What is an AI Product Manager? A Beginner’s Guide

Profile image of Joana Pereira, CareerFoundry blog author

Any aspiring product manager that happened to browse the internet for the past six months would have noticed that we are in the midst of a societal debate about the role of artificial intelligence.

Suddenly “AI product manager” is a job title that’s appearing. 

While the AI debate is not new, recent advances in the field (think ChatGPT) have ushered in a torrent of experiments and have made headlines along the lines of “we’re all about to be replaced by AI”. 

So what does all of this mean to both aspiring and experienced product managers? Let’s explore this through the new role of AI product manager:

  1. What is an AI product manager?
  2. What does an AI product manager do?
  3. How to become an AI product manager
  4. AI product manager FAQ

1. What is an AI product manager? 

An AI product manager is someone with at least a few years of experience in product. They’ll typically have enough of a technical background to understand how AI products are built.

Having previous experience in product management greatly helps them understand and manage matters such as prioritization, business viability, possible business models, and so on. This technical knowledge doesn’t necessarily have to be in Computer Science, but probably in a highly analytical, heavily quantitative subject such as data.

It’s one thing to understand how to build an AI product, it’s another to ensure it can be monetized and used to grow the company. 

2. AI and product management

There have been, throughout history, different inflection points when the dawn of the so-called “Age of AI” has been announced. 

If you want to learn more, Visme created a great recap of the last 80 years of AI evolution

At each inflection point, product managers have been in demand, honing the specific skillset that was considered fundamental at that particular time. This trend is not only likely to continue, but even to accelerate.

Looking at the quantic leap ushered in by ChatGPT in the last six months, it might give the impression that we’ll all be out of a job by December. And yet the technology behind ChatGPT and other generative AI products—LLMs (Large Language Models) is hardly new.

In 2013, well before becoming a PM, I was hired as an editor of a customized LLM to check the quality of the output being produced.

LLMs have been used in the translation world for over 20 years: the deep impact of ChatGPT simply shows what can happen when a LLM can be trained with enough data to become generic, and therefore available to the general public. 

3. What does an AI product manager do? 

An essential part of any product manager’s job consists of walking a tightrope between a company’s vision and ambitions and the tough reality of building something from scratch that might never have been attempted before. 

That becomes exponentially more important when AI is at the core of a product. AI PMs might be asked to combine expertise in both Neural Networks and Deep Learning, as well as Predictive Analytics, for instance. 

AI product manager tasks

To a large extent, the tasks any PM might be expected to do will still be there. But you might be using AI to get to them faster.

ProdPad, primarily a tool to manage roadmaps, has wasted no time in creating an AI-powered feature that would supercharge any PM to work five times faster.

AI product managers in charge of developing new AI products will likely need to: 

  • put together a business case
  • define the dataset
  • build a data model
  • measure the results achieved and iterate

For PMs dealing with already existing and established products, they are more likely to be asked to leverage AI’s capabilities to decrease development time, for instance. 

AI product manager tools

It’s useful to draw a distinction here between the tools required to build an AI product, and AI tools that any PM could conceivably be incorporating in their work in the near future. This last category of tools is mentioned in the subsection: How can product managers use AI?

As for the tools needed to build an AI product, they’re not dramatically different from those used by data scientists or machine learning engineers (Python being a good example), with the difference that a product manager will hopefully not be expected to code alongside them

AI product manager skills

Many specific skills could be added to this section, but two of them deserve a special highlight: 

ML: Machine Learning

This is a key one. AI PMs don’t necessarily need to have previous experience as ML developers, but they do need to understand the various architecture options in ML. 

They need to know how it can and cannot work, what it can and cannot do. They also need to know how to explain these nuances to executives and non-technical stakeholders, since this has a direct impact on any timelines stakeholders might attempt to enforce. 

Learn more about this in our guide to machine learning vs deep learning.

Ethics and compliance

Depending on where an AI PM is based, and which geographies their products will be available in, attention to regulations and legal limitations must be taken into account. 

A company would be open to lawsuits and fines otherwise. Deon’s Ethics Checklist is a great place to start familiarizing yourself with this kind of challenge. 

4. How to become an AI product manager

Prior to deciding to specialize in the field of AI, it’s an immense asset to have solid product management foundations. 

Considering the complexity of building the average AI product, it definitely helps going through a more general PM course, such as CareerFoundry Product Management Program.

Due to the skyrocketing increase in interest in AI, recent months have seen more and more AI specialization programmes being offered, some for free, some rather time-intensive. 

Each aspiring PM should decide on the best fit, depending on where they currently are in their PM career, their immediate goals and even their educational background. 

Here are a few programmes worth considering:

Having been a part of several PM communities for the past years, I’ve witnessed the rise and fall of trends and fads (the distinction between these two is not always obvious).

I believe it to be much more likely that PMs will find a way to incorporate AI skills into their current line of work, as opposed to deciding to make a radical change towards AI.

Product-led growth is another buzzword that is shaking the product management world, but since its meaning is not so easily translatable to the outside world, it receives substantially less publicity.

5. AI product manager FAQ

What is the average AI product manager salary?

Considering the very recent increase in demand for AI product managers, the average salary for this kind of position in any labor market is a moving target. The situation is likely to continue to evolve in the coming months, and will be strongly dependent on how fundamental companies across different industries consider AI to be regarding their core business.

In the U.S., the average AI product manager salary stands at $185,602 per year, the typical position ranging between $150,000 – $234,000. 

In Germany, the average salary is €67,762, which is not far off from the £63,220 being offered on average in the UK. This puts the average AI product manager in a mid-level position: the salaries on offer are higher than what a junior product manager might expect, but they’re also far below those of a VP of Product or a CPO

How can product managers use AI?

The long answer to this question is being written and rewritten every day by product managers around the world (many of whom are trialing ChatGPT as a part-time PM “intern”). 

Now is the time to test, try and iterate with AI. Nevertheless, two key areas where AI appears to be gathering some favor among PMs are ideation and automation of repetitive, lower value tasks

Brainstorming and ideation activities can often be hindered by “blank page syndrome” and in that regard, tools such as ChatGPT can serve as a handy icebreaker or conversation starter. If you need to get started, we’ve collected 22 prompts for product managers to use.

PMs need however to validate any AI generated ideas against harsh reality: AI does not know the difference between facts and lies, as some recent incursions have proven

Will AI replace product management? 

The very short answer to this question would be: while most tasks can feasibly be automated, relationships still cannot.

From my own experience working as a PM, whenever a seemingly new technology suddenly makes it into mainstream media, the temptation at nearly all levels of an organization is to say “we need to embrace it, otherwise we’ll be left behind.”

Chatbots were all the rage around 2016: it had been predicted that customer support as a function would cease to exist, since bots could be easily configured to attend to all needs of every single customer. And yet, relationship building has since proved to be essential to all businesses. 

Product management is equal parts technical understanding and enabling synergies. Also, AI does not possess discerning qualities, unlike PMs. Having said that, there will probably become an expectation that PMs update their skillset enough that they know how to incorporate AI in their work. 

6. Conclusion

The tech industry has turned disruption into a mainstream concept. The recent developments in AI, gigantic as they look, are merely the last step in that process of disruption.

While it would be unwise for product managers to ignore or refuse the existence of AI, of course it won’t render PMs obsolete.

As I said earlier, effective product management is about relationships and communication, and soft skills as much as hard ones. If you’re wondering if this career is for you, then try out this free product management short course to see if you like it. You’ll learn about the concepts that make a good PM, and what working as one is like.

Curious to learn more before deciding to become an AI product manager? Here are some useful links: 

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