Lessons Learned as a Product Manager

Personal Creative Brief Cover

Post Created by Steinar Mikkelson, Applied IMC, Spring, 2023

IMC has taught me so much about marketing and life. Here are some lessons learned!

“It’s easy to go through the motions but really f***ing hard to do the work.” (Dan Purdy). Having the pleasure of taking IMC for two quarters at Western Washington University, it has taught me so many things about what it truly means to be a marketer and a professional. Moreover, this past quarter I became a Product Manager (PM) and learned just how intricate leading people can be. As you begin to navigate life after school or wherever your journey takes you, there are some lessons and takeaways from this quarter that I would like to share. I have the hopes that what I have learned from being a product manager can help others as well.

Lesson #1: Forget the Due Dates.

Being a student for majority of our lives has conditioned us to operate on a more fixed schedule when it comes to deliverables. IMC and being a manager have taught me that Content Creation and the real world in general don’t operate on a set schedule like school does. There are deadlines to meet, but they can be sporadic with them constantly changing to adjust for the current stage of the work. Considering this, one of the most important thing that IMC and being a PM has taught me is to be adaptable with schedules. While you should always strive to stay on schedule, being able to adapt and communicate any changes will help set you apart as a student and a professional. A great way to stay organized in a dynamic schedule is to use a Kanban:

Image of the personal Kanban I used to stay organized


Using a Kanban is a great tool as it allows you to breakdown tasks without overstressing about due dates. If you have taken IMC, you are very familiar with using Kanban’s in class, but having them for personal use is a great way to stay organized!

Lesson #2: Keep chugging along

It’s very easy to be put off by the amount of work in any given class and IMC was no exception. One of the most important lessons that this class has taught me is to keep moving along one day at a time. If you try to plan everything out all at once, it can be easy to overload yourself. This is especially true if you’re a manager as there are more variables in the equation. One way that I stayed organized and on track (besides a Kanban) is to use a paper planner:

Picture of my personal planner that I used to plan out my week and stay on track


Using a tool like this allowed me to plan out my week and I would simply check off the item’s day by day. It really helped me stay organized and eased the anxiety of my busy schedule along with managing the deliverables for my team.

Lesson #3: Managing people is not easy

Throughout my life I have been in various leadership positions in school and at work but being a product manager was my first experience actually leading a team and… it was a lot harder than I anticipated. It was easily one of the most rewarding experiences but one of the hardest as well. If you plan on pursuing a management career or are thinking of being a PM (product manager) for AIMC in the future, here are a few things to consider:

  • You can’t force people to do things that they are interested in. It’s like the saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink it”. Just because you provide the tools necessary doesn’t mean that people will be motivated and that’s okay.
  • Managers have to approach a given situation with an all-encompassing view. You don’t know what one of your team members may be going through and it’s important to acknowledge the far-reaching aspects of a given situation.
  • Playing off of the last point, managers should also not be afraid to have an open dialogue with their team. A few times I would sit down with my group individually and simply check in on each of them in a solo setting. I feel that this allowed us to form a more coherent connection and showed that I actually cared about them outside of work.
  • Checking in regularly is also crucial to managing a team. It not only keeps them on track but it shows that their work doesn’t go unnoticed as well.

Final Takeaway

IMC has taught me so many things about being a professional, manager, marketer, and as a teammate. I hope that your journey will reflect the amazing things that I have gained from taking this class and if you’re just here to read what I wrote I hope my advice can help you in some way. Thank you to everyone that made this journey possible, and I’ll see you later!