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How I got started learning about Product Management (for free!)

For the last year, I’ve been busy learning all about Product Management. I was lucky enough to get hands-on experience in the role. And just jumping straight in was the fastest way for me to learn. But I want to know what great looks like in this role and what the tips and tricks are for best practices. Plus, I have found Product Management skills are handy in a bunch of other ways. From how you approach personal projects to thinking about your career.

Luckily, there are loads of free resources out there! And the Product Management community is brilliant about sharing knowledge, encouraging people to self-teach and embracing new ideas.

I wanted to pay it forward by sharing the resources that have informed and inspired me over this last year as I got to grips with Product Management.

Learn the core topics

My first step in learning any new subject is to find out what the core topics are and learn those. Sure, Product Management is a role with varying definitions, depending on companies. But there’s some core knowledge that will be useful, even if it’s not your responsibility in your current role.

I was blown away by the volume and quality of free content from the Product School. There are lots of free ebooks about Product Management out there. But I found Product School’s The Product Book was clear, easy to follow and interesting. They also have a great podcast and newsletter.

If you prefer a video option, then I found the LinkedIn course Becoming a Product Manager was helpful. It’s free if you can get a free trial of LinkedIn Premium. Put aside a weekend or a few evenings to go through it before the trial runs out.

And then once you’ve got a few key ideas down, I found that doing a more interactive online course helped consolidate those. I couldn’t believe how good General Assembly’s free Introduction to Product Management content is. The session I attended was fun and I had lots of chances to be involved or ask questions. See what upcoming free courses they have here.

Get hands-on with the tools

Start using some of the tools that will help with Product Management. There’s no replacement for getting stuck in and using something. And you can use these to help structure your learning and store your notes.

Personally, I mainly use the power-duo of Miro and Notion to plan and take notes. I have experimented with so many different tools, partly just for the fun of it. But ultimately, when I need to get work done, these are the tools I turn to. They also cover lots of what I use day-to-day in my job.

Miro is an easy-to-use visual whiteboarding tool. I use it for workshops and design sessions in my job. And for creating roadmaps and mindmaps for work and in my personal life. There are lots of handy templates, including ones for Product Management.

Notion is something I use for personal work. Professionally, I usually use Jira and Confluence. But Notion has their core functionality covered in one free tool. It’s great for notetaking as you learn. Plus, you can start breaking that high-level visual roadmap in Miro down into tickets on a kanban board in Notion. There’s also spreadsheets and a web clipping tool, to power it up even more.

You’ll find a wealth of tools as you’re learning. Most can be trialled for free or even have a free price-band. For a quick list to play with right now, this article lists a great selection.

Make amazing content come to you

So you’re getting up to speed with the core topics. Now it’s time to start finding more product topics to get excited about. You could go out and do your research. Or, you could follow inspiring product thinkers who will bring great content straight to you. There are so many ways to get good content. Cutting the list down to fit here was the hardest part of writing this. But here are some starter ideas that have worked for me.

Listen to podcasts. And you can do this while walking or washing dishes. Here are three I’m enjoying right now:

Follow interesting people. I prefer LinkedIn for this as content is usually more work-focused. Some people I am seeing a lot of handy content from right now are:

Sign up for newsletters to stay in the loop:

And I recommend meetups. Of course, I haven’t been in person yet due to COVID times. I found ProductTank meetups really welcoming so far. I still miss the drinks, pizza and people. But at least right now you can dial in from almost anywhere.

Practice what you’ve learned

If you’re lucky enough to get dropped into Product Manager responsibilities like I was, then get stuck in. Learning on a job is tough but speeds up your learning exponentially. And Product Management is all about experimenting and iterating. Try something new, evaluate and adjust.

But if you can’t get involved in your main job, there’s always the option of starting a side project. And that doesn’t have to mean coding. As long as you’re thinking Product, it can be any project. Or treat your career as a product itself. It’s certainly an important product for me. Thinking about it this way has been helpful and it’s a way to stretch my product skills even more.

I’ve loved getting started in Product Management. Especially getting to learn so much from so many inspiring sources. Now I’m looking forward to keeping that rolling. Watch this space in 2022 for a ‘what I learned next’ post!

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