What makes a good API product manager?

June 14, 2021
Marjukka Niinioja

At the APICON conference organized in April 2021, Claire Barrett and Marjukka Niinioja discussed why API product managers are important and what one can expect in such a role.

The two API gurus have been globally recognized for their expertise: Claire is the director of APIs First and a global co-leader of the “Women in APIs” program, while Marjukka is the founder of Osaango and has years of experience in business consulting for API instructors. She is also the co-author of the book “API Economy 101”.

“In the Nordic countries and maybe outside the US and UK, let's say there is a general lack of product management,” says Marjukka.

According to the author, there are some industries that already have a strong product management culture when it comes physical products, but when it comes to digital and IT products, this is still not a well-implemented practice.To implement the product management mindset to digital products as well, good product managers are needed. But what makes a great API product manager? Claire explains, that while many essential skills can be learned, some are of a behavioral nature and can be harder to obtain. An example would be our way of thinking. This is closely related to behavioral characteristics and can even be inherent to the person.

During the conversation, Claire and Marjukka summarized the key characteristics of a good API product manager as follows:

• Has the right approach and great problem-solving abilities.

• Understands the practice of the client who, most of the time, is a technologist.

• Has a commercial vision.

• Has the ability to organize and manage projects.

• Has the ability to influence people and the team.

The implementation of API product management is gradually starting to take place within companies. However, in most organizations, this is still a work in process, which creates an extra challenge for the API product manager joining the team – they are expected to make the change happen. Thus, the two experts conclude by stating that being a good product manager is not enough: “You have to also be good at making organizational changes,” says Marjukka Niinioja, the author of “API Economy 101”.

Watch the whole keynote here!

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