GUIDE 2022

How to Become a Group Product Manager Without Experience

Do you aim to become a Group product manager or have a product management career in your dream company but have no experience playing the role?  Then you must know what skills you need to earn and the correct path that leads you to this lucrative position. 
A Group Product Manager (GPM) is at the top of the hierarchy of product managers who leads a team of product managers. Unlike other product managers, group PMs focus more on the big picture of product management. Product managers with years of experience can move toward this rank. With the valuable experience they acquire from this role, they further rise to positions like Principal Product Manager, Head of Product, or  VP of Product. With great power comes great responsibilities. Thus, though it is a high responsible career, it is a rewarding profession that prepares you to take higher positions. 
Becoming a group PM without experience is challenging, but it is not impossible to get there. For example, leadership and team management skills are essential to succeed. Suppose you do not have prior experience with this role. In that case, you can build your own portfolio with experience from a junior role and your own projects, demonstrating your readiness to take on this challenging role. 
Do you want to know more about this interesting topic? Keep reading to learn how to become a group PM with no experience.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Group Product Manager

First, understanding the general roles and responsibilities companies want group PM to take is important to prepare your mind to work towards them. Following is the list of roles and responsibilities of a group product manager.

  • Lead a product team to achieve business goals
  • Develop business plans and define budgets based on project requirements.
  • Supervising, coaching, and mentoring junior product managers
  • Maintain a strong working relationship with internal teams as well as customers and vendors 
  • Identify and propose innovative business opportunities and ideas for revenue growth.
  • Customer requirement identification and devising effective product solutions.
  • Prioritizing product development projects.
  • Assist in product marketing and launches
  • Review product road maps and provides feedback 
  • Remove any hindrances to executing the product plans.
  • Ensure products meet the expected quality and performance standards

Depending on the company, this list changes. For example, if you manage a silicon valley product group, you may have a lot more responsibilities. However, every company expects strong leadership responsibilities from a group PM. Next, let’s find out how you get there without experience.

1. Know the Fundamentals of Product Management

The key to becoming a Group PM with no experience is knowing the fundamentals of product management. However, jumping straight towards a higher position like group PM is difficult if you do not experience a junior product management role for at least a few years. Therefore, gain experience managing different types of products as a junior or a senior product manager. To gain product management experience, it doesn’t have to be a larger company. Instead, join a small team to learn ample things about the role.
Most product managers join the field with no experience and work on acquiring the essential knowledge and skills. A group PM needs to possess the fundamental techniques and knowledge related to the product and the industry. For example, if you are an API product manager, get the essential knowledge on APIs and grow your knowledge base with time. In the data science field, know the basics and the most advanced data science concepts, etc. 
Also, you need to sharpen essential skills such as leadership, management, communication, collaboration, organizational, strategic thinking, and problem-solving skills while you are engaging with your duties. Apart from soft skills you need to sharpen, aspiring group product managers also need to know the fundamentals of product management. Following is the list of managerial tasks you need to know to transition into a group PM. 

  • Defining product strategy
  • Product road map development
  • Leading and managing different types of teams
  • Working with customers to understand their requirements 
  • Transforming customer requirements into features and enhancements 

Hence, having the basic soft and technical skills is not enough to transition towards a group PM. However, take online courses to learn the product management fundamentals. Follow the PMHQ Product Manager Course to improve your managerial side of product management. Combining the up-to-date knowledge, you get from such courses with product management experience prepares you to take higher-level positions like a group product manager position, principal product manager role, etc.

2. Develop Your own Projects to Build Product Skills

While gaining experience working in a real product management environment, diversify your knowledge and skills by creating your own product management projects and managing them. These projects do not have to be large but enough to showcase your project management experience.
If you create projects with different products, it helps you demonstrate that your skills are transferable to new avenues. Once you have grasped the product management concepts from initial road map development to delivery, apply what you have practiced to those projects and continue to enhance your skills. 
Working on your own projects also helps to demonstrate that you take initiations and apply what you have learned to new initiations. it is difficult to apply the entire product lifecycle for these individual projects.
 Demonstrate your skills in individual steps such as creating a product roadmap, writing user stories, acceptance criteria, prototype building, market research, and acceptance testing. Although these individual projects do not give you the right amount of exposure to team management, still work on further developing your skills, such as written communication skills, strategic thinking, and analytical skills. 

Capacity Roadmap

Credits: Roadmunk

If you want to go beyond working in isolation with your own projects, work on involving other like-minded people in your projects who are also enhancing their skills by doing their own projects. This helps fill the skill gaps such as communication and collaboration, and leadership skills. It also allows you to come up with innovative product ideas through brainstorming. Hence, pairing with other people is a good way to apply the complete product development lifecycle to your own projects and develop essential product management skills. 
Keep in mind that principal product managers are all about managing a team of product managers. Therefore, it is important to have ample experience in managing multiple teams. It is difficult to gain everything by working on your own projects. But, having a combination of real product management experience with your own project management projects helps you fulfill the gaps in your skills and knowledge.

3. Sharpen Your Leadership Skills

GPM is a position that has the authority to lead a group of product managers to achieve business goals. Without showcasing your leadership skills, it is difficult for you to transition into a group product manager. However, if you are already working as an associate or a junior product manager, get ample opportunities for leadership as you are leading different cross-functional teams. 
Delegation Framework
As a leader, you must be a good listener and a motivator for your team to achieve their best. Showing positivity towards others is a key characteristic of an effective leader. It enables building trust among your team members as reliable people to deal with whenever they face any project-related issue. Also, when you get positive feedback, it helps others recommend you to group product management positions. Moreover, be creative in what you are doing to become an example to others who strive for innovation. 
Therefore, you need to gain leadership experience as much as possible. Also, do not hesitate to start new initiatives and take up new challenges to show that you are willing to go the extra mile to add new value to the business and customers. Additional work under your leadership helps you to stand out from the crowd that satisfies with day-to-day assigned tasks.
Apart from the above-discussed ways to sharpen your leadership skills, take up extra activities by joining the company’s internal communities and societies and playing a leadership role. It is a good way to create effective work relationships with colleagues and enhance communication, collaboration, and organizational skills. These extra activities also help you learn time management, a skill every leader should master. 
Therefore, there are numerous ways to demonstrate your leadership capabilities. Choose multiple paths to expand your leadership experience because the more leadership experience you have, the more you become a top candidate for taking up a group PM role. 

4. Keep up to Date With Technology and Competitors

While gaining the necessary skills, you need to update yourself with the latest technological trends that could impact the products. Taking courses and certifications about those things is a good way to showcase that you want to know where the industry moves ahead. It also helps you initiate your own projects incorporating those technologies to get hands-on experience while grasping the core concepts.
In addition, keep an eye on your close competitors. Study their latest products identifying the technologies they are using. Develop your market research and analysis skills. Learn to summarize the findings and understand the big picture. Practice presenting those data on your own because Group PMs focus on the big picture rather than the detailed picture. 

5. Create a Portfolio to Showcase Your Work

While you are working on an actual product management environment and your own projects, creating a portfolio showcasing everything you are doing is an essential step you have to follow. Your portfolio is the tool to showcase the relevant work and skills gained to your potential employers. Therefore, remember to add everything you have done to your resume concise manner. 
First, if you have done any online coursework, you need to include them explaining what specific areas of knowledge you have covered. It is always important to highlight the knowledge relevant to Group PM. Sometimes the courses you have taken include projects as part of the syllabus. It is better to emphasize those in detail as most employers look for practical parts rather than theory.
Next, include all the actual project work you have done as a product manager highlighting the skills you have gained as a product manager. You need to highlight the project you have worked on and facts to show off your leadership, team management, communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills. There is no single way to formulate all these important facts. Choose either to include them project-wise or as a whole.
When building your portfolio, try to make it as narrative as possible to make it easy for your potential employers to read and understand it. For example, what are the problems and challenges you have faced and your approach to solving them, any innovative ideas you have presented or worked on, and key presentations you have done?
The other important part is showcasing your self-projects as an individual contributor. Include every individual project you have worked on, including the individual external projects you have contributed. Highlight the key skills you tried to develop in a concise and meaningful way.

6. Get Your Portfolio to Potential Employers

Once you are ready with your portfolio and confident enough that you have gained the right knowledge and skills, it is time to work on getting it to potential employers. For that, networking with others working for potential employers is a faster way to get there than applying for a job posting. If you are applying through job postings, first shortlist all the potential employers you have come through. If you target one specific employer, you need to identify what they are looking for at the beginning of your preparation for this role.
In addition, further expand your network by joining external events such as meet-ups and making industry connections as much as possible. Those meetups and events are great opportunities for you to get in close with industry professionals and learn their knowledge, experience, and guidance on moving towards your career paths.

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.