You’re a data professional who’s curious about possibly stepping up into a data product manager position? Amazing! Keep reading so you can discover what the role is all about, the best books to read to become a self-taught data product manager and land the job, as well as what super powers you’ll want to develop before seeking that role.

In today’s post, we’re going to talk about 3 books in particular:

  1. Product Management’s Sacred Seven
  2. Designing Data-Intensive Applications
  3. Cracking the PM Interview

If you prefer to read instead of watch, then read on…

A quick side note about why I’m covering this topic – I was really inspired and I’ve been learning about the Data Product Management role. Back in 2017, I came out with a series which I turned into an ebook called “A Badass’s Guide to Breaking Into Data.”

This ebook sort of went viral and lots of people got the book and it helped them make the transition to getting into the data professions. So, I wanted to start working towards developing something like this for Data Product Managers and this is the first installment.

I’ve got a challenge for you real quick. Stop reading here and in the comments below tell me your best answer to the question: “What is a data product manager?”

 

Answering the question, “What is a self-taught data product manager?”

 

Product manager, in general, is a very data-intensive role. In fact, most people would categorize it as a role within the “data professions.”

 

In general, product managers manage all aspects of development and launch for a company’s product(s).  This includes things like ideation, research, design, development, performance evaluation, and launch – that’s definitely just for starters.

Now, let’s talk about a Data Product Manager.

Data Product Managers are expected to cover all those same types of responsibilities and then some. Where a product manager uses data to guide their decision-making in terms of product development and launch, a data product manager uses data more. 

A DPM goes deeper into the data science and predictive analytics to guide and govern all of the decisions around the product. So, instead of stopping at the data analyst level in terms of evaluating data on a product, a DPM would go ahead and actually build machine learning models and use sophisticated data science algorithms in order to uncover deeper insights that will then lead product development decisions, launch decisions and overall product strategy.

In short, a DPM is just a product manager who has more sophisticated capabilities with respect to machine learning and is able to uncover deeper data insights related to the product in order to help make better informed and educated decisions about product development, launch and strategy. It’s just a more data-intensive role than a product manager. 

Oh and for the “self-taught” part – that is self-evident, no? (pardon the pun 😉 )

The Best Books To Get the Data Product Manager Job

If you want to become a self-taught data product manager, you definitely need to check each of the following titles.

  1. Product Management Sacred Seven

I love this book for so many reasons. One of the things I love about this is the fact that it is so modular. You can basically pick up in the area of your interest and learn so much from the pages of this book. This book spills the tea on everything from tech business strategy, to pricing, to data privacy.

I really think it should be called “The PM’s Bible” just because the information it contains is so incredibly valuable.

Just to put a little perspective on the value of this book,  I’ve spent over $50k on business coaching and courses related to growing my own business – and we’ve hit multiple six figures in my own data business and helped other new data entrepreneurs do the same in the first seven months of their own businesses.  And even with all of that, I’ve seen stuff inside this book that was truly just “ninja shite.” It just totally blew my mind. I can’t say enough good things about this book!

In terms of what others have to say – it has 393 reviews on Amazon with a 4.8 star rating. It is a new book and the gist of the book is basically this:

The authors themselves are already accomplished seasoned PMs themselves, and they ended up surveying and interviewing 67 product managers from the worlds’ finest companies across 4 different continents and they took all of that research findings and they basically broke it down into an essential framework for what makes a truly great product manager. 

They found 7 core pillars that distinguish an average product from a truly great and exceptional one. Those are: 

  • Product design
  • Economics
  • Marketing & growth
  • Psychology
  • UI/UX
  • Law & policy
  • Data Science 

The book covers each of those topics in-depth, and within each of these pillars, it shares insider strategies developed from within the walls of the world’s most innovative tech companies. 

 

What it is NOT

IT’S NOT a book that you pick up to learn how to craft your resume or to answer interview questions. It doesn’t show you how to get a job, prepare for an interview or get up to speed in order to land a PM role…This is for PMs who want to go from GOOD to GREAT.

The authors are: Parth Detroja, Neel Mehta and Aditya Agashe. If you want more from them, they’ve got a few other books and they’ve also developed something called Product Alliance which is a program that helps people actually land jobs as product managers. Their other book is entitled “Swipe to Unlock,” a business + tech strategy primer, which is an extremely reputable book about getting skilled up.

Why it’s valuable to aspiring DPMs

The topics in this book are pretty sophisticated if you don’t have a solid product management background. Even if you just read through this book and you only get half of it, I think that doing so will help you develop a perspective that would be immensely helpful to you as you are building out your career and skillsets as a data product manager.

  1. Designing Data-Intensive Applications

If you are a data professional and want to become a self-taught data product manager, I recommend you read this book before trying to make the transition. The reason that I love this book is because it is an excellent high-level overview of the data engineering and software engineering requirements that go into building data-intensive solutions. Of course, it’s a very popular book amongst data professionals and at this time, it has 1,852 reviews with 4.8 star rating on Amazon

read this if you want to become a self-taught data product managerThe author of this book is Martin Kleppmann and he has a blog and an 8-series course that can be used as a companion to this book.

In terms of why this book is so vital for the success of data product managers is this: If you’re coming in to a company and you’re a PM for a technical product then you probably want to have a pretty good understanding of how all of the technology is working because you’re going to support your teams of engineers and designers, so you really need to understand the technical consistency of the tech that makes your product.

But if you’re coming in as a data product manager, then it will absolutely be assumed that you understand the data systems and the data technologies that support the data-intensive solutions, right? 

The thing is I know enough data professionals to know that’s not always the case. Some people come in and maybe they have an analyst background or if you are building data visualization, if you haven’t had the chance to get into the nuts and bolts of software and data engineering that supports data-intensive predictive applications, this is as good a time as any, to make sure that you’re up to speed on how the technology all works, so when you go in as a DPM, you can cover all the basics.

  1. Cracking the PM Interview

This book is all about how to get a job as a product manager, data product managers included. What I really love about this book is, it gives you an insider perspective and tips about what to look for in terms of companies that you might potentially want to work for. It really helps you to understand what would be a good fit for you given your personality and your ambitions and what type of companies would not. 

In terms of what other people are saying, it’s got 1,288 reviews so far with a 4.5 star rating. It’s overwhelmingly popular. 

Now, the gist of the book is very much like the PM’s Sacred Seven in a sense that it’s also a survey book. It’s a compilation of really well-experienced, highly-esteemed product managers where they shared about the stories of their careers – how they landed a job and got promoted and what their experience was like in various companies.

The book is also full of great takeaways. The authors help extrapolate the core details – for example, if you know you want to move up the career ladder and get promoted quickly, they mentioned that it’s a good idea to get a product management job in a start-up environment.

It is full of interview questions, guidance on how you should answer those questions as well as a resume before and afters. I just think that this book is really important to read for anyone who’s considering becoming a data product manager – because you don’t want to go into a new job flying blind and perhaps take a job at a company that looks cool from the outside, but you don’t really understand the culture and the nuances of working as a PM at that company or in that environment. This book really helps you understand what it is actually like to work as a DPM in all five big companies as well as all kinds of awesome startups, so you can avoid getting yourself into troublesome situations or landing a job that doesn’t make you happy. 

The authors are Gayle Laakmann McDowell and Jackie Bavaro. They also got another really highly-esteemed book called “Cracking the PM Career,” as well as some career guidance or coaching books for software engineers. It may be worth reaching out to them if you’re considering becoming a data product manager and you’d like that extra bit of guidance from world-renowned leaders.

 

Ask any DPM (especially a self-taught data product manager)… a big part of being a great data product manager is developing a keen expertise in data strategy development. If that’s something that interests you, I’ve got good news…

I’ve got a step-by-step checklist & collaborative Trello Board planner for data professionals who want to get unstuck & up-leveled into their next promotion by delivering a fail-proof data strategy plan for their data projects. Check out the Data Strategy Action Plan now!


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Lillian Pierson, P.E.

Lillian Pierson is a CEO & data leader that supports data professionals to evolve into world-class leaders & entrepreneurs. To date, she’s helped educate over 1.3 million data professionals on AI and data science. Lillian has authored 6 data books with Wiley & Sons Publishers as well as 8 data courses with LinkedIn Learning. She’s supported a wide variety of organizations across the globe, from the United Nations and National Geographic, to Ericsson and Saudi Aramco, and everything in between. She is a licensed Professional Engineer, in good standing. She’s been a technical consultant since 2007 and a data business mentor since 2018. She occasionally volunteers her expertise in global summits and forums on data privacy and ethics.

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