How to Become a Data Product Manager Without Experience
Do you want to become a data product manager? This guide covers everything you need to know.
As the world moves towards a data-driven economy, businesses are keen on hiring people who know the ins and outs of data.
Big data analytics is a growing global market expected to reach $550 billion by 2028.
With more digital and data-driven products, the demand for traditional product managers is now shifting to data product managers. If you want to become a data product manager, this guide is for you. In it, we break down the step-by-step approach you must follow to land this job, even if you don't have any working experience in the field.
Let's dive in.
Data Product Management Overview
A data product manager (PM) is responsible for managing product data and developing products based on data-driven insights.
The role isn’t much different from a traditional product manager where you have to manage the product and its features end-to-end, however, a data PM focuses on data more than anything else when managing and developing a product.
The key focus of a data PM is data and data analytics. They work with data scientists, data teams, and data engineers.
The key responsibilities of data product managers are:
- Understanding customer needs
- Data management and analysis
- Developing data-driven UX
- Conducting product experimentation activities
- Prioritizating batches of data analysis
- Collaborating with data scientists, data engineers, developers, and other teams.
Looking to jump-start your career in data product management? Consider taking our PMHQ Certified Data Product Manager Course to help you learn the fundamentals of being a data PM and succeed in this lucrative field.
Step-by-Step Guide to Become a Data Product Manager With Zero Experience
You don’t need relevant experience to become a data PM. If you aren't sure how to switch your career and become a data product manager because you don’t have any experience, skill, or education, the following step-by-step guide prepares you to kickstart your career with or without data science or product development experience.
1. Study and Learn
The first step is learning the basics of data and data products. The more you study, the better.
It is a technical role that requires an understanding of data science, data engineering, data management, product development, UX, business intelligence, and much more so if you have a relevant background in any of these fields, it will get easier for you to get started.
There are several ways to learn about data topics of your choice.
- Read books from renown reputable authors in the field
- Follow tech and data thought leaders on leading social media platforms
- Watch YouTube videos
- Join online communities such as our PMHQ Slack Community
- Enroll in courses such as data science, user experience, and product management
- Here is a list of the key topics you must acquaint yourself:
- Data science
- Product development
- Product management
- User experience
- Machine learning and artificial intelligence
- Data analysis
- Statistical analysis
- Internet of things
- Big data
- Customer centricity.
2. Get Certified
Learning is the first step towards becoming a data product manager but it is hard to learn everything yourself. Once you understand the basics and jargon, it is time to get a data product manager certification.
Enrolling in a data product management course has several benefits:
- Practical knowledge of the data products
- Develop the skills and competences
- Learn to acquire experience by completing a project
- The certificate will improve your chances of getting a job
- Network development.
Product Manager HQ offers one of the best online platforms for product management certification. Be sure to check out our PM courses to get ahead of your competitors and stay on top of product management.
3. Develop the Right Skills
Certification in data PM develops the right skills. That said, you must enhance and polish those skills.
You need to enhance your skills with further study and practice. You need to grow yourself. Don’t just stick with what you learn during the course. Keep moving and accelerating.
Here is how you develop and enhance the right data product management skills:
- Identify the right skills
- Rate yourself for all the skills
- Work on developing skills you are weak at
- Enhance skills you already possess
The first step is identifying skills required to become a data product manager. You need both hard and soft skills to become a successful data PM. These include:
- Product development skills
- Product management
- Data science
- Machine learning
- Data analytics
- Design and development
- SQL and database management skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Analytical skills
- Communication, collaboration, and teamwork skills
- Flexibility and adaptability
- Decision-making, critical thinking, and time management skills.
Here are the top ways to develop and enhance skills and competencies:
- Courses and workshops
- Books, YouTube, webinars, and podcasts
- Training and practice
- Job rotation and job shadowing: This only works if you are already doing a job. You can request your employer for job rotation to learn new skills.
- On the job training: Look for relevant training in your current organization and enroll yourself to learn a new skill.
4. Acquire Relevant Experience
Nothing beats experience. If you have no relevant background, it is best to acquire relevant experience before applying for a data product manager vacancy.
If you don’t have a job yet, look for entry-level product manager or data scientist jobs such as:
- Junior data analyst
- Data analyst intern
- Assistant product developer
- Product development intern
- Assistant data scientist
- Business analyst intern.
These are the best jobs you can do for 6-12 months to acquire experience and prepare yourself for the data product manager post.
If you are already doing a job, you must acquire relevant experience in data science, data analytics, product development, and product roadmaps.
Whether you volunteer for a relevant project in your current organization or another organization, it is the best way to gain experience and make your resume powerful.
Organizations and communities need help from volunteers so serving as a volunteer to help develop a product or analyze data is ideal for gaining experience.
Volunteer work also helps you make an impact in society and is a great source of self-actualization.
Job rotation is a job design method used to rotate employees on different jobs throughout their careers. It is a systematic switching of employees from one job to another within the same organization. It is beneficial for both employee and the organization.
If your current organization has a job rotation policy, you have the option to switch to a job that’s relevant to data product management so that you acquire new skills and gain relevant experience that will help you make a permanent switch.
It is another approach to job design where more dimensions are added to an existing job (making current job enriching) with an aim to motivate employees. Job enrichment includes adding more skills and giving autonomy.
You need to reach out to your current employer and see how to enrich your job by increasing the skill variety of your choice. This helps you a lot in polishing your skills and gaining relevant experience.
Not all organizations have a systematic job design method. For that reason, they don’t allow job rotation and enrichment (even on demand). In such a case, practice job shadowing which is a useful technique.
Job shadowing means observing and following another employee performing their role. Observe data product managers, data scientists, data analysts, product managers, and business analysts in your current organization to see how they work.
This is my favorite way to gain experience for data PM without leaving your current job. Once you know the basics of data product management, work as a freelancer on a few small projects.
Don’t look for the earnings, rather do these projects to gain experience and build your portfolio.
5. Build and Use Your Network
Building a network of relevant people to get a data product manager job is the most important thing you need to do. How to do it?
Here are smart ways to build and grow your career network:
- Attend conferences, networking events, and meetups especially where you'll find lots of data product managers
- Join professional organizations such as the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA)
- Get in touch with current and past peers
- Use social media, especially LinkedIn, to connect with relevant individuals. A study found that 35% of people say that a casual conversation on LinkedIn helped them land a new job opportunity
- Acquaintant yourself with contacts that push your professional development
At the end of the day, it all comes down to how you use your network to hunt for a data product manager job. Your pitch is the key.
For example, an event is organized where leading data product managers and product managers are invited. Attending this event unprepared with zero homework won’t help you much. You need to prepare your pitch, make personal business cards, and do your homework before you reach out to anyone in your network.
Prepare a 30-second pitch about yourself so you know what to say when you meet someone face-to-face. And prepare a catchy message for online connections. You need to be open and transparent when you talk with people. Tell them that you want a data product manager position and explain why you are a good fit.
Grab Your Dream Data Product Manager Job Now
Becoming a data product manager without experience is possible. You need to move in the right direction and take the right steps to get your dream job.
Certification and developing the right skills are the two most important steps to becoming a data PM.
Even if you have developed all the skills, if you don’t have certification to show it to potential employers, it will get tough for you.
Certification is a guarantee that you know you are claiming and you possess the skills needed to become a successful data product manager.