How to Become a Data Product Manager

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Becoming a data product manager means taking responsibility for the development and management of data products. Broadly speaking, a data product is any software or algorithms that use data to accomplish a goal. The data product manager is a management position, and requires several years of experience within the data industry to be done well. 

The basic purpose of the data product manager is to identify the data needs of their customer base, plan a response to the need, communicate that plan to the developers, and then oversee its development into a real data product. To accomplish this, data product managers need good analytics skills and good communication skills. 

Data product managers identify opportunities for new data products, and manage their development.

This position requires experience. However, this is also a relatively new career field, and very few people have been trained for it, nor have many had time to embrace it as a career. It requires a broad range of data technology skills. Data Science and analytics tools are used by data product managers during the product discovery process. When releasing new data products, or making improvements on current ones, data product managers can (and should) access data about customer feedback, use, and demand. Tools that are useful to data product managers are dashboards, market segmentation, use predictions, and A/B testing.

Glassdoor estimates the salaries of data product managers in the United States range from $92,000 to $144,000 per year, with an average of $115,000. These numbers will vary depending on the person’s experience and the job’s location. 

Product analytics is similar to the data product management process. It analyzes how users are engaging with a product or service, and allows their usage to be tracked, visualized, and analyzed. “Data” product analytics takes the process and focuses on the analysis, “in real time,” of how people are using their digital products. This data is used to improve data products.

Good communications are important. According to Wendy Turner-Williams, chief data officer for Tableau, “From my perspective, a data product manager is actually one of the first roles I would hire for. I like them to actually create the vision and then drive the engineers to that vision. For me, it is a critical component, as I tend to focus on data product managers who can create a story, engage with our internal customers, or even our product team.” 

The primary difference between data product management and business intelligence is the data source. Data product management uses real-time data and business intelligence works with historical information – data that has been mined or collected. 

The Responsibilities of the Data Product Manager

Data product managers use a broad range of skills, rather than being highly specialized. They use data to understand their customer base and their needs. When a need is found (a software improvement or an entirely new tool), the data product manager comes up with a solution, assigns the development team the task of developing the “data product,” and then monitors its development. In a kind of circular process, after the product is completed, its use is tracked in real time to see how well the tool works, and what improvements need to be made, which may initiate a new data product. 

To become a data product manager, it is important to develop a broad understanding of the market, the needs of the customer base, and an awareness of the competition. This sort of knowledge is typically based on work experience within the industry. Experience counts for a lot in this position, and while that previous experience may not include the job title of data product manager, it should include the ability to communicate well, knowledge of data-driven decision-making, and an understanding of the organization’s goals. Other, more specific skills that are extremely useful include:

Important Skills for Data Product Managers to Have

The resume is a one-page communication tool that describes your skills and experience. It is the first impression, and is used in the first screening process in eliminating the less skilled applicants. Resumes are typically delivered in a PDF format, and hundreds of applicants are generally reviewed, manually. It is also the first example of your communications skills. (Too much? Too little? Where are your skills located on the resume? At the bottom or the top? Theoretically, your “skills” should allow you to adapt the resume to each job you apply for. If appropriate, modify the resume. Some describe it as “tailoring” the resume.)  

Communication skills: Communications are an important part of this job. Some people assume they are good communicators because they can speak and write reasonably well. The concept of listening flies right over their head. CourseraUdemy, and LinkedIn each offer a variety of communications courses. (If you take one or more of these classes, document it on the resume.)

Certification: Obtaining a certification in data product management can increase your credibility. Certifications can provide evidence you have an understanding of the process.

Examples of data products you have been involved in developing: This communicates your knowledge and experience in developing data products.

Experience with Statistics, SQL, and Machine Learning: The managers of data products need a good knowledge of statisticsstructured query language (SQL), and machine learning (ML). Understanding these concepts will help to analyze data efficiently and develop actionable insights.

Internships, or freelance projects: This is where you get to list data product projects, or related projects, that may be outside of the norm. A position in a similar field, such as data analysis, or a project for a startup that never got off the ground, can be listed on the resume. (Describe the project, not the startup. If you’re short on experience, list any relevant projects.) 

Interviewing for the Position of Data Product Manager

“Good communication skills” should be listed on the resume, but proof of that will be shown during the interview. It is imperative that you show off your communication skills by asking intelligent questions that you have prepared in advance, and by listening attentively to the answers, and perhaps asking a few secondary questions. The interviewer typically asks if you have any questions at the end of the interview. The goal is to turn the interview into a conversation, so don’t be afraid to ask a few questions during the interview.

On the issue of interviewers, many don’t seem to understand that they, as representatives of their organization, are also being interviewed. The interviewer is not the only person gathering information and making decisions. Probable questions you will be asked are listed below.

  • Describe your experience in working with data-driven products.
  • How do you prioritize data products? 
  • Provide an example of using data to assist in product decisions.
  • What metrics do you prefer to use in tracking a data product, and why?
  • Explain A/B testing and your experience with it.
  • Describe a technical problem with a data product and how you resolved it.
  • How can you be sure that the data being used is accurate and trustworthy?
  • Describe your experience with SQL. 
  • Describe your experience with data analytics tools.
  • Describe the steps involved in a recent data product project you were involved with. 

The Future of Data Product Management

The importance of data product managers in directing the future of an organization cannot be overstated. The increasing reliance of businesses on data-driven decision-making has made these professionals a necessity for directed innovation and growth. Because data product managers are in charge of developing and implementing cutting-edge services and products, they are revolutionizing how businesses operate and attend to their customers.

Data product managers are playing a significant role in using data to improve customer satisfaction and drive business growth. By using modern technologies, these managers can use real-time feedback from the products used, to improve on them and develop new products and services. This drives business growth, in turn promoting the success of the organizations.

As data technology continues to improve, the data product manager will play an increasingly important role in businesses of the future by acting as a liaison between the customers’ needs and business’s response to those needs.