Is being an Internal PM less prestigious than an External PM?

I’m currently an external facing PM in the B2B space. My skillset and product knowledge transfers well into internal facing products (think a company decides to build its own expense or recruiting app just for its own use alone). I suppose I’m just a little paranoid though. The compensation definitely isn’t a downgrade but I guess I’m wondering if this would mean it would be harder for me to get another external facing PM job again?

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I don’t think it’s less prestigious. Having said that, I do think it is more difficult to move into an external PM role.

I initially took my first product owner role as an internal product owner. 3 years later when I tried to switch jobs there seemed to be a gap between what recruiters are looking for and what I had.

This could be because my company lacked the culture that product lead companies had, but I also think the skill sets for internal and external PMs are slightly different. For example, there is a lot more emphasis on functionality rather than the UX/UI since it is an internal facing product and hence the way you conduct user research is very different. Also There aren’t that many internal PM jobs to begin with and most internal PM jobs usually get filled internally, based on what I’ve seen.

There is also the matter of what other people think. Afterall the only reason people even care about “prestige” is because of other people. Naturally recruiters are drawn to people that have prestigious looking experiences. I’ve had recruiters get really turned off the moment I say all my experience was with internal products.

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@Nathan, This is so true. I’m a data platform PM, so handling complex issues but recruiters’ faces sour when I mention my customers are internal.

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@NathanEndicott,
Did you find a way to close this gap?

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@Juan,

Kept talking to recruiters to see what they were looking for and emphasized those points. I think once you get pass HR it’s not a huge disadvantage.

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People who care about prestige are less prestigious than the ones who don’t. What say?

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@ahmadbashir

Lol this is so true.

Being part of bunch of product communities, people who obsess over their designation or product domain, are the ones who I find least I interesting (this is my experience based on the interaction with them).

Many from such communities think that experience in a consumer facing product is more exciting or valuable in the market and often consider B2B/Backend/Internal product management less worthy.

Pro tip: stay away from such mindset and focus on customers/users’ problems and you too will build great solutions and develop your skill set/product competencies.

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Would you ever downgrade your pay to upgrade your prestige? No? Then prestige doesn’t matter so much. Well at least I think so.

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That’s kind of short sighted if the more prestigious role can land you better opportunities in the long run (which is very often a function of ‘prestige’).

@Donovan: yes in my experience internal products are often seen as a little less prestigious than external, but not so much that you wouldn’t be able to move back to an external product after.

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it won’t hurt your chances if you can explain that the work you did was nothing different, you still have a ton of stakeholders to handle.

from what I’ve seen in the past, “internal” teams were the first to have to give up resources to lend to other teams when they needed it

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The work is different. Internal products aren’t revenue driving.

So I disagree here.

You’ll learn a lot of execution skills, but less strategy and go to market skills. And if that is not aligned with your career goals this will be a step back.

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I wouldn’t worry about prestige as much as domain knowledge and staying current with best practices. Will you get to practice discovery and keep a user-centered focus vs. working to tight business specs? And when you are dealing with a captive audience, onboarding is focused on training rather than engagement and growth.

These things could matter if you have future SaaS career aspirations

Having said that, internal PMs can enjoy more stability and work-life balance rarely found in the PM role.

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Nope. I love being an internal PM. I have been doing it for 2 or 3 years. Really comfortable in that space.

I think prestige is how you package your value statement when you talk about it in the future.

“The product I manage has a multi million dollar roadmap and is essential to the multi-billion dollar enterprise I work for.”

In this day and age that can be anything and nothing.

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A lot of waffling here. The answer is yes, they are not as prestigious, with some qualifications.

If you are PM with commercial responsibilities that is a very different animal than internal responsibilities. Some of the mechanics are the same, but aside from that customer facing is a key difference.

If you run a major internal system that is lifeblood for the company, it’s parity with external facing products.

The key question comes down to do you understand the lifecycle of a capital dollar investment into returns for the company, internal PM are shielded from that calculus to a much greater extent than the commercial PM. Moreover, you tend to have less exposure to sales, marketing, BD, and contracting.

It’s a good stepping stone into commercial PM.

When I hire PM (B2B, enterprise solutions) I look for 2 broad bucks of experience: do you have experience in sales / marketing / BD / mgmt level Implementation or consulting AND do you have technical acumen (technical undergrad, technical program mgr, data analyst, engineer etc.).