Course Pre-Work

Topic Progress:


Week 0 is designed to prepare you for Product Gym’s in-person classroom instruction on product management and career transitioning. The fact of the matter is that there is a plethora of product management literature already, freely available throughout the web. Most of these sources already do a great job introducing you to the fundamentals of product management. We’ve compiled a list of those sources here so you don’t have to use classroom time with our instructors and subject-matter-experts to learn about something that’s already free on the web.

This course is unlike any on the market. Our instructors trust that you have reviewed Week 0’s course content on your own so s/he can start giving you product management content that you CAN’T find anywhere else. It is IMPERATIVE that you review all of Week 0’s content because our instructor will not be going over the details of Week 0 when they begin.

If you have any questions about Week 0’s content, make sure to note it and ask your instructor on Week 1


What is Product Management?

Product Management is strategy, prioritization, and execution. At the end of the day, a product manager’s job is to make sure that their users are successful and are winning.

Designers make sure that the product is usable and looks great, Sales and Marketing makes sure that people know about the product and they buy it. Engineers build the product. Data Scientists tracks the product usage.

The product manager figures out what to build, facilitates the actual build of it with engineers, and maintains that product. They make sure that the company is building the right product. The features in the product are what the users want and are aligned with the business goals.

Adam Nash (CEO of WealthFront, former VP of PM at LinkedIn, director of eBay, and VC) thinks product boils down to two main areas:

  • What game are we playing? (product vision, target customers, value to the customer, advantage over competitors)
  • How do we keep score? (What metrics do we need to determine if we’re winning: it’s not always “are we making money.”)

You will often hear in product “We have to be making data-driven decisions”. Why? Because that’s how you know if you are reaching your score.

As a product manager, you have to coordinate multiple moving pieces within the company to ensure that the customer has an amazing experience in the end. These pieces include business leaders expectation, constraints of the business, legal and compliance, design for UX and UI, marketing and sales, engineering restrictions, etc. Ultimately the PM is the voice of the customer and you need to ensure that the customer derives significant value from your product.

The role of the product manager can also be confused with Program Managers and Project Managers, all known as PMs as well.

  1. Project managers are the time keepers that put a plan/schedule together to get something done and keeping track of your progress towards that goal.  Product managers often either work with/help with project management.
  2. Program manager work closely with engineers to get the product built on schedule. They are not focused on the product vision or customers needs, merely the need to ensure engineers have everything they need to start and continue building on time. Sometimes, they will also be confused with Project Managers.

However, some companies use different titles, etc. Microsoft product managers are called program managers. Apple splits the PM role between Engineering Program Managers (EPMs) and Product Marketing Managers

A good rule of thumb to distinguish roles and responsibilities is the person who writes the user stories. A User Story is a description of a task that Engineers read to determine how to build the product. Essentially, the product manager tells Engineers what to build through user stories. Whoever holds this responsibility is usually the product manager.

What is a product?

A product can really be anything. In this course, we define the product context as a product within a Software company. In these companies, the PM is not always responsible for the entire product, but certain sections of this product. Here, specific features can be assigned to an entire team to develop. There is an ambiguous relationship between the definition of a feature and a product and should always be clarified by the working team and/or senior leadership.

For example, Mark Zuckerberg himself was the product manager for the first iteration of Facebook. Now, there is an individual product manager for each of the LIKE icons in an individual post. PMs can also be split by experiences and platform. There may be a product for an employee and their employer experiences for various companies

What does a product manager do on a day to day basis/ responsibilities?

PM’s do whatever is necessary to make sure the product ‘gets shipped’. The responsibilities will vary day to day depending on the size of the company and the role of the PM within the project.

This may include:

  • Writing a product requirements document and user stories
  • Interviewing customers
  • Project management
  • UX prototyping and wireframing
  • Writing relevant documentation about the product you are building
  • Presentations to Senior Leadership and stakeholders

But if your company is large enough, you may have a UX Researcher to conduct interviews, an assigned Project Manager to keep everyone on track, and a UX Designer to do the prototyping and wireframing. Your days may include working sessions with each of these stakeholders.

What are the breadth of product management roles?

The best companies to make a transition into a product managers roles are mid-sized companies that are at least 150 employees. At smaller companies, a Startup Founder is usually the product manager while larger companies will have very strict guidelines on the technical knowledge necessary for a product manager.

At a high level, there are three types of product managers. The difference between them are the  different stakeholders they work with. Stakeholders are the people who have input into what you are building. Some examples of stakeholders include – lawyers, accountants, marketers, etc.

Product Vocabulary and Terms

Below is a list of product terms and buzzwords used by many product owners.