There are typically five different ways you can break into a Product Manager (PM) role, depending on where you’re coming from:
Internal Transfer: If you're already in a tech company, an internal transfer is often the most accessible route. Identify a PM whose career path inspires you and express your interest in exploring this trajectory. Offer assistance with their projects and take on tasks they may be swamped with. By establishing a track record of successful PM work, you position yourself as a strong internal candidate for future PM openings.
Embark on the Startup Journey: For those ready to put in extra effort, consider a similar strategy at a startup. Identify early-stage startups on platforms like Wellfound.com and approach founders with a proposition: "I'm intrigued by your venture and understand the resource constraints at this stage. Can I assist with your product development, perhaps on a pro bono basis?" Prove your capabilities during this trial period, and when they're ready to hire full-time PMs, you'll be a front-runner.
Build Your PM Portfolio Independently: If startups aren't your preference, create a portfolio on your own. Volunteer for PM projects at NGOs, manage development projects on Upwork (acting as the PM and outsourcing coding), or even initiate your own project through events like Startup Weekend. This portfolio of experiences will be invaluable when pursuing a full-time PM role.
Explore Associate PM Roles at Established Tech Companies: If you're early in your career and open to joining a larger tech company, consider an Associate PM role. While most PM positions expect some prior experience due to their critical nature, major corporations often invest in training recent graduates. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Uber offer Associate PM positions annually. However, be prepared for rigorous interviews, as competition for these roles is intense.
Consider Pursuing an MBA for a Direct Path: If you're contemplating further education, an MBA program can provide a direct route. While business schools are renowned for producing consultants and bankers, many tech giants turn to MBA programs to source new PM talent with vital leadership skills. Keep in mind that an MBA alone isn't a guarantee of consideration. Companies like Amazon are known for hiring MBA PMs irrespective of their pre-school background, while technically-oriented firms like Google often seek MBAs with an engineering foundation.
If you need help navigating these pathways, feel free to check out more resources on inohq.com, where you can also book a call with a PM coach to weigh out your options and strategize on which path is best for you to maximize your opportunity to break into product management.