Product Manager

There’s a lot of confusion around product management job titles, seniority, and hierarchy. This makes it hard to compare jobs, plan your career, and attract the right talent to your team. A standard is emerging from most successful product teams and organisations that can serve as a template for your own:

Product Management Career Ladder

Associate Product Manager

Today, product management is an interdisciplinary role that combines strategy, design, leadership, and marketing to launch a successful product. Because it encompasses so many responsibilities and intersects with so many other business roles, product management is often misunderstood and can look different from one company to another. This product manager sample job description can assist in your creating a job application that will attract job candidates who are qualified for the job. Feel free to revise this job description to meet your specific job duties and job requirements. Product Manager Job Responsibilities.

This is an entry-level position, for someone who is brand new to the role. It also has a specific connotation with an associate product manager (APM) program. This is a common rotational apprenticeship program in larger companies like Google and Facebook. The typical APM is a recent graduate. The aim — similar to most apprenticeships — is to develop these candidates into full-time positions through a combination of training and hands-on involvement with real projects.

Junior Product Manager

A junior product manager is also new to the role but doesn’t require as much hands-on training as an associate product manager. They operate independently with a product development team, maybe on a smaller product or area, and under the leadership and mentorship of a more senior product manager. A junior product manager typically has some work experience under their belt already and can come from any background. Engineering, design, or business are the most common backgrounds. Some of the best product managers out there have come from customer support, QA, or business analyst roles.

Product Manager

The most common job title of a product manager can span a wide gamut of experience, responsibility, and skills. Broadly this is someone who operates independently, leads the work of a product development team, and is responsible for a product or customer journey. 3utools for mac. Because it’s the most common title, it’s important to consider what product they manage. For example, if they’re a product manager for Facebook’s news feed and impact billions of users, they’re probably more senior and experienced than a product manager at a brand new startup.

Product Manager Responsibilities

Senior Product Manager

A senior product manager does the same thing as a product manager but has a senior title either in recognition of their contributions, the relative importance of their product, or reflects the fact that they also spend time mentoring junior product managers. In some organisations, this is a hybrid role. The Senior Product Manager is hands-on with a product and also has some line-management responsibilities.

Product Lead / Lead Product Manager

This is a newer role, and usually a very senior product manager who is responsible for a critical product in the company. This can be equivalent in rank to a Senior Product Manager through to a VP Product. The difference is they are not managing other product managers at all — they are simply exceptional product managers who want to stay hands-on and leave people management to others.

In many ways, this is similar to the Architect track in engineering (in contrast to the CTO track), and something we should encourage more. Just because you’re a great product manager and want to advance in your career, it doesn’t mean you should have to move away from being a hands-on product manager to a leader of other product managers. Some people are just better suited to one path than the other. Recognising who is great at leadership and who is great at building amazing products is equally important and valuable to an organisation.

Product Director / Group Product Manager

A Product Director or Group Product Manager is where the role starts to change. It goes from an individual contributor who owns a product and works hands-on with engineering and design teams, to someone who has stepped back from the day-to-day to focus on leading other product managers and working on alignment. This is where soft skills around people management become a critical part of the job — managing people is even harder than managing products!

VP Product / Head of Product

This is similar to a Director, but common in larger companies with more products and management layers, or as the most senior product person in a startup. This role is all about managing other product managers. Additionally, a VP will usually be responsible for managing a team budget — some organisations even throw in P&L responsibility.

In many startups, this is called a Head of Product but I’m not personally a fan of that title as there’s no way to promote a Head of Product — they’re already the Head!

CPO / Chief Product Officer

A Chief Product Officer is the most senior product person in an organisation. They usually manage more than one team of product managers and represent product in the C-suite or management team. They’re responsible for overall product strategy and alignment within their teams and with other parts of the organisation.

The difference between a VP Product and CPO in smaller companies isn’t huge, and the title is used interchangeably for the most senior product person in the company. But in larger organisations that have both roles, we can again borrow from our engineering friends to clarify the difference. The VP Product is responsible for the team, the processes, and getting things done, while the CPO is responsible for the product vision, product architecture, and overall organisational alignment.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Most companies don’t need all these tiers of course, so it’s important to think about how this fits into your organisation. At a startup, you may well just have a single Product Manager, and then as you grow, a couple of Product Managers who report to a Head of Product/VP Product. Only as the company grows and the suite of products grows do you need to consider more layers. As with anything else in product, these team structures and tiers should be aligned with customer needs. This way, you can incentivise and organise teams in alignment with your company goals.

Product Owner ≠ Product Manager

Product Owner is a job role that came out of Agile and Scrum, and although many organisations use it as a job title that is interchangeable with Product Manager, it’s not correct. In Scrum, the Product Owner is defined as the person who is responsible for grooming the backlog. While in Agile it’s defined as the representative of the business, and neither entirely describe the full breadth of a Product Manager’s responsibilities.

Product Owner is a role you play in an Agile team, whereas a Product Manager is the job title of someone responsible for a product and its outcome on the customer and the business.

Now a lot of Product Owners out there are great Product Managers, and they should just change their title. But a fair number of Product Owners have simply completed a certified Scrum product owner course and now think they’re equivalent to a Product Manager. Doing so sets them up to fail as they never consider the broader role. So if you’re tasking a Product Owner with the broader product management responsibilities, make sure you provide the training they need to master the full breadth of the role (and then change their title).

Structure = Clarity

Having clear and common structures for product management job titles in our teams will help us all better understand our careers, roles, and teams. This structure should provide the right foundation for you and your teams to ask: Do your team’s titles accurately reflect their jobs? Are they clear enough that applicants looking at your open vacancies know what you’re hiring for and if the job is for them? Or do you need to rethink your structure to maximise clarity?

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If you’ve ever considered a job in product management, you’re not alone. Product manager roles are increasingly coveted positions, with high salaries and ample opportunities for growth. In fact, product management ranks fifth on Glassdoor’s 2019 list of best jobs in America, with over 11,000 job opportunities available.

But what exactly does a product manager do? And are you up to the task? Below we take a deep dive into the product manager career path so you can decide for yourself.

What is product management?

Modern product management has its roots in the 1930s when Neil H. McElroy drafted a memo at Procter & Gamble to justify hiring for a new role: the first product managers. These “brand men” as he called them would be uniquely responsible for a brand, from sales and marketing to client relationships.

Procter & Gamble’s new brand men role paved the way for the modern product-centric organizational structure and the role of the product manager as the voice of the customer.

Today, product management is an interdisciplinary role that combines strategy, design, leadership, and marketing to launch a successful product.

Because it encompasses so many responsibilities and intersects with so many other business roles, product management is often misunderstood and can look different from one company to another.

However your company (or prospective company) defines their product management roles, there are a number of core skills product managers need to be successful:

  • Strategic thinking
  • Business mindset
  • Clear communication
  • Collaboration
  • Listening
  • Strong project management
  • UX background
  • Technical proficiency

Because product management is such an interdisciplinary role, many product managers break into a career in product management from another background. That’s good news if you’re interested in transitioning to a product manager career from another field.

Product management vs. project management

Product managers and project managers often get confused. Though the two managers often work closely together, their roles are distinct.

An easy way to think of it is that the product manager is the CEO of the product. They oversee everything product related from setting strategy, prioritizing releases, and championing the customer. Their job covers the entire lifecycle of the product.

On the other hand, a project manager typically works on projects within this ecosystem. Their projects are time-bound and are often set by the product manager or another business leader.

Their goal is to finish a project on time and within budget, ultimately helping the product manager deliver on their larger initiatives. Once a project is complete, the project manager moves on to the next initiative.

How much can a product manager earn?

The job sounds interesting, but let’s cut to the chase: What is the earning potential?

A career in product management can be both professionally and financially rewarding. Depending on your experience, skill set and level of responsibility, product managers can expect to earn anywhere from $80,000 to more than $150,000 a year.

Product management roles

There are several main product management roles you are likely to find across companies and organizations. While the specific responsibilities may vary from company to company, the basic roles are outlined below.

Associate product manager

Product Manager Masters

Entry level

Associate product managers report to a product manager. The day-to-day responsibilities will overlap with that of a product manager on a smaller scale. You don't choose your own assignments, but you will have ownership for them.

Responsibilities might include:

  • Data analysis
  • UI design
  • Defining features
  • Making recommendations

This is an entry-level role, so it's a chance to learn the ropes and demonstrate how coachable you are and how well you listen to and understand the customer and product market.

Product manager

Product manager salary


Product managers are mid-level roles. While you don’t necessarily have to have a direct product management background, you should have professional experience and demonstrable skills in communication, leadership, and strategy.

Product managers are responsible for the strategy, roadmap, and features of a product. You’ll need to be able to work with cross-functional teams, including UX, engineering, and marketing, to conduct accurate data analysis, forecasting, and market research.

The role is both strategic and tactical and requires strong leadership, collaboration, and product knowledge.

Senior product manager

Senior level Autodesk max for mac os.

A senior product manager (PM) shares similar responsibilities as the product manager but on a higher level. Senior PMs usually have a solid background in product management by this point in their career.

In addition to managing higher-value products, senior PMs also lead the junior PMs and act as the liaison between the product management team and the business leaders.

Direct of product management

Senior level

The director role moves away from direct product management to leadership. Their focus in on making sure the team is running effectively and improving processes. You should have a strong management background and be comfortable working with senior and executive leadership.

Product Manager Skills

VP of product management

Executive level

The VP of product is an executive position responsible for big initiatives and building and promoting products that will have the greatest business impact. While the role is less hands-on in product development, high-level responsibilities include:

  • Budgeting
  • Strategic alignment
  • Communicating with and building leadership buy-in

Chief product officer

Executive level

Larger organizations may have a chief product officer. The role typically reports to the CEO and oversees all product activities in the organization. Similar to the VP of product, a chief product officer is in charge of defining the big picture product strategy for the company and setting long-term goals.

Product Manager Job

Tips for charting a career in product management

Product managers often come from a variety of backgrounds, including engineering, marketing, operations, tech support or IT, and sales and customer support. So if your experience with product management is laterally related, have no fear—you can still make a successful pivot into this rewarding career path.

However, there are a few ways to give yourself a leg up on the competition. Endpoint protection for mac. Use the following tips to develop hard and soft skills that will help you succeed in product management.

1. Learn code

Even a basic proficiency in writing code can set you apart to hiring managers. PMs who know how to code are called technical product managers and are in high demand because they can communicate their ideas more effectively with developers and engineers.

2. Build analytical skills

Product Manager Courses

Being able to collect and sort through data to identify patterns, develop strategy, and solve problems is a fundamental part of the product manager role. The stronger your analytical skills, the more successful you’ll be as a product manager.

3. Understand UX

Great product managers know their customer inside and out. That is why a background in user experience can be such a valuable asset for aspiring PMs. Building your UX skills can help you dig into the customer mindset and ask the right questions to develop a stronger product line.

Product management is a growing and dynamic field with great opportunities for career advancement and professional development. And if you’re a problem solver with big ideas and a talent for leadership, it might even be the job for you.