I am a self-taught product manager. I made the transition from a software developer more than a decade ago.

In the past 3-4 months, I’ve been recruiting for a product manager to join my team. A question I often ask is “What makes a great product manager?”  As Chef Gusteau exclaimed that “Any Can Cook” in Ratatouille, almost anyone can become a PM, but not everyone could be a great one.

Undoubtedly, product management is one of the most undefined roles in an organization. Unlike software engineers, product managers don’t have to code. Unlike data scientists, they don’t need to know statistics or machine learning techniques. But great product managers have many intangible qualities that make them exceptional.

  • A great PM studies and understands market dynamics. For example, someone working in the gig economy should follow the Uber China-Didi merger and understand how that might be bad news for Lyft.
  • A great PM is intellectually curious. He or she tries new products, formulates opinions, and evangelizes great products to others. Ask to see what apps they have installed on their smartphones.
  • A great PM has hobbies and talents outside of work. Some of the great PMs I know love photography, painting, gardening, cooking and building robots. They apply the same passion and discipline to their extracurricular activities.
  • A great PM inspires. Whether one is in a product or engineering-focused organization, a PM can always inspires others through narratives.

Keep my fingers crossed. I hope I will find that elusive one soon!