Becoming an Associate Product Manager in Startups: A Guide from the Trenches

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The technology landscape is filled with opportunities, and one of the exciting roles emerging in startups is that of the associate product manager. The path to becoming one is diverse and filled with learning opportunities. This article provides insights into the journey, salary expectations, and the value of formal education versus hands-on experience.

Key Points

1. Getting Started with Product Management

  • Internships: The journey usually begins with internships to get familiar with the product space.
  • Online Courses and Community Participation: Engaging in online learning and being part of relevant communities helps in building knowledge and networking.

2. Salary Expectations

  • Entry-Level Salary: A good starting figure is above 10 lakhs (INR) for this role in the startup environment.

3. Education versus Experience

  • Formal Education: Often, college academics may not directly prepare for this role.
  • Extracurricular Activities: Involvement in college communities or clubs that focus on understanding businesses can be more beneficial.

4. Investment in College Education

  • Cost of Degree: The investment in the college degree might be around 5.2 lakhs (INR), but the real inclination towards understanding businesses often comes from extracurricular activities.

Step-by-Step Process to Become an Associate Product Manager

  1. Explore the Product Space: Understand the field through online courses, internships, and engaging with relevant communities.
  2. Gain Experience Through Internships: Seek multiple internships to explore and gain hands-on experience.
  3. Network and Prove Your Worth: Networking and showcasing your work can lead to a full-time offer.

Resources Mentioned

  • Online Courses: They help in initial learning and understanding of product management.
  • Community Participation: Being part of relevant communities allows networking and continuous learning.


The role of an associate product manager at a startup requires a blend of hands-on experience, continuous learning, and a strong inclination towards understanding businesses. College academics alone may not be enough, but leveraging internships, online courses, and networking can pave the way to success in this exciting and rapidly growing field.

By focusing on practical experience and embracing the startup culture, aspiring product managers can forge a rewarding career path. With an entry-level salary that reflects the expertise required, it’s an investment in both time and education that can yield fulfilling professional growth.

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