Long term goals as a PM

Hi all,

Can someone please explain what is the hierarchy of a PM after getting the role and where does one reach with almost 5-10 years of experience in the field.

Asking because i am starting my MBA applications this month and I want to know more about long term goals after becoming PM.

Thank you!

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Some companies keep two PM ladders: managers (Director of PM, Senior Director, VP) and individual contributors (PM, Senior PM, Principal PM). Managing other PMs is not necessary the only path to growth.

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It feels like PM role is the new investment banking job after MBA these days.

You can become a PM with or without an MBA.

Also, some big companies will prefer MBA candidates fresh out of school versus someone who have an MBA long time ago.

The bigger question is what do you want to be after 5 years of becoming a PM? Managing PMs? The higher the PM role, the fuzzier is the path to move up. It looks to be easier to become a VP/CPO of a big company as a founder of a startup acquired by the bigger firm than grinding yourself by promotion.

It depends!

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@Donovan, It’s been increasingly in vogue the past few years. Of course if we really zoom out on MBA in tech it’s been a bumpy ride. I think the prototypical MBA student will be disappointed.

Marty Cagan had a post earlier this year on MBA education being one of the product pathogens because of how poorly MBA education prepares one for product management. Lots of unlearning. Too much old school marketing lens “product management.”

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MBA is a great augment to PM when you have PM experience first and want to graduate to executive roles in large companies. Moving into a GM role the classical business knowledge is quite useful. Graduating from MBA into PM and approaching it like consulting using your frameworks and BS is the problem.

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Ya maybe! My point was for people going to bschool to get into product. As @Angela noted, you can be a PM without an MBA.

Still, yes, I recognize plenty of experienced/successful people in my network went to GBS and HBS. But they’re also often a different generation. Time will tell for my friends more freshly out of bschool.

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@MarcoSilva, Yup totally. I’m a pm without an MBA @FAANG - 10 YoE, but am going back for the MBA now that I want to transition into more classical business roles. Truthfully I’m interested in the space, so not just a resume pad.

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I’m not going to add more on the different potential ladders for PMs. But in all honesty, sounds like you haven’t yet gotten into a PM position yet, and you are already thinking what’s next, and yes product people love to talk about vision, but maybe climbing the ladder is not a great and motivating vision, but understanding what you want to achieve in your career or life.

  • Are you interested in helping users creating amazing products for them?
  • Do you like mentoring others and helping them growing in their careers?
  • Do you think that nobody knows what they are doing and you want to start it in your own way?

All these will have different answers and would require you to focus on a different path, focusing on the ladder you are going to miss into what is going to be more important for you.

Also for me when I started as a PM it was a huge discovery journey that it has taken me in completely different paths than I expected, as I have been discovering things that really interest me and never knew about before.

Anyhow, just trying to bring a different point of view. All the best getting into PM.

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In India, the PM scene is raging but that also means high supply of applicants because you will be competing with a variety of profiles:

  • New graduates from top engineering or/and business schools
  • Experienced devs/designers/analysts pivoting to PM
  • Ex- founders
  • Experienced Product Managers
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@Rohit, Yes, but what I’ve noticed is that, despite the high number of applicants, many positions still remain vacant because of the gap in skills required. As someone earlier said, PM is the new investment banking, everyone wants in, only few have the skills, even fewer will be successful in the role.

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@PriyaVarma, Its not really about the skills but companies looking out for people with experience in a specific area of business.

For instance, a PM with 5 years of experience in the payments field will be a better candidate for the job at a fintech firm when compared to a PM with 7 years of general experience.

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  • Product manager
  • Senior product manager
  • Group product manager / associate director product management / principle product manager
  • Director / general manager product management
  • Head / VP of product
  • Managing director/ head of business unit
  • CFO/ COO / CTO / CEO

It can be a few years between jumps. It’s More important that you have major business accomplishments, experience and track record. Also, smaller orgs have smaller structures.

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@KaranTrivedi, Maybe also APM and TPM. One question does anyone know any CFO with a PM background? At least that one I’ve never seen before.

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@YuriRoman, Absolutely not. Well, maybe, but if a company is hiring a product person as CFO run like hell.

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I see PM more as a path to entrepreneurship than any other corporate ladder climbing. There aren’t that many PMs who end up as CEO/CFOs, though that’s probably a function of how new the title is than anything else.

It puts you on the right mindset to problem solving and dealing with people - the marriage of skills that are really necessary for building a business while simultaneously networking for fundraising, hiring, and managing your culture.

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Apart from Marissa Mayer, Sundar Pichai, Susan Wojcicki etc. etc…

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@Natasha, Google/Alphabet is a different breed of company than the most, I’m sure you’re aware of that. And it’s an engineering-driven company, the majority of their PMs have an SWE background. IIRC all Google PMs have to pass their SWE test as well, though I’ve been told it’s not that difficult.

As I mentioned previously, the relative lack of PM CEOs is likely more due to how new the position is rather than anything else, though legacy bias could also prevail for quite some time as well.

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We do not have to pass coding interviews, though we do have multiple technical interviews (system design, technical trade offs) in our on site round with both engineering and fellow PMs. The technical bar is higher for PMs than anywhere else I’ve worked, interviewed for, or have contacts at (which is all FAANG and most prominent unicorns etc.) We onboard and take ongoing trainings etc. with engineering. In fact, we are part of engineering in the org structure. Yes, most of us have a SWE background, but the percentile appears to be declining over time (though still a supermajority). I, for example, was never a SWE, nor was my manager.

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@VladPodpoly, Google is known to have the hardest SWE tests of the industry.

PM leads to the C suite in many industries outside of tech. I have personally seen it in energy and healthcare. Edit to add: it’s also not new for those industries.