How to Become an International Product Manager

Like any Product Manager, an International Product Manager must own the product from ideation, through development, to implementation and launch. The only difference? They still have a heavy focus on customer needs and technical development of the product, but on a more vast and complex scale. They are responsible for the product at an International level.

In this article, we’ll look to answer any burning questions you have about the International Product Manager role.

Product Manager Posting VS International Product Manager Posting

A significant number of the responsibilities included in any Product Manager job posting have to do with the understanding of customer needs. Therefore, an International Product Manager job posting takes into account how varied these will be across different countries. This causes three main variations:

  • Internationalization: the Product Manager ensures that the design and the use of the product is suitable for localization. Essentially an International PM will need to ensure that the product is able to be targeted to more specific areas.
  • Localization: the International Product Manager is responsible for the product adapting to meet market-specific cultures and languages. This includes components such as date/time formats and market-relevant documentation.
  • Customization: Product Managers at the international level will need the product to target the right consumers, taking market preference variations into account.

All three of these elements then combine to accomplish personalization — the achievement of creating a product that is specifically related to the individual, but on a large scale. In addition to this, an International Product Manager will have to pay close attention to political and economic influences and factors. They’ll need be able to analyze what impact these will have on the product and thus how it will affect their role.

How Does an International Product Manager Salary Differ From Other Roles?

It’s not as simple as being able to give a stark figure to represent the difference between a regular Product Manager job and an International Product Manager role. It depends on many different variations, including where you’re based and the level of seniority of your role, etc.

However, because of the increased level of responsibility, an International Product Manager tends to earn more. For example, a regular Product Manager salary in the USA averages out at $109,000, whereas an International Product Manager in America earns $119,365. This is a similar trend seen across the world, as demonstrated in the UK where a regular Product Manager earns £53,000 on average and an International Product Manager earns £64,000.

What Does an International Product Manager Do?

So, we’ve covered the vast and more surface-level differences between a regular Product Manager role and an International Product Manager role. Now let’s go further in depth regarding just what the Product Manager role comprises in terms of skills and responsibilities at an interantional level.

Key Responsibilities

Let’s start with the responsibilities:

  • Identify and manage any original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partnerships to ensure that hardware and software modifications can be made to meet market-specific cultures and languages.
  • Deliver and implement a global harmonization strategy managing elements such as product life cycles.
  • Contribute to the preparation and distribution of product proposals.
  • Creating user stories for current and future products for the various consumers across the different locations that the product serves.
  • Keeping a constant eye on competitors and taking this into account when developing your own products and product strategy.
  • Be accountable at every different stage of the product life-cycle, ensuring that the product is fulfilling the aims and objectives that were established at the start.

Job Posting Example

Take a closer look at the responsibility demands for an International Product Manager in this live posting at Timberland:

As you can see, there’s a fair amount of crossover between the requirements for any Product Manager and the responsibilities for a Product Manager at the international level. But there are some areas that apply only to International jobs:

  • Willingness to travel for a certain percentage of the time: as a successful International Product Manager, you’ll have to touch base with the customers in the various areas in which you operate. By travelling, you’re seeing first-hand the context of the market, thus being able to take this into consideration upon making important decisions. The amount of time away is very much dependent on the job posting and organization.
  • Ability to work in a cross-functional team: there will be a variety of teams you’ll have to work with across the areas that you operate in. This might require certain language requirements for the countries that you’ll be travelling to as this helps when trying to maintain partnerships. At the very least, there is a higher need for outstanding communication skills.
  • Highly organized: you’ll be working in a variety of markets and coordinating cross-functional teams. It should go without saying that this wide-reaching role demands a high level of organization. Use your organization skills to ensure that your focus for each market is based on the area-specific context and research.

How to Become an International Product Manager

  1. Revamp your resume: for a career in international product management, you have to be passionate about wanting to be meeting the needs of the various customers across different areas. Ensure that you’re providing all your relevant experience as well as searching for the specific qualities and skill sets you are looking for and insert these across your resume.
  2. Optimize your LinkedIn: with many companies now using headhunting techniques instead of traditional job advertising, this is now a prerequisite for any Product Manager role. Ensure that your LinkedIn is constantly updated with skills relevant to the role you’re looking to fill. If you are able to get other LinkedIn users to endorse these skills, you’ll have an even better chance at attracting a recruiter.
  3. Apply and Prepare Your Personal Pitch: In addition to your resume and application, you must provide a killer pitch that outlines the Product Manager position’s key responsibilities. Your pitch should position your experience and backstory in the best possible light while also being customizable. In your interviews, you’ll be pitching yourself to different stakeholders: make sure you can customize how you present yourself to answer the needs of different audiences.
  4. Network with Recruiters and Hiring Managers: If you have some previous experience in product management and are looking to make a lateral move into an International Product Manager role, networking can be an alternative strategy to level up your job hunt. Learn more about how to network your way into Product Manager roles in the video included below.
  5. Practice for Common Interview Questions: remember that for this step, the internet is your friend. You can research general common questions across the industry and check company websites for specific questions and practices the company relies on in interviews. For example, Amazon recommends their candidates brush up on the STAR Method for their in-person interviews. Get ahead of the interview question game with our downloadable interview guide. We put together a collection of every interview question we’ve recorded our members being asked over the years, and created this ultimate list. Download it for yourself to take your interview prep the the next level.

Land the Product Manager Job of Your Dreams

Still have questions about being a Product Manager on an international scale? Many of the factors that go into your success as a Product Manager will depend on the industry and the company of your choice, along with your background and skill set. To learn about becoming a Product Manager in more detail, why not talk to someone one on one? Our career coaches are offering free 30-minute career coaching sessions: we’d love to answer any questions you may still have. Schedule your session today!

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