What Does a Product Manager Do?

While specific tasks vary by workplace, product managers are broadly responsible for driving and managing all phases of a product's design, development, and launch—shepherding products from an idea to the marketplace. Whether dealing with a physical product like a microphone or an intangible product like audio editing software, product managers are concerned with understanding customer demographics, behavior, and needs; analyzing similar and competitive products in the marketplace; establishing how a product fits into a company's vision and business model; and determining how best to market and sell it.

Product managers perform a uniquely hybrid role for product-oriented companies, bridging the gap between user experience, design, and marketing. For a product manager working in the tech sector, daily tasks typically include overseeing market research and customer satisfaction, collaborating with stakeholders to update existing products or pitch new ones, defining a new product's requirements, working with digital product designers to test and tweak features, communicating information across departments, and working closely with the marketing department to craft campaigns and launch products.

Product managers in other industries—such as instrument manufacturing or the record industry—do similarly broad managerial work.

Product Manager at a Glance

Career Path

While educational requirements for working as a product manager vary, the expectation that product managers have prior knowledge and experience in their field does not. Frequently, product managers start as product designers before discovering that their real passion is in conceiving of products, ensuring that their design answers user needs, and marketing them as they're released.

Others start as marketing representatives before acquiring basic design skills. It's common to work as an assistant product manager first before being allowed to take the reins. Product managers who do particularly well can become senior product managers, who tend to take a broader overview of all the company's products rather than focusing on development. From there, it's possible to move into the executive ranks. 

Product managers may also work as or become UX designers.

Finding Work

Product managers work for a wide variety of employers, including tech companies, app developers, game developers, music software companies, music gear and equipment manufacturers, instrument manufacturers, and music streaming services, to name a few. Opportunities abound in this booming field, although familiarity with the product is vital to landing a job—as is building a network of connections in one's field of choice.

Professional Skills
  • Personnel management
  • Project management
  • Marketing
  • Product design
  • Written and verbal communication
  • Leadership
  • Collaboration
  • Critical thinking
  • Multitasking
Interpersonal Skills

This is a collaborative job that involves working closely with colleagues in numerous departments—design, development, engineering, analytics, legal, marketing, sales, and customer care among them. As such, product managers are well-served by excellent communication skills and the ability to engage constructively with many kinds of people.

Also vital is the confidence and charisma to lead teams, direct complicated work flow, and efficiently manage numerous projects at once. The ideal product manager has a strong interest in customer experience, product design, and marketing—and excels at connecting the three to create bold, effective, and successful products.

Work Life

Product management is a fast-paced, intense job. Days are filled with meetings, phone calls and emails, strategizing sessions, customer and data analysis, and more. Depending entirely on the product manager's field, the hours could be regular or inconsistent, and the setting could be anything from an office to a workshop.