Early career options - Data Scientist or Product Manager

Hello! I am trying to understand what are the career projections for Data Scientists and Product Managers. I am very confused about what career trajectory should I pick.

About me: I have a master’s degree in Information systems ( specialized in data analytics) from a business school. I have about 2 years of experience.

I currently work as an analyst in a startup. Being an SME in everything data ( like startups work), my work is divided as follows :

  1. 30% product management, project management
  2. 40% reporting, data warehouse
  3. 30% Developing predictive models

My passion: I love data and business. My long-term goal is towards the management track because I wish to lead a company/division in the future. I have good communication and coding skills. I don’t want to be in solely a backend job in the future.


Think of why you love what you love. I love data, but I love it because it can lead to improving the end user’s experience and solving user, departmental, and business pain points. I like when that leads to business growth, but I’m just as happy when it reduces churn or increases operational efficiency. All that points to the notion that I’m a generalist focused on strategy and prefer data as my tool to execute strategy, especially regarding prioritization.

Your objective (what you want to achieve and for who) should influence your path. Sometimes your path also lets you identify your objective. Sometimes the best way is to commit to a path and switch paths if it was a mistake.


Thank you for your response. I can totally relate to you as I think data is a tool and the eventual goal should be a positive business outcome. I like to dive deep into the business, understand their requirements and develop a model/technological idea to solve it. This made me think that product management is something I enjoy. I, however, do not enjoy doing only project management or only taking status updates. Are there specific categories within Product Management that do this work?

The two skill sets are very different. The number 1 skill for a PM is being able to influence people inside your organization. This means running meetings, writing documents, giving presentations etc. You’ll need to answer direct questions from senior executives in meetings where there could be 50+ people. If you can’t work with people, to be frustrated. Source: I’m a Snr PM with nearly 20 years of experience.

If you go into the data side, your technical skills are much more important. People (like me) will rely on you to be able to provide data, and determine the quality of it. It’s a very in-demand field - especially for good data scientists.

Want to make yourself SUPER valuable? Become a data scientist who can also present their recommendations to business managers. It’s really rare to find a combination of data technical skills AND the ability to influence. Being able to break down complex data in a way your average person can understand is a game-changer. If you can do that you’ll be able to write your own cheque.

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It depends on the size of the organization. If there are multiple tiers of PMs within a department, the higher levels typically don’t handle the project management or status updates except during monthly meetings and such. The lowest level typically handles the project management, while the higher level coordinates prioritization possibilities with the lower levels. Higher-level PMs tend to have more access to data and less time to focus on that data :slight_smile:

I will say that at almost any level of PMing, meetings are inevitable. I’m in about 20 meetings per week, which is maybe 10-20% of my time…the vast majority are necessary meetings, only 1-2 per week are a total waste of my time. About 20% of my time is spent on writing/clarifying stories, but I like to be hands-on with moving the wheel. The rest is spent on strategic road-mapping…perfecting the order of features based on effort/impact…uncovering when an easy-but-unimpactful task reduces the time for a high-cost high-impact feature by 80%…and making sure all the pieces of the puzzle will play nice with features in the long-term plan. My boss (VP PM) mostly focuses on meetings, interdepartmental planning, and road mapping-- not handling stories or specific implementation details (unless asked!).

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