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How To Become a Product Manager With No Product Management Experience

April 28, 2017

9 minute read

So you want to become a product manager without any prior training or work experience? Well, can we let you in on a little secret? The most successful product managers out there today didn’t have any of those things either when they first got started.

You don’t need any formal qualifications and you don’t have to have a certain kind of resume. If you’re looking for your first product manager job, it’s not a tall order. You can have one in no time.

But you do need to have some particular qualities that all great product managers share.  Let’s find out if you have what it takes.

What is a product manager?

Product managers generally lead and work across teams to get their product designed, built and launched. They’re responsible for getting data, analytics and expertise together and making the final call on product decisions.

In reality, that comes down to handling a lot of little pieces at once: managing the product backlog, maintaining the roadmap, getting stakeholder buy-in, talking to customers, and coordinating multiple teams to ensure you’re all working towards the same goals.

This is no small task – it involves a lot of people wrangling. In fact, the most important qualification a product manager brings to the table is their ability to work with people.

In the following Slideshare, you’ll see that it doesn’t matter whether you’re a former pizza store manager or a violinist.

What really matters is how good you are at getting people from different areas of the company, with different agendas and motivations, to unite behind your vision.

How do you find the right product manager experience?

Our co-founder Janna Bastow got her first product manager experience after a few months on the job as a customer support rep at a software company. The company was a mess, and she found herself instinctively sitting there putting the pieces together. For example, she was spending all day talking to angry customers about the same problems with no end in sight.  

So she started writing out and handing over detailed solutions for the development team – those are known as product specs, as she found out later.

Her manager noticed that she had a knack for the job and formally promoted her to Product Manager.

So that’s one way to go about it – be an accidental product manager until someone finally notices.

But really, here’s what you need to keep in mind. If you’re actively looking to make the jump to product management, it’s important for you to identify your talents, interests and strengths so you can land a job where you can make the most impact.

All product manager roles aren’t created equal: Product management jobs vary by industry, company and even sometimes by department.

When you’re looking for a new job, these are the factors you should consider:

Do you want a creative or technical role?

When you’re looking at job listings, you’ll find that there is a wide range of product jobs out there. Some companies are seeking candidates with creative skills while others are looking for someone more technical to help maintain an existing product.

There’s a lot of advice on Quora about finding the right product role, which you should definitely consider:

One company might have a product manager that’s primarily focused around business, market analysis, business relationships, etc with only a little bit on the creative and the technical side.  Another might have a greater focus on UI/UX and design, or (you guessed it) the technical aspects.”

Think about which type of role plays to your strengths. If you want the creative license to build something entirely new, you might want to focus your job search on companies that are looking for a candidate like you.

In contrast, you’re likely to find yourself working in a more predictable environment, look for roles working with existing products.

Are you passionate about the product or field you’ll be working in?

You can narrow your job search down significantly if you focus on products you’re passionate about. Remember that as a product manager, you’re responsible for setting the product’s vision and direction. Good luck doing that for a product you don’t care about.

What’s your passion? Healthcare? Fintech? Travel? Beauty? There are tons of products out there that you can make your mark on. Take the time to think about what you really want to do and where you really want to make an impact.

Sure, you can think of it as just a job. But being passionate about your product will really make the difference for both your career and the people you work with.

Make those long hours worth it. 😉

Are you working with the right culture?

The term “culture fit” comes with a lot baggage, but it’s almost a necessary term. When you’re considering companies to work with, look closely at whether you’ll be working in an environment where you can succeed.

Does the company have a supportive culture? Do they have the right values in place?

Do people who work there feel like they are valued? Will you able able to test new ideas? Will you encouraged or discouraged from bringing change into the organization?

You can glean this kind of information just by talking to people who already work there. If they’re happy at their company, that will shine through in the way they talk about their experience there.

Look also at whether the company has benefits and perks that will help you keep learning while you’re on the job. Will you have access to a mentor? Will you have a budget for attending conferences and workshops throughout the year? Will you have a budget for getting your company set up with the right tools and processes?

It’s a good sign if a company has these things lined up already!

II. Getting hired as a product manager

Make yourself visible

Get plugged into the online #prodmgmt community:

If you’re new to the world of product management, I have good news for you. The online product management community is both active and incredibly welcoming to newbies.

Here are the first steps you should take:

👉🏽Get yourself set up on Quora and Medium where there’s already a lot of chatter.

👉🏽Join any of these online communities for product managers

👉🏽Follow these top product management people on Twitter

You can get plugged into the conversation on Twitter right away: get started by following #prodmgmt and #productmanagement.

Feeling shy? Get yourself started by leaving comments on other people’s work. Not only will that be highly appreciated, but the more you write and tweet, the more visibility you get. All this will go a long way in helping you break into the network.

Network and attend meetups:

Being online is great, but nothing beats good old fashioned going out and meeting people in real life.  

Become a Product Manager

Product managers attend meetups not just to keep up with the industry, but also to potentially recruit new hires. If you’re serious about looking for a new job, it’s not a bad idea to mention it while you’re mingling with new folks you meet at these events.

Even if they’re not hiring, chances are they know someone who is.

The following events are pretty popular and well attended – find an event near you!

ProductTank: Monthly meetups for product managers in 100+ cities around the world

ProductCamp: Free, user-driven “unconference” for product managers and marketers (around the world)

MindTheProduct: The conference for passionate product people (in London and SF)

You can always head to to find local product management events near you.

Meeting the right people at a company can help you fast track your application at a company. It definitely helps to have someone on the inside who can vouch for you.

Put yourself on the market

Check in with HR:

If you like where you work and want to move into a product manager role, let the hiring manager know! It’s likely that you already have a good deal of product knowledge if you’ve been at your company for awhile, and that will definitely work in your favor.

Sign up for jobs boards

There are also a handful of places where you can find companies hiring product managers. Check out the following jobs boards:

Mind the Product Jobs


LinkedIn Jobs

Do your homework: Take advantage of product management resources

Books you should read

Product Leadership and product management experience

Product management is a fast-changing field of expertise, and we are all learning as we go along. There’s a lot of reading available online! Here’s a few of our favorite ones:

There’s no shortage of books on product management. You can find a much longer, crowdsourced list of recommended reading for product managers here.

Blogs and podcasts you should check out

Oh, where do we start? These are a few of our favorites, but again – there’s no end to this list!

You can find an extensive list of product management blogs here.

You can also try our Resource Center to find our in-house resources on product management, product roadmapping and more.

Ready to go all in? 

The exciting thing about product management is that there’s no one road to gaining product manager experience. There’s no official certification you need to enter this field. There are no barriers to entry – and it’s a role where you can make a real tangible impact at your organization.

The truth is, the best product managers are self-taught.

If you’re serious about product management, the best way to prepare is by getting out there, listening and learning from other people’s product management experiences. Try out our Sandbox environment, a pre-loaded ProdPad setup, where you can see ProdPad in action, at your own pace.

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September 29, 2015 8:12 am

I started out my IT life in product support, which was a great grounding for Product Management. I learned how to listen to the customer, and how to solve their problems, building great customer relationships along the way. I learned who to go to for answers. I learned how to liaise between business and technical audiences. Of course, I learned MASSES about the product, which was invaluable when I made the switch to Product Management. Even if you don’t want a long term career in the support team, it is a great place to start out with your longer term… Read more »

Ugochukwu okoronkwo
October 23, 2018 10:39 am
Reply to  Andrea Saez

I’m really grateful for this piece. I’ve always had passion for business, UX and Tech and have always wanted to be a PM, but thought I couldn’t because I don’t have an Engineering background. Thanks to this piece I can boldly pursue my career in PM. Though I think I need a mentor because here in Nigeria PM is really not a familiar career path.

Ugochukwu okoronkwo
October 23, 2018 10:54 am
Reply to  Andrea Saez

That was quite a quick response. Thanks a lot. I just joined. I Hope to meet you someday Andrea Saez.

[…] Product managers are responsible for setting a product vision, defining a product strategy and developing a roadmap that meets both company goals and user needs. (Here’s an excellent introduction to the role of a product manager.) […]

June 20, 2019 12:16 am

Andrea, thank you for the insight. I am a tenured manager of both retail and franchise operations/30+ years…I am passionate about serving others, and relish challenges to create a faster, better, more efficient way to truly create legendary user experiences. I have been researching product owner roles, and it seems to be a perfect fit…I’d love to merge what I know with a technology focused company, but not sure where to begin?

July 23, 2019 11:40 pm

Thank you so much for this post! I’m interested in making a switch to PM but have been nervous because I don’t have a tech background (and would love to work in that space). You’ve encouraged me to keep on going. Thanks!

July 28, 2019 9:12 am

I’m very new to this area. Thank you Andrea for giving direction, so i know where to focus myself

King E
August 20, 2019 9:07 pm

This was a great help I am a recently graduating an I’m excited an extremely interested in breaking in the field I am having a hard time because I don’t quite have all of the experience required so this is a start to help me build my portfolio… thanks if any one has any other suggestions of job titles to look out for that can groom me to be a better product manager let me know please..


September 20, 2019 4:46 pm

Thank you so much for this piece! I am a college freshman with a major in advertising and my dream is to become a PM. I have been feeling lost as to where to begin to ensure my future in PM. Do you have any tips for me?

December 3, 2020 5:20 am
Reply to  paola

How to become a product manager after bachelor of computer applications (bca). Do i have to study mba??

[…] Product managers are responsible for setting a product vision, defining a product strategy and developing a roadmap that meets both company goals and user needs. […]