In search of a job after graduation, students are increasingly looking towards product management roles. These positions have skyrocketed in popularity following the development of Associate Product Management (APM) programs meant for new grads at companies such as Google or Dropbox. Similarly, companies are investing heavily in coaching and training their existing product managers so they are more effective, and cross-training engineers and others to grow them into future PMs. In fact, as of December 2019, there are over 830,000 current product manager or product owner LinkedIn profiles (over 260k in the USA alone).
As Berkeley students look for resources and classes across campus to help them prepare for these competitive programs, they frequently come across the class Product Management (INDENG 186), taught by Ken Sandy through the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology.
Ken Sandy, a lecturer and industry fellow for SCET, was a former VP Product at Masterclass and Lynda.com. Drawing on his experience as a product manager in his past roles, he began to teach the class at UC Berkeley in 2013. The class started with around 20 students, providing a 1-2 unit overview of product management. Since then, the class has grown tremendously in parallel with the evolution and development of PM roles. The course is comprised of diverse students majoring in engineering, business, design, and more (read more about SCET’s “Collider” framework here). The curriculum is structured around industry specialists, games, business model brainstorms, simulations, and negotiations – all in an attempt to engage students via active learning. After finishing the course, students feel more confident in their abilities to succeed as a PM and have more empathy for the work that project managers do.
Through feedback from his students, Ken realized that there was a gap in resources for aspiring product managers. Capturing those thoughts, he decided to write a book focused on how to lead through influence as a new PM. This book has been used as a textbook for the Product Management course for over 3 years and has seen many iterations through students’ feedback.
What’s The Book All About?
Currently, books about product management book can be categorized as one of two types: (1) aspirational/high-level concepts on what PMs do, and (2) dense frameworks and tools on the day-to-day. Ken’s book, The Influential Product Manager: How to Lead and Launch Successful Technology Products seeks to fill a major gap on the people side of the job: how to lead through influence.
The Influential Product Manager is a highly approachable, readily applicable, practical guide for how to be successful as a product manager. It shows new and experienced PMs how to tackle the core skills, activities and behaviors that are required of product managers in modern technology companies. It explores high-level concepts such as getting into the world of customers and explaining empathy, while also narrowing in on specific tools such as templates for user interviews and understanding internal biases.
Ken successfully explains the most important and practical elements of leadership, collaboration, and “human-ness” in the product management journey without being overly prescriptive. He includes personal stories on prioritizing roadmaps, methodologies, and focuses on how to gain clarity from ambiguity — all of which reframes the conversations around what it means to be a PM and making the role more accessible for people of all backgrounds.
What Have Readers Said About The Influential Product Manager?
I personally found that The Influential Product Manager was an easy and exciting read — Ken uses an abundance of anecdotes, challenges, and references to really break down the concepts of being a PM. It acts as an instruction manual and learning resource for entry-level ICs (Individual Contributors) and PMs. The book contextualizes lessons and intends to lead to action instead of being just an informational text.
Where to Buy The Influential Product Manager
Interested in reading the book? The Influential Product Manager can be found here. In addition to the book, additional materials, frameworks, examples and games/exercises will be available at http://www.influentialpm.com/.
About Ken Sandy:
A product manager is thrilled when they know their product has made a difference in their users’ lives and society in general. As a teacher and mentor of many product managers I am thrilled to know that I am helping many product managers impact many more lives for the good. As an author I look forward to magnifying that many times over.
Over 600 students have passed through my UCB courses and I have directly managed, coached and mentored some 100 product management professionals over my career. My career has been dedicated to working at the intersection of business and social good at scale. My proudest achievement is to see these professionals go on to have incredible careers of their own, building products and services to make a huge impact in the world, and making their customers’ and users’ lives better.
Read some reviews below:
“This book is a breath of fresh air about one of the newest buzzwords, “product management”. I took a class with the author on PM; he based his curriculum on this book and it was one of the reasons I decided to pursue a career in PM. Highly recommend for people of any phase in their product career, whether experienced or exploratory, this book is a comprehensive guide on what it means to be a PM at a deeper level.”—Former Student
“This book breaks down each stage of the lifecycle of a product and explains what a good product manager needs to do at every one of these stages. This book is full of examples that are easy to understand, but resemble some of the most complex yet common problems a product manager faces.”—Former Student
“It’s the instruction manual (and now my go-to desk reference) that only the most seasoned, thoughtful, honest product guru and mentor could create—guiding you through the hiccups of making truly great products and even demystifying tough topics like how to go about understanding users’ needs and how to collaborate with your team while leading them too.”—Marisa Gallagher, Head of UX and Design, Amazon Music