Entering the workforce, changing jobs, or are simply curious, Profiles series is the place to learn more about the career opportunities in the pump industry and the skills needed to be successful.
Hi, I’m a Product Manager. What do I do?
About me: As a Product Manager, I oversee the development and sustainability of my company’s product line portfolio. That means that I track the development of products, from early strategy to its post-release lifecycle. I create project timelines, define the scope, monitor progress and work cross-departmentally to develop new products or modify existing ones. I also shepherd new initiatives through production and product release. However, most of my time is spent working on how to improve our existing products to make sure that they continue to be competitive, while at the same time maintaining an efficient supply chain, value, and profit margin.
What I’m good at: I’m a leader, and I’m good at getting different groups of people to work together as a team. Often, you’ll find me working with our sales, operations, and engineering departments. We all need to be in some of the same meetings together so that I can make sure everyone communicates exactly what is required for the project to be successful. You see, my goal is to look at the big picture of our product lines, while maintaining a sustainable profit, handling yearly pricing conversations, and coordinating strategy with our marketing department. I’m a clear communicator, this helps, because I need to talk with every member of my team and communicate challenges and additional ideas to other specialists who work in different departments. I’m also good at multitasking, as I need to keep my company’s product line teams focused on our key performance indicators—what is referred to as KPIs—that align with our quantifiable metrics. I enjoy getting to know new people, and because a large part of my job is speaking directly with clients, a good memory also comes in handy. Depending on the specific role of the product manager at different organizations, other competencies that come to mind are proficiency in Adobe products like Illustrator (which would help create marketing and presentation materials), computer aided design software (such as AutoCAD, SolidWorks or SolidEdge), supply chain software (such as Epicor), and data analytics programs (like SAS Enterprise Miner).
What I like: My favorite part of being a product manager is watching my company’s products come to life. While it can require solid time management skills and a little bit of patience, it is always satisfying when the work pays off. I also like using my creativity and analytical skills—whether I’m working with our marketing team to develop new strategies or researching our customer base to get ideas for our next great product. While I need to make sure that the vision for each product remains clear, one of my favorite things about the job is learning the opinions of many different departments and sharing those ideas across the enterprise in a way that makes sense. I know that, while my opinions and analysis are important in keeping a project on-schedule, it takes a great deal of collaboration to make a truly exceptional product. I find myself very interested in my industry and stay informed on industry innovations, applying customer feedback and things I pick up from competitors into the development of our new and existing products. I also like to visit our manufacturing facilities and I attend several trade shows. I find myself traveling for work about three months out of the year.
What I’m looking for: If I were looking for another job, I would want to continue to utilize my experience in a leadership role. I would look for opportunities where I can act as a mentor to my staff members and lead by example. I would look for organizations where I think my personality, enthusiasm, and communications skills could contribute to the culture and prosperity of the organization. If I were looking to hire for this position, I would look for an analytically motivated candidate that understands the importance of the customer as well as the team. The key to being an excellent product manager is being able to have an eye on budget and profits, while maintaining a human connection to your staff and a strong professional presence. I would look for someone who can quickly understand a creative vision and explain that vision clearly throughout multiple departments within an organization.
My education: My bachelor’s degree in business administration prepared me to understand the financial and marketing needs of being a product manager, which I used in previous roles. After five years in marketing, I received my MBA and worked in various leadership positions where I assisted with product launches and learned how to predict market trends. The leadership positions for which I was promoted, taught me how to synthesize data analytics with customer satisfaction metrics to create successful products before landing my job as a product manager. While it took some time to get where I am today, it was important to take my MBA knowledge into the real world so I could understand how different companies conduct their businesses cross-departmentally and gain on-the-job experience with product training, website editing, and analytical software programs. While my company is quite large, some smaller companies may ask their product manager to work more directly with software like Adobe Illustrator and InDesign for website development. Having an engineering background would also make a product manager’s role less cumbersome. Otherwise, the ramp up in trying to understand the way things work can be difficult.
Where I work: My work experience allows me to explore a wide array of leadership opportunities, but I find that I am best used in workplaces that appreciate my background in analytics and marketing. While my skillsets are specialized around STEM-based companies, I’m able to use my experience at any company that needs a leader that can take a concept from a sketch to reality. If I ever worked in another industry, I would be an especially strong candidate for any organization looking to strengthen its analytical marketing capabilities.
How much I make: My salary reflects my unique position and wide range of responsibility. The more varied and larger the company, the more opportunity for a higher salary. Salaries for new employees are often based on what you earned prior to accepting the position. This is why the range is so vast. Right now, I make $120,000 per year, but the range can be as wide as from $88,000 a year to more than $200,000 a year (if you’re seasoned, and work for a large organization).