What Does an API Product Manager Do?

Updated on June 21st, 2021
What Does an API Product Manager Do?

The concept of Application Programming Interface (API) is that it allows two different applications to communicate with each other. For this to happen, an API product manager has to make sure that the systems in place continue to work effectively.

For example, any time you use an online app, send a message or email someone, you’re using an API. Therefore, API product managers tend to manage an organization’s applications, whether they’re iOS apps, Android apps, web apps, or any other form of SaaS software.

As companies move towards cloud computing and establishing an online presence, the need for API product managers has skyrocketed.

In this article, we’ll go over what an API product manager does, including their roles, responsibilities, skills, and qualifications.

Let’s get started.

What Does an API Product Manager Do?

API product managers have to manage the production and development of APIs, while cultivating a market for the users. The final objective is to monetize APIs and generate revenue.

Furthermore, API PMs need to work with customer service to ensure that all stakeholders get proper access to the APIs, including developers and end-users alike.

API product managers can be considered as the head of the API department. They’re responsible for the vision of all APIs and they also help identify third-party APIs that are needed for business success.

Once the vision is finalized, API PMs communicate that vision with the developers, upper management, customers, and any other stakeholders.

After the vision, an API product manager has to ensure that the API follows the product lifecycle. That means everything from new product development, product roadmaps, functionality demos, to product strategy, and more.

Think of API PMs as product evangelists for APIs. They need to know everything about the API including how it’s integrated and used in different settings. That means they have to study market trends, evaluate various metrics, track KPIs, and extrapolate the business value of each API.

Most importantly, API PMs have to ensure that the API provides value to all stakeholders, including the following:

  • Internal developers working on the API.
  • Developers who are creating and maintaining the API, like adding new features.
  • Third-party developers with access to the API.
  • Partner developers working with internal development teams.
  • Customers who use the API.
  • Internal end-users who use the API to conduct their business.
  • All business unit leaders that own the APIs.

For the most part, an API product manager’s roles are determined by their industry and company. That role determines their duties, tasks, and responsibilities.

API Product Manager Duties and Tasks

The responsibilities and duties of an API product manager are subject to change depending on the organization, industry, and various other factors. Furthermore, it also depends on whether they’re an API PM in a company that owns the APIs or just uses them regularly.

In any case, there are a few tasks, duties, and responsibilities that all API product managers should be capable of doing. They should be able to:

  • Monitor each stage of the API product lifecycle.
  • Assist the development team in API development according to end-user needs.
  • Help with the testing of the functionality, security, and overall performance of the APIs.
  • Work with the product teams, engineering teams, development teams, and other stakeholders to create an API strategy.
  • Help create a pricing list for digital products and any other technical products by the organization while working with the senior product manager and product owner.
  • Ensure that the APIs are integrating well with various e-commerce ecosystems, websites, and more.
  • Figure out the use cases of the APIs.
  • Work with the front-end department to work on new features based on user stories, customer feedback, and more.
  • Work on the digital transformation of existing services into APIs.
  • Help various startups and SMEs integrate APIs into their systems.
  • Monitor the endpoints of the APIs by working with customer service to determine any issues with the APIs.
  • Assist the product team in API design by helping them design things like headers, UI, and more.
  • Manage the workflows of the product team, development team, and engineering team.
  • Advice and guide senior leaders on different opportunities, and inform them on any new strategic initiatives.

The duties and responsibilities listed above are true for every API product manager. However, there will be some additional tasks depending on the industry and organization.

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API Product Manager Skills and Abilities

The skills, abilities, and qualifications of an API product manager remain the same in most cases. However, their career paths can have a huge impact on their overall abilities, and a lot of companies tend to focus on that.

For example, some companies prefer product managers with API experience, while others prefer API experts who are good at product management.

In both cases, there are a few skills, qualifications, and abilities that all API product managers are expected to have, including the following:

  • Experience in building and launching various APIs, including API-based products and services.
  • Ability to partner with various stakeholders like engineers and developers to work on the project scope, products, and overcome issues.
  • Knowledge of agile methodologies and SCRUM.
  • Complete know-how of product management concepts and tools.
  • An understanding of API-related concepts and things, such as JSON.
  • Been part of a developer community.
  • A complete understanding of partner-facing ReST, GRPC APIs, and GraphQL.
  • A Bachelor’s degree in product management, computer science, or any related field (It is important but not necessary).
  • A Master’s degree (preferred but not necessary).
  • Five or more years of experience in product management, API development, or any related field.
  • Prior developer experience.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Formal and informal written skills.
  • Leadership qualities to coordinate multiple teams and work cross-functionally.
  • Research and analytical skills to track KPIs and determine market trends.
  • Problem-solving skills to quickly rectify any issues with the APIs.

The skills, abilities, and qualifications listed above are what all API product managers are expected to have. However, some companies may need additional qualifications, certifications, and skills.

How to Become an API Product Manager

Becoming an API product manager requires years of experience in various capacities. You need product management experience, product development experience, and a lot of knowledge about APIs.

Usually, product managers tend to learn APIs to become API product managers. However, a lot of companies prefer API experts to familiarize themselves with product management principles to become API product managers.

The reason is that it’s easier for an API expert to learn about product management, as opposed to a product manager learning about APIs.

In any case, both career paths can take years to take shape. That’s why an API product manager’s salary tends to be higher than the median average.

According, to Glassdoor, the average API product manager salary in the US is $111,627. The typical salary range is between $71,000 and $177,000, with the higher end being offered in cities like San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles.

Typically, the salary depends on a number of factors, such as the size of the organization, industry, and the role of API PM.

API product managers working in smaller organizations tend to have more responsibilities on average, so there’s a good chance they get paid more than someone working in a medium-sized business.

However, API product managers in enterprises tend to earn the highest because they become part of a massive established system.

If you’re completely new to both disciplines, you can start by reading some product management books for starters. Alternatively, you can join a product manager boot camp. Once you have a fundamental understanding of product management, you can go on to learn about APIs.

After that, get an entry-level job to start racking up some experience. Eventually, you can apply to become an API product manager.

Becoming a Great API Product Manager

Becoming an API product manager can take years, and it can take even longer to be good at it. However, it’s not absolutely crucial to have years of experience to become a great API product manager.

It’s mostly about choosing the right career path early on. Once you have a clear path, you can take the right jobs, work with the right companies, and slowly develop enough expertise in both product management and APIs.

Meanwhile, you can focus on doing relevant certifications and courses to improve your credentials.

You can also work on personal projects to garner additional experience.

Doing all of that ensures you are on the right path to becoming a great API product manager.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1.     What does an API product manager do?

Companies that work with APIs –  API product managers oversee and manage API-related issues related to applications on the App Store, Google Play Store, Windows Store, or any other online platforms. That can include managing their own API and also how it works with third-party APIs. API product managers have to develop a product vision for their API and develop it according to the organizational values and requirements.

Furthermore, they have to identify what APIs are needed by a company. For example, if the company itself doesn’t have any direct stake in an API, there’s a good chance that they’re using one for their business. In that case, the API product manager has to check what APIs will work for the organization and then convince the internal and external stakeholders on why it’s the ideal option.

Other than that, API product managers also are also responsible for making sure that the final customer gets a successful API. They have to work on the user experience to ensure that end-users are satisfied with the API and various API integrations.

2.     What makes a good API product manager?

A good API product manager is someone who understands the intricacies of product management while also having extensive knowledge about APIs and how software products work. They need a deep understanding of API calls, API design, open APIs, API documentation, and API development.

Using all that knowledge and expertise, they’re able to do API product management. The job can entail things like handling privacy requirements, managing security, custom integration work, and helping customers set up on platforms.

That’s why it’s crucial for API product managers to understand everything there is to know about the APIs they’re using and working with.

3.     What is an API product?

An API product is when APIs utilize their collective resources to provide clients and developers a certain amount of access. Due to the complexity of this process, it requires a lot of things, such as API key approval, access limits, API proxies, bundled proxies, and more.

Keep in mind that there’s a very distinct difference between an API product and product APIs.

In layman’s terms, it means that various businesses and companies can pool their resources to increase the monetary value of an API.

4.     What should a product manager know about APIs?

While an API product manager needs to have relevant experience in both product management and with APIs, there are a few things they absolutely need to know about APIs, including the following:

  • API documentation
  • API calls
  • HTTP methods and endpoints
  • Requests and responses
  • Payloads
  • Response Codes
  • Authentication
  • Headers and ReST

Other than that, they should have a good idea about API integrations.

5.     What is an API and examples?

An API is an Application Programming Interface – it’s a software intermediary that helps two applications communicate with each other. Think of APIs as the bridge that connects two different islands offering different resources. That bridge is used to trade the resources between islands so both of them can get what they don’t have locally.

Similarly, an API does the same for applications. For example, if you use Instagram to send a direct message, you’re using an API. If you’re checking stock prices on your phone, you’re using an API. That’s because the information you get or send is going through an intermediary between two separate entities.