What Is a Data Product Manager? A Complete Beginner's Guide

CareerFoundry contributor Dr. Anneke Schmidt

Product management has undergone significant changes in recent years. The rise of data-driven products has created a high demand for skilled professionals who can manage them with technical proficiency, helping companies maximize their data’s value.

For this reason, the data product manager (DPM) has become a crucial position in many tech companies.

With products increasingly shifting to digital platforms, the amount of data being generated and collected is growing exponentially, providing valuable insights that can be leveraged to improve customer experiences and, in turn, business growth.

So, if you’re good with numbers and have a passion for product development, the data product manager role might be just the right fit for you.

In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about a career in data product management, and how to get started in this specialized role. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. What is a data product manager?
  2. Data product manager vs product manager: What’s the difference?
  3. Data product manager FAQs
  4. How to become a data product manager
  5. Final thoughts

Feel free to jump ahead to the sections that interest you most. With that, let’s examine what a data product manager actually is.

1. What is a data product manager?

This question can be answered in two parts. First, let’s consider how the role is defined in general terms, then delve into the specifics of the tasks and responsibilities it involves.

In simplest terms, the data product manager’s role describes someone who utilizes data analysis and data science techniques to guide the development of new products and features or to enhance existing ones.

The position requires a balance of strategy, governance, and implementation of anything data-related and involves much collaboration with cross-functional teams to ensure compliance with regulations related to ethical data usage.

What does a data product manager do?

But what exactly does a data product manager do once they’ve been hired? The primary functions of the role include:

  • Defining data goals that align with the broader organizational vision
  • Translating requirements of large data initiatives into smaller actionable items
  • Championing data literacy within the organization and driving adoption rates
  • Conducting market assessments, user interviews, and testing to identify opportunities for new products
  • Developing data-driven products that align with the organization’s product team and product strategy
  • Applying data science techniques, data engineering processes, and market experimentation tests to deliver customized product experiences
  • Managing data governance processes to ensure the reliability, consistency, and quality of the company’s data
  • Building and maintaining data infrastructure to ensure optimal performance
  • Analyzing data to identify trends, patterns, and correlations that can be used to inform product decisions
  • Monitoring and providing feedback on the performance of data products
  • Mapping out data personas and consumer profiles to ensure a better understanding of customer needs
  • Developing and tracking key metrics to define product success
  • Designing and executing various A/B and multivariate tests to shape the next iteration of a product

2. Data product manager vs product manager: What’s the difference?

As this list shows, there is some overlap between the tasks and responsibilities of a data product manager and those of a traditional product manager (PM), such as creating product requirements and ensuring customer satisfaction. So, how do we distinguish between the two?

The best way to differentiate between the two roles is by looking at the bigger picture—each part’s overall function in the organization.

PMs focus on managing the entire lifecycle of a product, including ideation, development, launch, and maintenance. DPMs, by contrast, use advanced data-driven insights to guide the development of products and features, with a focus on data collection, organization, storage, and sharing. 

While they both work closely with other departments and stakeholders to ensure the product meets customer needs and business objectives, the DPM’s primary goal is to use data science techniques to identify new product opportunities and create a data-driven culture within the organization.

3. Data product manager FAQs

Do you still have questions about the data product manager’s job and career prospects? Here are some answers to frequently asked questions that may help:

How much does a data product manager make?

According to Glassdoor data, product manager salaries in the US range from $103K to $166K per year, with the average salary being $130,147. This number may vary based on experience and location. For example, the average salary data for US-based Senior Data Product Managers is $160,554.

What makes you a good data product manager?

The best DPMs will have a creative yet analytical mindset, be comfortable working within tight deadlines, and possess the ability to translate technical concepts into business terms.

You know you’re suitable for the role if you are passionate about data-driven product development, understand customer pain points and needs, and know how to leverage data to make evidence-based decisions.

What are some data product manager skills?

A successful data product manager should possess the following qualities:

  • strong mathematical and analytical skills
  • excellent communication and teamwork skills
  • technical expertise and familiarity with data science techniques
  • business acumen and understanding of product development, and
  • the ability to balance strategic thinking with tactical execution

4. How to become a data product manager

So, you’re confident that a career as a data product manager is the right move for you. But how can you make that plan a reality and actually break into this exciting, popular, and financially rewarding field? Here are four tips to consider:

Understand data product life cycle and development

To become a successful data product manager, you must have a clear understanding of the entire data product life cycle, from ideation to delivery. This means knowing how to define a product’s goals and objectives, conducting market research, developing a product roadmap, and collaborating with cross-functional teams to execute the plan.

Hone technical knowledge: Statistics, SQL, ML

Data product managers need to have a solid understanding of technical concepts such as statistics, Structured Query Language (SQL), and machine learning (ML). Gaining this knowledge will help you analyze data effectively and create actionable insights. So, make sure you invest enough time in developing your technical skills before you approach potential employers.

Acquire relevant work experience

As with any other job, work experience is key to breaking into the data product management sphere. Internships, freelance projects, or entry-level positions in related fields like data analysis or project management can help you build a portfolio of work and demonstrate your skills. Keep in mind that any relevant work experience is a valuable addition to your resume.

Get certified for credibility and proficiency

Obtaining a certification in data management can increase your credibility and employability as a data product manager. Certifications like the Certified Data Management Professional (CDMP) or Certified Analytics Professional (CAP) demonstrate that you have a deep understanding of the industry’s best practices and are committed to your professional development.

However, keep in mind that data management knowledge alone won’t teach you the skills needed to enter the product world. If you don’t have a tech or engineering background, consider taking a specialized course like CareerFoundry’s Product Management Program first to develop the necessary skill set.

5. Final thoughts

The professional role of a data product manager is growing in importance as tech-based businesses seek to harness the power of their data for better decision-making.

As this article discussed, more and more companies recognize the need for data-savvy professionals who can support their product initiatives with data-driven insights and solutions.

So, if you have a knack for data, understand the context of product development, and have the right technical and interpersonal skills to thrive in this role, don’t hesitate to explore data product management as a potential career option.

If you’re still figuring out if product management is the right fit for you, try this free product management short course for beginners. With expert mentorship, hands-on experience, and access to an active community, you’ll gain a solid foundation in core product management skills and be prepared to transition into this growing and in-demand field.

Or, if you prefer to keep on reading, here are some more related articles you might find helpful:

What You Should Do Now

  1. Get a hands-on introduction to product management with a free, self-paced short course made up of 5 short tutorials.

  2. Take part in one of our FREE live online product manager events with industry experts, or check out CareerFoundry graduate Farley’s product management portfolio project.

  3. Become a qualified product manager in 3-6 months—backed by the CareerFoundry job guarantee.

  4. This month, we’re offering a partial scholarship worth up to $1,365 off on all of our career-change programs to the first 100 students who apply 🎉 Book your application call and secure your spot now!

What is CareerFoundry?

CareerFoundry is an online school for people looking to switch to a rewarding career in tech. Select a program, get paired with an expert mentor and tutor, and become a job-ready designer, developer, or analyst from scratch, or your money back.

Learn more about our programs