One clear path is to join a start-up with a really small development team (3–8 engineers).
These kind of places will be short on processes early on. People are used to “winging it” and deciding things over informal meetings.
It’s an excellent environment for you to mix with sales, marketing and operations as well.
Most cash-strapped startups are unlikely to hire an external product manager for a while. This opens up opportunities for everyone to have much broader roles.
That breadth at a startup is unlikely to be matched by most roles offered at corporates.
Three things — Design products which incorporate the below:
If you’re building out features to improve onboarding for new users, you can talk to marketing and get their ideas. See if all the data that operations needs is being collected. Stare at Google Analytics and annoy everyone about bounce rates, SEO optimization, content and more.
A continuous Transition from design to product, or engineering (especially front-end) to the product is the life of a Product Manager.
Experience >> Books:-
Getting a job where the entire day you’re working on things which improve your ability to be a good product manager. This is always going to get better results than working on something tangential and keeping up with books. Try to learn and experiment on the company’s dime.
Get burnt on the job, then read the books.
I joined as a backend engineer. Led the re-write of our frontend on to Angular. Got into endless debates about product flows. Front-end especially got me closer to the design team. I finally know how they approach things and how long it takes.
It is important that the design team understands what exactly we are building and why we are making something. Each of us in engineering now take complete ownership of some part of the product.
Some random notes:-
Know when to cede control, Don’t be a control freak. Front-end is enjoyable since you get to think about how users will behave. Don’t make your front-end guys mindlessly code to a spec. Especially if they don’t get the whole picture.
Think of yourself eventually as an editor who lets the writers fill in the articles.
And always remember, most of these things are the kind of stuff you learn from experience, not books.