adopting them in individual business values.

Is it important for PMs to be subject matter experts?

Is Rashmi’s perspective, PMs can change verticals in their careers as long as they develop the expertise quickly and contribute to the business. Both Sandy and John also agreed that when they hire PMs, they look for good PM skills first rather than looking for very specific subject matter expertise.

TIP: If you are aiming to get a job with little background in the domain knowledge required for that job, 1) make sure your resume ties back into other general PM requirements of the job, 2) do your homework on the product and have good suggestions to improve the product.

Setting a vision and direction for the product, understanding other parts of the business including how sales and marketing work and collaborating with them are all primary responsibilities of a PM apart from being the product owner.

Also, PMs need to have some UX eye for guiding UX teams with design; however, sometimes in smaller teams, PM will also need to wear UX designers’ hat.

If I don’t have any PM experience, how can I become one? 

1)   Take some PM classes or attend a business school 2) Attend PM networking events such as P-Camp and 3) Volunteer for any PM projects within your role

Now that I am a PM, how can I move up in the ranks?

“Always, do the job before you get the job” – take initiatives beyond your role boundaries. Executive teams always look for such talents. Rashmi suggested working on high profile projects and showing how you can mentor. Sandy highlighted that communicating your work to others – managing up – is quite important.

Keep in mind – Value of PM managers is in removing obstacles and guiding your team.

How can PMs efficiently manage remote team?

Build a rapport with the teams by adding some face time with skype (and such) and also by visiting them. It may also be helpful to have smaller centers that work together instead of large teams communicating on a regular basis. Also, documentation and communication is key.

Pushpa Chandrashekaraiah, Principal Product Manager at RSA. With 12 years of PM and engineering experience, she has successfully launched several enterprise products in multiple industries/verticals. Her interest is in big data enterprise market and security. She can be contacted at:,

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