GUIDE 2022

What is the Data Science Product Manager Career Path?

The data science product manager is a new job role that combines two separate but dependent roles. It’s rare to find data science product managers who have experience and knowledge in both data science and product management. 
That is why most data science PMs tend to grow into the role after spending ample time in a data science team. It’s easier for a data scientist to learn about product and project management. 
However, it doesn’t mean that product managers don’t become data science PMs. If a product manager learns and understands data science, adopting the role becomes easier.
In this article, we look at five typical roles that a data science product manager goes through. That said, we focus on the transition from a PM role to a data science PM and beyond. 

What is the Data Science Product Manager’s Career Path? 

As data science continues to become more relevant in each industry, it has become a necessity. That is why every product-based company invests in data science products too. 
Meanwhile, dedicated startups have come up with new ways to incorporate data science. As new machine learning algorithms, artificial intelligence software, and data engineering processes hit the market, companies continue to automate data pipelines and streamline insights. 
As a result, many product managers dive into data science products. At present, data product manager and data science product manager jobs are among the rising-demand jobs in the industry. 
Here’s a guide for the data science product manager role, along with the skills you need to succeed. 

List of Typical Data Science Product Management Roles 

The data science PM’s career path starts with typical product management roles. 

  • Associate Product Manager 
  • Product Manager 
  • Data Product Manager 
  • Data Science Product Manager 
  • Director/VP of Data Science and Product 

The final role varies for each industry and organization. 

Associate Product Manager 

The start of most product management careers is the associate product manager role. Think of the role as similar to a PM role but on a smaller scale. 
Most associate product managers tend to shadow product managers, learning how to work on the product strategy and own the product roadmap. 
Product Strategy Framework
As an entry-level role, the salary range is below that of the product manager. However, the good thing about the role is that a lot of companies don’t require official education. If you have a certification, sufficient knowledge, and a basic understanding of product management, you have a shot at landing the job. 

Associate Product Manager Duties and Responsibilities 

Since associate product managers aren’t responsible for the product and don’t own the product roadmap, they often manage task prioritization. In an agile environment, they are responsible for the backlog and setting up daily scrums. 
They also do basic project management, prepare data collected by researchers for internal stakeholders, and solve problems that PMs relay to them. 
Furthermore, associate PMs also sift through market data to check whether customer needs and business objectives match. The idea is to see whether certain product features are relevant if you’re reaching the correct audience, and how they align with organizational goals. 

When Is It Time to Move to A Product Manager Role? 

If you’re on top of the responsibilities above, there’s a good chance that you do certain tasks that are the PM’s responsibility. 
Furthermore, another important thing is to build good relationships with the product teams, along with marketing, engineering, and other teams. 
All that along with a good understanding of product management and you’re ready to move to the next role. 

Product Manager 

The product manager role is the first position where you own your results. You also need at least a couple of years of experience to get to this point. It’s also a good idea to start thinking about what industry and scope you want to specialize in. 
Product Management
In this case, we gear towards data science. In any case, you only need a good understanding of product management concepts at this point. That includes knowing how to devise a product strategy, a basic understanding of product marketing, and understanding the product lifecycle. 

Product Manager Duties and Responsibilities 

Product managers need to make informed decisions by analyzing market data. They own the product strategy and work with the product owner and the product team to actualize it. 
The following are some key responsibilities of PMs: 

  • Streamline the production processes and strategy through testing. 
  • Utilize data to identify detailed requirements of new features. 
  • Identify unique relationships between multiple product lines and align them. 
  • Develop cross-functional teams to meet business needs. 
  • Work with the product team, product owner, data science teams, data engineers, and other stakeholders. 
  • Manage the user journey, focusing on long-term product affinity. 

Most organizations have additional duties and responsibilities for PMs based on the industry and products. 

When Is It Time to Move Towards the Data Product Manager Role? 

Working with a data science team is crucial for moving towards a data PM role. Develop a basic understanding of data analysis and management. 
You don’t need technical knowledge but you need to understand how basic testing, analyses, and data products work. 

Data Product Manager 

A data product manager is someone who manages data products. Data product managers don’t need a technical understanding of the product but they need a holistic view of existing products. 
It’s where PMs learn more about data science products before moving to a dedicated data science PM position. 

Data Product Manager Duties and Responsibilities 

One key responsibility of a data product manager is analyzing market data to identify key product opportunities. Other duties include: 

  • Leveraging warehousing strategies to inform product strategy. 
  • Go over the output captured in statistical analyses to make informed decisions. 
  • Utilize data science techniques and hypothesis testing to improve products. 
  • Build data pipelines for a more robust analysis of data. 

Most data PMs learn market experimentation tests and multivariate tests to assist them. 

When Is It Time to Move to A Data Science Product Manager Role? 

You already apply various data science techniques in the data PM role. At this point, there’s a good chance you’re someone who understands data science. 
Learning statistical analysis, acquiring good analytical skills, and working with data scientists are bound to prepare you for the next role. 

Data Science Product Manager 

After understanding the nuisances of data, you are ready for the data science PM role. Your skill set needs to include advanced analytics, machine learning models, and understanding business cases of data science products. 
Data Analytics Model
You also need a good understanding of customer needs, business needs, and the data science product you’re managing. 

Data Science Product Manager Duties and Responsibilities 

It goes without saying that data science PMs need to adopt a technical and data-first approach to solve problems. Other than that, they: 

  • Manage data collection parameters to ensure there’s enough data. 
  • Run machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence models for better insights. 
  • Help product teams manage the product roadmap and strategy. 
  • Research data science industry trends using regular market oversight. 
  • Work on the product vision. 
  • Manage the product backlog of ideas and tasks. 
  • Improve user experience by working with customer teams. 
  • Develop API integration systems to improve product value. 
  • Drive product development throughout the lifecycle. 

The detailed requirements of a data science PM job vary depending on the kind of data science product you work with. 

When Is It Time to Move to the Next Role? 

At this point, it’s a matter of your overall experience and how many data science products you have been working on. 
Other factors include the total amount of time with the organization and product. 

Director/VP of Data Science and Product

At this point, you won’t manage the hands-on activities and the product development process. The director, senior director, or VP is responsible for making sure that the entire data science product set aligns with the organizational vision and goals. 
Every company has a different title for this role; you see varying names for the job. 
Typical duties and responsibilities at this level include: 

  • Making sure the product strategy decisions align with organizational objectives. 
  • Ensuring adequate budgeting. 
  • Mediating healthy communication and collaboration among teams. 

At this level, you work with the CEO, CPO, and other senior directors and stakeholders. However, you also manage the data science PM teams, overseeing their actions, strategies, and decisions. 

Data Science Product Manager Jobs: Key Takeaways 

The data science product manager career path in today’s market also starts with a data science career. If you’re a data scientist aspiring to become a product veteran, join product management bootcamps, complete courses, and get relevant certifications. 
Get a headstart in the data science PM career path if you have a data science background. A great and quick way to get a lot of product management experience is to join a startup. 
You grow with the product and you get to witness the entire product development cycle. That gives a good outlook on product management, setting you up for success as a data science product manager. 

Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter is the co-founder of Product Manager HQ, founder of Technical Writer HQ, and founder and head of product of Squibler. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.