I recently left my PM job to take a short break while job searching for a new role. One role that I’m interview for is a Program Manager position. The description sounds really similar to the work that I was doing as Product Manager. If I were to take a program manager position for my next role, would it be difficult to try to get a Product position after that? If you’re a hiring manger, is that something that would look affect my likelihood of getting the position?
At some companies (like Microsoft) what they call being a Program Manager is what everyone else calls Product Management and everyone knows it. At lots of companies, what they call Product Management is really project/program management.
I would suggest to ask that question in the interview itself. Apart from what Josh mentioned, I’ve encountered a case where the role was called Program Manager and it really had aspects of Product and program management at the same time. In hiring for PM roles, I have seen some resumes which have program manager positions, and in the interviews I just dig a bit to confirm what kind of role it really was (Product focused or more program/project focused or a mix of the two).
I will say that I always give a pause when I see Program Manager roles in someone’s past (if they have multiple stints as a Prog. Mgr). If it’s just one and they have Product Manager roles as well – and they can articulate the work they did as Program Manager (and why they took that job in their career arc) then I’m fine with it.
my suggestion that, if you are in fact doing Product work you should feel free to re-title yourself to provide appropriate data to the market (I’m reminded of a job a long time ago where they retitled all of the product managers as solution designers even because of some director level politics)
I would expect a program manager to execute multiple projects (or programs) and this is a title I associate with big companies. So basically a project leader doing what others have deemed important to get done. A key difference is then that product managers would be the ones figuring out what should be done next (and getting it done). But these titles are thrown around so freely that you really need to just ask what type of work do they expect you’ll be doing. Titles are just words on paper or pixels on screen and what matters is if you’d be doing things you enjoy. And in the end it doesn’t matter what title you have but what you do with it. Took me a few years to understand that I was actually doing PM work at my previous company and although my official title wasn’t product manager back then I just tell prospective employers that it was basically my job. Never had an issue with that because after all I had the results and experience to back up what I was saying.