Cracking the PM Career: The Skills, Frameworks, and Practices to Become a Great Product Manager

Gayle Laakmann McDowell, Jackie Bavaro



Product management is a big role, and this a big book.


From the authors of the best-selling Cracking the PM Interview comes the comprehensive guide to the skills, frameworks, and practices to become a great product manager. It will help you level-up your skills and career from your first product management role through product leadership, addressing questions like:


  • What does it take to become a great product manager and great leader?
  • How can you reliably ship products that make a difference in the world?
  • How do you build your product intuition, hone your execution, strengthen your leadership, and develop your strategic skills?
  • What does it take to lead and inspire teams?
  • When is people management the right career move?
  • How does excellence in those skills translate into career success?


This book will teach you the reliable frameworks and best practices that improve your chances of shipping a successful product. The frameworks won't transform you into a great product manager overnight or guarantee that your products never fail, but they'll help you avoid the most common problems and give you the structure to start experimenting, reflecting, and improving.


You'll learn how to:

  • Design high-quality products that delight users and solve people's needs.
  • Run and deliver your projects quickly, smoothly, and effectively.
  • Create product visions and strategies to set direction and optimize for long-term impact.
  • Lead people and influence without authority.
  • Manage people, develop great PMs, build great teams, and create great product organizations.
  • Manage your career so you can translate your efforts into the recognition you deserve.


Topics include:


  • Getting Started: the product life cycle; the first 90 days
  • Product Skills: user research; A/B tests; problem solving frameworks; systems thinking; product discovery; design sprints; ethical product design; technical terms and concepts; product documentation (specs and PRDs)
  • Execution Skills: agile project management; minimum viable products (MVPs); incremental development; product launches; time management; overcoming obstacles
  • Strategic Skills: product vision; strategy; roadmaps; goals and OKRs
  • Leadership Skills: growth mindset; ownership mentality; influencing without authority; stakeholder management; collaboration; communication; inspiring a team; mentoring; working with designers, engineers, and executives
  • People Management Skills: becoming a people manager; being a member of the leadership team; reviewing work; holding people accountable; coaching and development; recruiting and interviewing; product processes; organizational structures
  • Careers: career ladders; career goals; partnering with your manager; picking the right team; negotiations; networking; handling bad situations; career options beyond PM
  • Product Leader Q&A: in-depth career interviews with eleven successful product leaders who have chosen career paths including CPO, head of product, CEO, social impact work, venture capital, angel investing, coaching, and starting their own companies.