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With so many product manager courses & resources available online, how can a PM filter out the resources to focus on becoming a product leader?
Question from Pradyumna
With so many product manager courses & resources available online, how can a PM filter out the resources to focus on becoming a product leader?
Answered by Kelly Snodgrass
Leadership & Wellbeing Coach

Developing as a Product Leader is a highly individualized trajectory as you might expect. This is going to be the “one size fits all” answer, but it should still give you a good starting off point. As I hear you - there are a lot of 1:many professional development opportunities out there! And much of it is not designed for your personal situation & needs.

I have always thought about skill development for past direct reports & coaching clients alike in 2 categories: soft skills and hard skills.

The hard skills are technical. For Product Leaders - things like understanding how to run statistically sound feature level experiments, creating product strategy, using product management frameworks like Jobs To Be Done, using low fidelity design tools like Whimsical and strategies for conducting user research. The list goes on and on!

The soft skills are people & relationships based. Things like learning how to influence different personality types, how to get buy-in from above, horizontally & below or how to communicate effectively to many different audiences — to name a few!

Most PMs need to level up in one of these two areas more than the other to continue to “climb the ladder”. For me, as I had been leading teams of 100+ people in Operations & Customer Experience prior to becoming a PM, there was very clearly a bigger need for me to uplevel in technical skills rather than soft skills. If you are also someone looking to transition to Product from a different area of the business or are looking to progress as an individual contributor - a few places you could get started besides Level Up as a PM by Ravi Mehta, of course:

  1. Low / no cost: Marty Cagan’s SVPG email list (he also offers intensives which I’ve partook in that are great for founders or product adjacent leaders). The Product School on YouTube (there’s a healthy dose of both information and inspiration here).
  2. Medium cost: General Assembly part time courses & workshops - these are going to be great ways to sample different skill sets.
  3. Higher cost: Reforge Programs - the crème de la crème of Product education!

If you’re on the other side of the coin and are instead looking to develop your ability to lead, influence & communicate my suggestions are as follows:

  1. Low / no cost: High impact Leadership books (How to win friends & influence people, Radical candor, Emotional intelligence to name a few!)
  2. Medium cost: Group coaching or online learning programs like the one Outpace offers
  3. Higher cost: Hire a private coach passionate about developing Leaders - again, you could choose from the ones that Outpace has partnered with!

So in summary, understand if you are needing to develop your hard or soft skills to climb the next rung on the ladder. Once you know this, try some low & medium cost ways to dip your toes in the professional development waters. And if you are still craving more and need that personalized support - jump off to the higher cost options.

About the author
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Kelly Snodgrass
Leadership & Wellbeing Coach

Kelly started as an engineer and became a growth hacker at Uber before scaling Operations at Snapchat and leading teams of 100+ at hyper growth startups.


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