How to move into Product Management at your company

I am currently in the process of hiring a product manager for my team at Cloudflare. One of the neat things about Cloudflare is that internal candidates are encouraged to reach out to hiring managers to chat with them about the role. That means that I’ve had several really great conversations with colleagues over the past couple of weeks, many of them with folks who are in other parts of the org like BI, customer support, finance, engineering, etc. The question they have is, “how do I move into product management?”

It’s a great question, and after I’ve given the same answer a few times, I decided to just go ahead and write it down in our internal wiki as well. Below is a lightly edited version of the advice I shared, in case that’s helpful to anyone else who is trying to move into the PM role at their company:

  • If you’re brand new to the job I have a couple of book recommendations to get a general sense of what good product management looks like. I recommend starting with Inspired by Marty Cagan, and Escaping the Build Trap by Melissa Perri. You’ll hear these two books mentioned a lot in our field, and they are classics for good reasons. After that, read everything you can get your hands on (but stay away from LinkedIn Influencers, that’s mostly ChatGPT content these days). For more book/newsletter recommendations, I have a running list here.
  • Then—and this is the most important advice I have—do the job before you have the title. Every role can be expanded into some area of product management. Think deeply about the product(s) you support, what customers need, how it contributes to the business, what could be better, what you think the long-term strategy should be. Start exercising the PM muscle so that when the right role comes along internally, you’re ready for it.
  • Publish your thinking. Every company has an internal wiki, many with personal spaces. Use it. If you have an idea for a product, or an analysis that’s interesting, or some thoughts on future strategy, write it down, publish it, and share it with the PM who works on that product. This is the best way to practice for the job—clear, succinct communication is a crucial skill, so this exercises that muscle as well.

If you learn the craft, practice the craft, and show publicly that you can do the craft, you’ll be well on your way to moving into product management at your company. When a good job rolls around you’ll be able to point towards the work you’ve done to give hiring managers a sense of your product skills.

And lastly, this is a great job. You will love it!