In the world of product management, whether it is in the product owner capacity in the scrum world or as a product manager in the less scrum world, you almost always have come from somewhere. You didn’t move straight to a product management position out of college, most started in the marketing world or as an engineer/developer. Some product managers were sales reps or even top level management before the product management role came along. The question I am occasionally asked is, what skill-set is the most in demand for product managers today?
There are a list of attributes, traits and knowledge areas product managers should have: be an effective communicator, have passion for products, be confident in decisions, a true visionary, strong in market research, etc. etc. Overall though, what previous role does a product manager benefit from the most? Well in my opinion, this depends largely on the product they want to manage and company size/culture. I currently work for a small/medium sized company, there are roughly 40 employees, 3 product managers and not a single UX person. For our organization, strong UX design is critical to effectively portraying direction and product capabilities (sure, BAs and others are doing this too, but the product manager owns this). If you work for a large COTS firm, sales experience may better suit your needs. the ability to develop strong client relationships to help drive your product may be more valuable. If you work with a junior team of developers, coming from a development background may greatly help in backlog sizing and priority.
At the end of the day, when I am asked “what other skills should I focus on developing” I would encourage folks to embrace where they came from and hone in on where they want to be. Do you want to be a product manager for Microsoft or perhaps for a start-up… this decision will drive the focus. To start though, focus on the product management skills and build out the secondary skills you feel best suit your future. Gopal has a blog post to help with this; it is a good one!