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How To Become An Associate Product Manager: 2020 Guide

The journey to becoming an associate product manager (APM) takes some planning and education, but the position will get you started on the product management career path by building a foundation of knowledge and experience in product management.

Whether you are planning to work your way up to a senior product manager or a more specialized position such as a product marketing manager, an associate product manager is the perfect position to start with. 

Coming on board as a product team member and learning from the ground up offers solid training so you can advance through the product management world.

Associate Product Manager Responsibilities

An associate product manager supports the work of product managers by conducting market research, gathering quantitative product data, and analyzing customer research to help product managers work more efficiently and effectively. Associate product managers might also work on new products, features, and various product strategies to support more senior product managers.

Often, associate product managers will work on new features for an already established product rather than working on completely new products. They can focus on a select area of the product, or a specific set of ideas and features, without being drawn into the full scope of the product. 

Associate product manager responsibilities include enhancing the product manager’s work and supporting the product team in any capacity that the product manager requires.

The Importance of an Associate Product Manager Position

Companies hire APMs to make sure they can attain good talent early on. It’s highly beneficial for companies to hire someone with relevant education, such as through an associate product manager program, that can gain company experience and grow with the company. 

The new APM can fit into the organization easily and learn their vision, goals, and requirements without having to unlearn previous mindsets and goals. 

This also allows more junior talent to learn how the company would like things done. They can work closely with a senior product manager to learn, enhance, and use skills learned in school, as well as skills learned after joining the product development team. Experience is a quick way to establish good company work habits.

Associate product managers can also fill a role when a product manager gets overwhelmed. The workload may not need two full-time product managers, so an associate can help cover off the excess, which eases the workload and budget constraints. 

The associate product manager is a great learning role that doesn’t come with the pressure and stress of being the go-to product manager. Associates get guidance and mentorship while still gaining experience and moving along their career path as a product manager. This opens the door to eventually becoming a product manager with a team of their own.

Associate Product Manager Salary

Salaries for any position are never black and white. There are always some gray areas depending on the company pay scale, job description, location of the company, industry, and the applicant’s experience. 

Areas where the cost of living is higher, such as San Francisco or New York, tend to pay more for the position, as do more mature companies. Salaries often strike a balance between these factors.

Associate product managers will be paid less than product managers as they have reduced responsibilities and tend to come to the job with less experience. Salary for an associate product manager averages around $82,000 per year, plus benefits and bonuses.

Preparing for the Role

Preparing to apply for the associate product manager role is similar to preparing an application to be a more senior product manager. Learning relevant skills and qualities early will help you succeed. Here are some of the most beneficial skills:

Communication skills

These are critical to have on your product management resume as they are necessary for team building, managing, and scheduling. Strong interpersonal skills will help lead the product management team, keep team members on track, and manage the team when there is a need to work cross-functionally. 

Analytical Skills

Market research is a primary responsibility of an associate product manager. Strong analytical skills allow an APM to assess new ideas and features for products. They also help you work to improve the user experience for established products. Analytical skills are also useful in finding trends and conducting testing.

Time Management

Meeting deadlines is a skill that will keep you and your team on track throughout the product life cycle. Related project management skills, such as organization and prioritization, will boost your time management abilities as well. The workflow of the product team is interconnected, so if one deadline is missed, other deadlines shift as well. Poor time management will negatively affect not only one team’s schedule, but the whole scope of work to be done.

Decisiveness

The ability to make quick, informed decisions is a good skill when it comes to product requirements, the product vision, or product launches. Dithering over an answer can affect timelines and how the product advances through the product roadmap.

Adaptability

The ability to learn and pivot based on past mistakes and experiences with customers, engineers, and other people involved in the process is critical. There are always adjustments to the product roadmap along the way. Pivoting to account for changing needs or requirements is crucial to a successful launch.

These skills are both personal and learned. While they may be inherent in certain individuals, you can acquire and upgrade these skills through education and product management training

If you’re aiming to be an associate product manager, it’s likely that you recently completed school with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, business, marketing, or another business-related field. 

Having some or all of the skills above will make it easier for you to get hired. However, if you cannot find a job right out of school, there are other ways to get into the field.

Associate Product Manager at Google

An internship gives you skills and experience on top of the education you already have. 

Finding a job is not always simple, but companies like Google often offer product management internships. These might lead to an associate product manager job with the company later down the road as you move further up the corporate ladder. 

Google, along with Facebook, Slack, and other companies, are great for those who want to get established in the product management field.

Not every company will be perfect for your career path, but will still provide valuable experience, even if it’s just an internship. 

While internships can be competitive, especially at a company like Google, the effort is worth it. Getting your foot in the door as an intern will offer an outstanding learning experience.

Associate Product Manager Interview Questions

Once you have the education, relevant skills, and perhaps an internship under your belt, the next step is to find a job that fits on your desired career path. Once you’ve secured an interview with your stellar resume and cover letter, it’s time to prepare for the interview questions

Before the interview, get an idea of your specific goals and career path, as the interviewer is likely to ask about them. You want to show your willingness to learn, eagerness to excel, and the ability to deliver strong and useful products. 

Prepare for interviews by thinking through potential questions and answers. Read blogs and find information on others who have been down the same path. You can never be over-prepared for an interview. 

Research the company as well as trends and patterns in their industry to impress the interviewer before heading in. Highlight your product management knowledge, while letting your personality and enthusiasm play a part in getting you the job. 

Hard skills are of course relevant and necessary, but soft skills and being personable will play a role as well.

Final Thoughts

Starting your career as an associate product manager is a great way to jumpstart your career in the product management field

The position can offer opportunities to be a product manager or specialize in a specific area of product management that you find engaging. The odds substantially increase when you join a company as an associate, as the opportunities for more senior positions may come to you before jobs are posted externally.

The keys to becoming an associate product manager include education in the product management field, the right mix of hard and soft skill sets, and meeting challenges head-on to show an employer you are ready and willing to work hard. They want to see a desire to work both for the betterment of the company and yourself.

Always stay on top of the current markets and trends so you can use the associate position as a launchpad for further career advancement.

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Crema is a digital product agency. We design and build technology solutions and innovation teams that enable the world’s top companies to make effective decisions, work better together, and ultimately thrive.