Product Manager vs. Product Owner

So I have been given a job opportunity at 2 companies

  1. Product owner: work along with the product manager to define the priorities and maintain the backlog and write the user stories. Also, test the results before it is released to the end customer. The main benefit is that it’s fixed to a particular domain and the product is fixed.

  2. Product manager: this is in a product as a service consultancy. Different startups approach the firm and the firm takes their requirements and does everything from building the product to launching it and ensuring it becomes a success (ensure that it meets the KRAs)

As a junior product manager with a total of 5 years of exp and 1.5 years of relevant experience, which one should I go for?

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How do the corporate brands of the two companies compare from a product perspective? Also how large/skilled are their respective product organizations? In general, in an early-stage career, you probably want to work with better, more established organizations to learn best practices and processes with a lot of skilled teammates to learn from.

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The first one is a product startup that has quite a few IPs and has long term contracts with huge companies The second one is an established consultancy that works with startups and companies and helps with their product realization

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Depends on what you want to do

PO role will give you invaluable skills with working with a squad, understanding how to articulate and explain product and business concepts to others that may not have the full understanding of WHY you are doing something. Skills that you will learn will be prioritization, working with a cross-functional team, building your attention to detail, understanding how to get the best from a Scrum Master and, for future roles, the confidence to fill the role of a PO if you join a company that doesn’t have a delivery-based PO in their Product Teams

PM role will give you progression on the ladder of PM work (obviously) - I would guess the skills you’d learn there would include identifying customer problems, interrogating data to understand what is the next most valuable thing to work on, stakeholder engagement, and finding new ways to say No to people, as well as the usual gumpf of OKRs, Product Vision and strategy, and building the best possible product that you can.

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Depends on what you like. Personally, I would never work strictly as a PO because I look at that role as grunt work.

I’m a PM at a startup so my role encompasses both. But I much prefer the customer interaction and strategic aspects of my role more so than execution with the development team.

We are considering bringing on a PO to help lighten the workload for me so that I can focus on more strategic initiatives. I think accepting a PO role for you would be a step backward if you want to grow your career.

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I have a feeling that it might be the same in this case too. Thanks for the advice.

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This is a really good response. Product Manager will help you go further in your career. Product owner can help you learn agile and team fundamentals in product early in your career, but you don’t want to be pigeon holed into that role forever. Product Manager will allow you to grow further.

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Thanks, everyone. It is great to hear the perspective of people who have been there done that. I have some time to make the call but this thread has already given me the framework to make an informed decision.

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Hi wishing you the best in your decision! Choosing is practice for either role.

I jumped from Product BA to Product Manager then in new org a Digital Product Manager for multiple products. But each one was very short, partial life cycle experience. So i felt both experienced and capable but without the data proof.

Ultimately I have taken a Product Owner role. While i previously saw the PO role as a step back, in this case i see it as a technical move to learn the core product of a scale up. I think it will give me the most in depth view for understanding the evolution company is undertaking.

Perhaps both your options are equally viable in career path and you can use another factor to make decision such as benefits. For example, vacation days or company pension/ retirement match. The younger you are the more that will help you long term!

I am sure you will do well what ever your priorities and decision.

Best

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This is a very balanced perspective about the value of each role. Thanks, @katebroadfield.

One role is not better than the other in absolute terms. It is only better at a certain point in time based on your interests, stage of career, and goals.

It reminds me of this quote from Alice in Wonderland -

Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”The Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”Alice: “I don’t much care where.”The Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

We all go through this and @Davekim it is great to see you asking the right questions to figure it out.

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