product management Tag Archives - General Assembly Blog

The Top 5 Highest-Paying Careers in Tech (2022)

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Careers in tech

It’s no secret. Tech talent is in high demand across industries, but finding people with the skill sets to fill these roles has been challenging, causing competition amongst businesses for talent in tech — in software engineering, UX design, data science, and digital marketing. As a result, jobs in data analytics, computer science, cloud computing, software engineering, digital marketing, and others pay well.

So what does “pay well” really mean? Using data from PayScale, Glassdoor.com, we’ve put together the numbers for the most common entry level tech jobs. (Note: salary levels quoted below are for the U.S. and can vary from country to country.)
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Help! I Don’t Know How to Do My Job

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Extended Education Courses for Dealing with Job Anxiety image

CC Image Courtesy of Kreg Steppe on Flickr

We’ve all dealt with fear and anxiety surrounding our work. Whether you’ve just finished the job search and landed a new job or are simply dealing with additional responsibilities of your current role, you may be experiencing feelings of ineptitude. Fear not! There are lots of ways to deal when you don’t know how to do your job and you’re feeling out of your league.

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How to Build a Brilliant Visual Product Roadmap

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roadmap

As Product Managers, building product roadmaps is a crucial part of our job. Yet most of us still use outdated tools for product roadmapping — Excel, PowerPoint, wikis, etc. — to try and keep multiple teams on track toward the same goals. It’s painful. The good news is that there’s a better way.

We understand that building a strategic product roadmap is not easy and that your business colleagues always want to know what’s coming next. It’s time to lead your product with conviction. Take a radical new approach to roadmapping because your company needs it and you deserve to build the future and enjoy what you do.

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Four Traits That Every Great Product Manager Shares

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Product Manager Image

Product management is a role that consists of diverse responsibilities—and therefore requires diverse strengths. Methodical organization, creative thinking, and vision are just a few assets necessary to be an effective PM.

This variety of project manager traits is what attracts so many to the field, and makes their work endlessly interesting and challenging. But it takes a certain type of personality to thrive in this capacity. If you’re considering a foray into this field, take a look at some of the qualities that project managers share to see if they resonate with you.

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5 Things Great Product Managers Do Every Day

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Assessing-You-Products-Market-ViabilityMy favorite product managers are quietly powerful. Every day they take small steps that move their teams and business forward in a meaningful way. But they do it without a lot of hoopla, taking a confident yet unassuming approach.

After all, product managers have a lot on their plate every day. They are responsible for the strategy, roadmap, and feature definition for their product. It is a big responsibility that requires facilitating and collaborating with many different teams — both internal and external — without the formal authority to manage those teams. It requires a unique mix of humility and strength.

However, that quiet power does not mean leading product is easy. I realized early on that the daily life of a product manager is unpredictable, hectic, and sometimes very tough.

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Alumni Story: From Idea to Kickstarter Sensation

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Student Chris Place

Many people have creative product ideas, but don’t know how to turn them into a reality. That rang true for Product Management grad Chris Place, who wanted to solve a common problem: People aspire to bring lunch to work, but often fail. He turned to GA’s Product Management course in Hong Kong to give him the tools to create and launch Prepd, a sleek lunchbox and companion app that aims to make meal prep fun.

“GA helped me understand marketing and creative storytelling,” Place said. “How can I tie together my product skills with a compelling marketing plan to bring my product to launch?” After the course, he leveraged his learnings to launch a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $1.4 million to make Prepd a reality. “We never expected this to get this big,” Place says.

10 Sentences A Product Manager Should Never Say

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Your words can be a powerful ally or your worst enemy. It all depends on how you use them. So, how often do you think deeply about what you are going to say before you say it?

Product managers, in particular, cannot afford to be careless in their speech.

After all, good product management demands leadership and requires frequent conversations with other teams as well as different external stakeholders. These are not casual conversations; instead, they have some urgency and gravity. The success or failure of the product may depend on how well the product manager communicates with others.

But mastering the art of effective communication is not easy. If you are not careful, your words can undermine your effectiveness and authority.

That is why PMs must root out responses that convey a negative attitude and shut down communication, hindering their progress as a team.

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Don’t Frustrate Users With Gaps in Your Product Experience

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There are countless steps where the product experience can break down.

There are countless steps where the product experience can break down.

There are countless steps where the product experience can break down. Have you ever been waiting at the corner for a ride-sharing pickup, and while the app swears the driver is right there, there is no car in sight? Or how about seamlessly ordering groceries in an app, then waiting well past the delivery window with no sign of your avocados? Ever called customer service by phone to learn they have no record of the two detailed chats you had with online agents about your issue? We’ve all been there.

As consumers who increasingly rely on technology to help us wrangle a vast range of goods and services, we’ve all experienced pain points when really good software doesn’t equate a really good experience. All too often, there’s a breakdown that occurs outside product screens, when a product or process hits the reality of the human experience or a user fails.

Take a peek at the diagram above, which charts the various user touch points that can occur with your brand in a product experience loop. Users interact with a product through many different channels and modes of communication, and bridging the gaps between them is essential to your product’s success. If you present users with a custom call to action in a social media ad, your customer service teams must be ready to respond. If you build an offer email that is redeemable at a brick-and-mortar retail location, the cashier will need tools to redeem it.

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How Blending Lean, Agile, and Design Thinking Will Transform Your Team

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Lean vs Agile vs Design Thinking Jeff Gothelf

Jeff Gothelf’s new book, Lean vs. Agile vs. Design Thinking

The following is an adapted excerpt from Lean vs. Agile vs. Design Thinking by designer, team leader, and business coach Jeff Gothelf.

In 2016, I was preparing with clients for an upcoming training workshop focused on coaching a cross-functional team of designers, software engineers, product managers, and business stakeholders on integrating product discovery practices into their delivery cadences. During our conversation, my client said to me, “Our tech teams are learning Agile. Our product teams are learning Lean, and our design teams are learning Design Thinking. Which one is right?”

The client found the different disciplines at odds because these seemingly complementary practices forced each discipline into different cadences, with different practices and vocabularies targeting different measures of success.

The engineering teams, using Agile, were focused on shipping bug-free code in regular release cycles (many teams call these “sprints”). Their ultimate goal was an increased velocity — the quantity of code they could ship in each sprint. Product managers, using Lean, were most interested in driving efficiency, quality, and reduction of waste through tactical backlog prioritization and grooming techniques.

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How Using Rapid Prototyping Tests Product Efficiency & Usability

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It was a strange sight: a 40-year-old man taking a block of wood out of his shirt pocket, then pretending to scribble something on it with a stick. He stopped, then tap, tap, scribble again. After that he put it back into his shirt pocket.

The man is Jeff Hawkins, the inventor of the PalmPilot, the first handheld device that put computers into our pockets.

Hawkins had launched a similar venture a few years earlier, an amazing handheld computer called GRiDPaD. This was before we had LED monitors, when laptops weighed more than 10 pounds, so it was an impressive piece of hardware â€” but it was a flop because it wasn’t small enough for people to carry around. This is why he decided to simulate the experience of carrying around the device by cutting a block of wood representative of its size, sticking a piece of paper on it to simulate the interface, and carrying it around for months. Every time he needed to make an appointment, he’d take it out and pretend to check his calendar on the “device” and add the appointment to it.

This story illustrates prototyping â€” a quick and cheap way to simulate a product experience in order to reduce risks — very well. In the Palm Pilot example, the biggest risk was that the device might be too big to carry around. This type of prototype looks very crude because the focus is on realistic scenarios.

Prototypes can be really close to the final product with all of the features that will be included when the product is launched. But designers often start out by making a rapid prototype, the quickest and easiest way to prototype, in which the designer tries to mimic the experience without actually building or creating anything.

In software development and product design, rapid prototyping refers to techniques used to simulate the experience of using the software. In most cases, these techniques involve no coding in order to optimize speed and minimize cost. The goal is still to reduce risks — in this case, having to do with the product’s efficiency and effectiveness.

What Is the Purpose of Prototyping?

Effectiveness and efficiency are essential in user experience (UX) design. Effectiveness means the product’s user is able to get the value they come to the product for. If you’re an Airbnb user, you want to be able to book a place to stay while traveling. How do you do this? You would visit Airbnb’s website or open its mobile app. Can you accomplish this task (booking a room) using the website or app? If you can, then it’s effective â€” it’s giving you the result you desire.

Now, just because a product is effective doesn’t mean it’s efficient. Efficiency means you can complete the task with very little effort. If booking a room on Airbnb’s website takes you over an hour or too many steps, you probably wouldn’t use it often.

To determine whether a product is effective and efficient, we need to test it. And if the product is not built yet, we create a prototype and test it with real users.

Prototyping in UX Design

The UX design process is based on design thinking framework, a problem-solving approach used by designers that’s centered around the target audience for which they design. It starts with understanding who they’re designing for (called a persona) and the problem the persona has before coming up with solution ideas. This way, the solution directly addresses an actual problem the target audience is experiencing.

The design thinking framework looks like this:

  1. Empathize: Understand who your users are and the pain point(s) they experience.

  2. Define (the problem): Using the problem as a starting point, generate ideas for potential solutions.

  3. Ideation: Generate ideas and choose the one or two most promising.

  4. Prototype: Create prototypes of the best idea or two.

  5. Test: Test the prototypes, and use the learnings to improve the solution. After testing, you’ll return to the appropriate step. For example, if the idea is not effective, you’d go back to ideating more or simply choosing another idea to prototype, then test again.

UX designers go through this iteration loop multiple times until they find an effective and efficient solution.

The focus of prototyping is to get as much learning as possible with the least amount of effort. This means we only put into the prototype what we need to test, based on what we want to learn about our product idea. In Lean Startup, a methodology to build businesses and products, this concept is called building the minimum viable product, or MVP. The focus here is the viability of the product idea — is it going to work?

How Do You Create a Rapid Prototype?

When creating prototypes for digital products, like apps and websites, there are many tools available. These tools allow designers to create prototypes, regardless of whether they know how to code. Some of the platforms commonly used by professional product and UX designers include InVision, Marvel, Flinto, UX Pin, proto.io, and Axure.

Creating a prototype with these tools is very easy. Here are the steps:

1. Use a UI design application like Sketch or Adobe Photoshop to upload screen mockups (typically in the PNG file format).

2. Add hotspots — areas with which users can interact — to a screen and define what should happen when the user interacts with it (e.g., take the user to another screen, transition between pages, etc.).

3. Preview the prototype to make sure it’s doing what you want it to do.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for each screen.

Once you’ve connected all the screens, you can then use this prototype to test your design in usability test sessions. You’d show the users your prototype, then ask them to complete the specific task for which you’re designing the prototype. This would allow you to discover, then address issues that block them from completing the task.

Rapid Prototyping at General Assembly

At General Assembly, students in our full-time User Experience Design Immersive and part-time User Experience Design course (on campus and online) learn hands-on how to create a rapid prototype by using Sketch to create the screens, then InVision to connect those screens and make them interactive. This portion of the course happens right before the students learn how to conduct usability testing to make sure their design work well.

In order to determine what to prototype, students create user flows, wireframes, and information architecture before they create the screens in Sketch. By the end of the course, students have both the theory and hands-on experience of applying the design process.

Students in GA’s part-time Product Management course also learn to create rapid prototypes; after drawing drafts of their wireframes on paper, students turn to platforms like Sketch, InVision, and more to digitize their designs and create interactive prototypes.

Meet Our Expert

Danny Setiawan is a UX professional with 15-plus years of experience. He is currently the managing director of CoCreate, a UX consulting firm, and a product mentor at Starta Accelerator. Danny has worked with brands like Yahoo! Finance, The Economist, PwC, MSN, Kimberly-Clark, and Microsoft. Danny teaches the part-time User Experience Design course at General Assembly’s New York campus.

“More and more companies are realizing that if they don’t improve their products’ user experience, they’ll lose their customers. That means there’s growing demand for UX designers, making now a great time to enter the field.”

Danny Setiawan, User Experience Design Instructor, GA New York