April TechTalk: What is product management?

What is product management? What do product managers actually do? KCWiT hosted its April TechTalk ‘What is a PM?’ last Wednesday at InTouch Solutions in Overland Park, where we invited five panelists currently working in product management and project management to share their experiences. They shared the joys and frustrations and shared tips for those who want to get into the field!

The panelists first shared how they got into product/project management and it turns out they had very different backgrounds! Andrea from Cerner and Tucker from Crema both graduated college with communication degrees. Andrea actually started at Red Nova Labs as a content writer. Then she realized she wanted to develop her technical knowledge, and eventually moved into product management.

Red Nova Labs’ Lillian worked in SEO before moving into product management at Red Nova Labs’ self-storage division called StorEDGE. Erin graduated with a biology degree and was pre-med before realizing the competitive atmosphere did not suit her. In fact, Erin said she really resisted joining the tech industry because she feared it would be a similar atmosphere to what she experienced in the sciences. However, now she absolutely loves her job as an IT Project Manager. Because of all of these diverse stories, Events Director and moderator Alison told he audience that you can always start your career in the tech adjacent fields, even if you only have experience in another field.

As product managers and project managers, our panelists have to manage deadlines, lead a team, and ensure the product is launched successfully. All of our panelists spoke of Agile, the software development methodology that has now become popular among all kinds of project management. It involves communication between stakeholders, removing roadblocks to progress, and planning out work in stages or “sprints” and “stories.”

While the panelists encouraged attendees to be familiar with Agile, they didn’t want attendees to get hung-up on becoming Scrum masters or seeking Agile certifications. Our panelists find joy in so much of what they do – from launching huge products to finding solutions and value for their clients. They enjoy getting into the weeds and collaborating with their teams to solve problems. Alison asked the panelists what skills people interested in project management should brush up on and the panelists suggested these skills:

  • Brush up on their technical knowledge
  • Be curious – ask questions and seek to understand different points of view
  • Communication skills
  • Team-building skills.
  • Problem solving skills: being able to find solutions and think on your feet is invaluable in product management

Their typical days are far from typical: much like our previous panel discussion with Business Analysts, our PMs are the bridge between the developers and the clients. Listen below to Erin discuss a “typical” day at her job:

Panelist Kelly has to manage projects remotely, with her team being located in different states and even different time zones. If you’re interested in hearing tips about working remotely, RSVP to our May TechTalk Discovers: Remote Work on May 15. Tickets are available here!

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