When you go to your local computer store, there's always a new software
package for sale. That's because the software industry is constantly researching,
improving and inventing new software.
Software products are the programs you install on your computer, such as
a word processor, an accounting program or a game.
Software companies usually work on many different programs at one time.
Each project is looked after by a software product manager or a software project
"What I like is the variety, the challenge, the interesting people I get
to work with," says Allison Atkey. She is a project manager. "I get to start
things and finish them and start something new."
The software manager oversees the whole process from beginning to end.
This means taking the initial idea through its development and finally into
its production. The manager plays a role in the marketing, design and development
of the new products.
"A product manager is almost like the president of his own little business,"
explains Bill Clarke. He works with a software company in Massachusetts.
In all, it takes about one year to complete this process. That means it
takes a year from the idea stage to when the product appears on the shelves
at computer stores.
"We first start off by writing up a list of features that customers have
told us they want in a new program," says Kathy Donzis. She is a product manager
with a technology company in Texas.
Next, the manager sends the list to the developing engineers. The engineers
decide if the new requirements are possible, and determine how long they think
they might take to develop.
The product manager makes a variety of decisions. The manager finalizes
how many hours it will take to complete the project. The manager may also
decide who should develop the software.
Then there are marketing decisions to make. This includes deciding how
much it will cost. The manager may also train salespeople to sell the product.
Software product managers do a variety of tasks every day. They manage
many assistants and hire different advertising and public relations companies.
They speak with customers, engineers and software programmers. They should
enjoy negotiating with people.
They are also excellent at organizing and managing their time. "You never
have enough time. Never, ever!" says Clarke.
The computer industry is highly competitive. A software product manager
has to be watching to see what competitors are bringing to the market. They've
got to make sure their products are better than the competition!
Competition means managers have to work hard and be creative. They have
to be the kind of people who work well under this kind of stress.
Software product managers must enjoy working with people. They have to
be able to speak with customers and understand what they want in a new product.
In other words, they have to have good listening skills. They have to figure
out what each group of customers, developers and engineers wants.
Most of a software product manager's work is done in an office. Yet the
job also requires a lot of travel. Managers go to trade shows to talk with
customers. They may also travel to train salespeople on the new software they
will be selling.
"The senior person on the project goes to many different boardrooms, trade
shows, and does lots of public speaking," says project manager Ron Painter.
Software product managers work varied hours. Their hours are generally
9 to 5, but on many occasions they have to work overtime. "The times when
you are close to getting a product out, you put in a lot of extra hours,"
Physical requirements aren't strenuous. In fact, physically challenged
people may find unique opportunities in this career.
"A physically challenged person can really find a niche in this job," says
Clarke. "If a person's disability is blindness, who better to help develop
programs that operate by sound or touch?"
Oversee the production of new software
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Computer and Information Systems Managers
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