August 12, 2021
6 min read

How to get started as a new API product manager?

How to get started as a new API Product Manager

Welcome to the world of API Product Management. The Product Manager role is outgrowing demand for software engineers. And API technology is leading digital transformation across industries.

But, with great potential comes great complexity. In this role, you’ll face challenges with no one right answer. There will be conflicts between stakeholders, customers, and developers. And you’ll be required to experiment which means things could go wrong.

If your head is spinning, don’t despair, here are 3 steps to get started as a new API Product Manager.

Step 1: Assess the current landscape

When you’re feeling lost, step 1 is to orientate yourself to your surroundings. Assess your skills, the API product, and how the company operates to understand your current landscape.

Personal skills

Self-awareness is an unspoken but critical skill for success as a product manager. Get honest on how your API and Product Management skills stack up. Then create a road map to address any gaps.

Beware the most common pitfall of API product management: Technical Knowledge.

With too much technical knowledge you’ll be tempted to stay in your comfort zone. There you'll forget to engage with people beyond your development team.

With too little technical knowledge you can get stuck in a study cycle. While some technical knowledge is critical to the role, you need less than you think.

API business model

Business awareness will differentiate you as an API Product Manager. While you will build a deep understanding of your API, don’t forget to build an understanding of the sector and business your API relates to.

Assess your knowledge of the practices, challenges, and business objectives. Speak to people in your organization to help you fill in any gaps. This could be the:

  • Leadership team
  • Sales team
  • Customers
  • Product team

If you’re taking over from another Product Manager, spend time understanding their vision, priorities and leverage the relationships they’ve already built in the organization.

This will directly impact the success of your API and your work as an API Product Manager.

API lifecycle

Each stage of an APIs lifecycle will require a different focus. To get to know your product, first understand which stage it’s in.

As you were hired as a new API product management, the API is most likely in the create, control, or consume phase.

  • Create is about design and documentation.
  • Control will focus on deployment, security, and scale
  • Consume is where you will publish and monetize your API.

Operations

Once you’ve done a self-assessment and understand the stage of your API, it’s time to assess how your team and organization operate. Find out:

  • Is the team waterfall, agile, or something else?
  • What tools are being used?
  • Are there any measures in place?

Remember, just because this is how things are now, it doesn’t mean they can’t change.

Hold a retrospective with your team to find out what’s working and what’s not.

Step 2: Promote yourself to product leader

You’ve just got a new job, but it’s already time for a promotion. The term ‘manager’ can be misleading. Don’t spend your time waiting for decisions to be made by people around you. Take ownership of your API. Think of yourself as a product leader.

Own the uncertainty through a clear strategy

To lead you to have a clear vision and roadmap to get there. The difficulty in Product Management is the art of tradeoffs between:

  • Quick wins or big bets
  • Improving quality or delivering new features
  • Investing in new technology or optimizing what you have

It can be tempting to wait for corporate strategy, investors' preferences, and marketing to decide on the next steps. In reality, the decisions are up to you. Put on your leadership hat to create a clear API strategy to guide your decisions. The best way to do this is to build product authority.

Build product authority

As a new API Product Manager, you'll want to make a good impression by saying yes to new requests. Sadly, you’ll probably have to say no a lot more than you say yes.

Build product authority by deeply understanding your stakeholder’s needs.

Be clear on the problem your API is solving. This clarity will help you build a simple and powerful solution. It will help you prioritize requests for new features and communicate how your decisions address your customer’s real needs. This will be especially helpful when you say no to customers, sales, or your development team.

Be open to change

It’s far easier to get feedback on a product than a blank page. Now that you have a strategy and product authority, test your ideas to see if you are on track.

Put measurements and feedback into your process early on. This way you can quickly adapt when you see an opportunity to improve.

Step 3: Find support in a community

As a new API Product Manager, you have a long and exciting career ahead of you. The best way to grow and learn is through a community.

External API communities

Online resources are abundant for Product Management and APIs. Whether you prefer connecting by consuming information from whitepapers, webinars, or podcasts or you like to actively engage in discussions on forums or meetups, there is a community out there for you.

These communities can keep you inspired and up to date with the latest ideas and technology.

Internal API communities

The API community in your company will be critical to your success. If there isn’t a strong community, this is a great opportunity for you to create one.

Host meetups or webinars to share success stories and lessons learned. This will help you build relationships, leadership, and authority. More than that, it will be the perfect place for you to market your API.

Your personal roadmap

Just as you’ll create a roadmap for your API, when you’re getting started as a new API Product Manager, create a personal roadmap.

Assess your skills, learn about the current state of your API, and find the right processes and tools to support you and your team.

Promote yourself to API Product Leader and create a clear strategy for your API knowing there will always be tradeoffs.

Build authority so you can bring the company and customers along on your vision. At the same time stay open to change when new information through measures and feedback is available.

Finally, you don’t have to do this alone. Find the API Product Manager community that suits you. There you can stay up to date with the latest education and personal insights.

If there’s not a strong community inside your organization, create one. Having API evangelists on your side will make success in your new role much easier.

Learn how Blobr can help you on your path to success as a new API Product Manager by talking to our experts.