How to Become a Software Product Manager
How to Become a Software Product Manager

Like the captain of a ship, a software product manager steers a product from idea to market.

“As a software product manager, you’re the voice of the product's market and user,” said Swati Goel, an instructor in the UW Certificate in Software Product Management program and project lead at Oculus. “Your core responsibility is defining the product vision for your team. You’re thinking about things like how does your product align with your company’s business strategy and how does the product fit into the market.”

What Does a Software Product Manager Do?

Common Job Titles

Software Product Manager, Program Manager, Product Owner

Growing Demand

Nationally: 153%
Washington state: 96%

Median Annual Salary

Nationally: $109,800
Washington state: $94,700

Source: Lightcast

Basically, a software products manager is at the intersection of all aspects of bringing a product to life, from planning and budgeting to software development and marketing. So, what does that look like in terms of day-to-day work? “Lots of talking,” said Swati. On any given day, you might be building business models, communicating with designers and developers about product features or meeting with marketing to discuss how to position the product.

Are Software Product Managers in Demand?

The ongoing tech boom means software product managers are in demand. According to Lightcast, a job market analytics company, the number of job postings that included software product management skills grew by 153% in the United States and by 96% in Washington state between 2018 and 2021. Amazon, Microsoft, Intuit and Oracle were among the top companies hiring product managers or those with software product management skills in the Seattle area.

The growing demand reflects a shift in the industry toward user-centered design and putting customers first, said Swati. “Companies are recognizing that to be truly user-centric, you need an expert whose — job day in and day out — is building that market and user expertise,” she said.

How Do You Become a Product Manager?

There’s no single path to product management. Your skill set needs to be broad and include technical aptitude, finance and business acumen, communication and marketing know-how and leadership abilities.

Some people take the MBA route. Others come from software development, program management or marketing careers and supplement their skills with programs such the UW Certificate in Software Product Management.

Swati believes some of the best software product managers have diverse backgrounds. “I’ve seen people successfully come into this role with backgrounds in engineering, marketing, sales, history and English. I was an accounting major,” she said. “Since the main responsibility of a software product manager is to align people on a single vision, recruiters look for people with great communication skills, emotional intelligence and a passion or eagerness to learn.”

The certificate program helps hone those skills and more.

“It’s a great program because it helps folks understand the terminology and the day-to-day responsibilities of a software product manager,” Swati added. “You’ll understand how to put together a product strategy and vet it, conduct customer interviews, break steps down to define your MVP (minimal viable product) and come up with a strategy for your users to purchase and engage with your product.”

Get Started

Interested in starting or advancing a career in software product management? Check out the UW Certificate in Software Product Management or explore one of our other related offerings:

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