How To Become a Product Lead (Plus Salary and Job Outlook)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 25, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Product leads work within and provide guidance to product development teams. A product lead may have expertise in areas like technology, engineering and marketing. If you're interested in becoming a product lead, learning more about what they do and the important skills they use can be beneficial.

In this article, we explain what a product lead is, detail the tasks they manage, describe important skills they can use, review the steps you can follow to become one and provide their salary and job outlook information.

What is a product lead?

A product lead is a professional who manages the process of creating, introducing and marketing new products. They may develop product teams and coordinate with them regarding new product details. The product lead often reports to product managers and executives within a business. The team size for a product lead can depend on the size of the company for which they work.

Related: Learn About Being a Product Manager

What does a product lead do?

The specific duties a product lead manages may vary depending on their team and the products they work on. These are some responsibilities product leads may handle:

  • Communicating with senior management

  • Overseeing product development processes

  • Coordinating product development teams

  • Developing functional product prototypes

  • Writing and presenting reports to senior management

Related: How To Become a Product Manager in 6 Steps (With FAQs)

Important skills for product leads

These are some important skills for product leads:

  • Design: Product leads can use design skills when creating and advising on new products for a company. Great design skills allow a lead to understand when a product works and when it doesn't and helps them find methods for improvement.

  • Communication: Leads communicate with many types of professionals and often lead teams during product development. Communicating effectively can help them overcome obstacles in a development process and coordinate teams.

  • Technical proficiency: Many teams use creation software to design and develop products, which makes technical proficiency important for leads. They may also use computers to create and use spreadsheets, write reports and communicate with their team.

  • Delegation: As a leader, it's important that leads can effectively delegate. This means they can assign tasks to those within their team and focus on their own responsibilities.

  • Critical thinking: Critical thinking is the ability to assess a problem, identify potential issues and find solutions. This is important for product leads because it helps them solve problems during design and within the team.

Related: Growth Product Manager Skills: Examples and Improvement Tips

How to become a product lead

The steps you follow to become a product lead may vary depending on your educational opportunities and professional goals. These are some steps you can follow to become a product lead:

1. Determine if it's the right career choice for you

The first step to becoming a product lead is determining if it's the right career choice for you. Many product leads spend much of their time in an office setting, using technology to complete their tasks. Being successful as a product lead may require great communication and coordination skills, as you often create and lead product development teams. If you prefer a career in which you can be active or spend time outside, being a product lead may not be right for you. Those who enjoy problem-solving and working with others may enjoy being a product lead.

2. Pursue a bachelor's degree in design or marketing

After ensuring being a product lead is the right choice for you, consider pursuing a bachelor's degree. If you're still in high school, you can focus on marketing and design classes while earning your degree. You can research different programs to learn more about, which may prepare you best for becoming a product lead. Many schools offer product development and engineering programs you can consider. Other focuses, like marketing and design, can also be useful for product leads. While in college, meet with colleagues and professors to begin developing your professional network.

Related: Guide To Understanding Product Development

3. Gain experience developing and improving products

Before becoming a product lead, it's important that you have experience developing, improving, refining and marketing products. To gain experience, you may complete product-focused internships during college or following your graduation. You can also pursue entry-level positions in product development to build these skills. For example, you may gain experience in roles like product development associate, marketing assistant or product quality assurance specialist. Focus on building skills like design, communication and attention to detail during your time in these roles.

4. Develop and demonstrate your leadership skills

Having excellent leadership skills is an important part of being successful as a product lead. Before applying for product lead roles, you can develop your leadership skills to help you prepare for the position. To do this, consider volunteering to lead projects or accepting leadership roles outside of your professional life. For example, you may coach a sports team or plan events to gain skills in communication and delegation.

5. Apply and interview for open product lead positions

With a bachelor's degree and leadership skills, you can apply for open product lead positions. Thoroughly proofreading and editing your resume and cover letter can improve your impression on the hiring manager. You can also practice answering interview questions with your friends and family prior to meeting with the hiring team to prepare for interviews.

Related: 11 Jobs for a Product Manager That Pay $70,000 or More per Year

Product lead job outlook and salary

How much a product lead can earn may depend on factors like education, performance and experience. The national average salary for a product lead is $119,257 per year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, advertising, promotions and marketing managers may expect a growth rate of 10% from 2020 to 2030. This is a slightly above average job outlook growth rate and may add an additional 31,800 jobs to the field. In 2020, there were approximately 316,800 jobs available in the industry.

For the most up-to-date salary information, click on the link provided.

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