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I came across the article Path to Product Manager a couple of days ago, and found it interesting.  For me, the evolution to Product Manager was the Engineering path through an undergraduate degree in Computer Science. Although truth be told, I can also identify with the Marketing path because at one point I chose to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” and took ownership of Product Marketing.

While one affords the ability to hone analytic capabilities (critical thinking & problem solving), the other helps to craft a creative mindset (simplifying the complex, story telling).  Both paths will serve a product manager well, ultimately allowing them to answer three simple questions and then tie it all back together into a compelling story/vision.

1. Who am I serving?
2. What do they need/want, and are ready to buy?
3. How can I reach them and persuade them?

But as the author of the article alludes to, this is obviously oversimplifying things a bit and I have seen other paths that have worked also:

  • Domain expert -> has worked with the domain long enough to thoroughly understand all of the nuances. E.g. – someone who has worked with a billing system for a company, and then gets recruited to the software provider of the billing system.  Have seen this occur numerous times.
  • Business Development/Sales Support -> these individuals who make the transition have an innate ability to translate their solution selling background into a customer/market facing approach.
  • MBA Student -> generally no technical or marketing background (or baggage for that matter), but with an astute business acumen.

So, I’m interested in thoughts from others on this.  Does one path typically produce better results than another?  Or is it purely based on the individual regardless of the path?