Transition question. Project Manager aspiring Product Manager

I was involved in couple of startups (nothing major). Both hardware and software. I thought I was into startups. Finally I realized I loved creating new products. I didn’t care about startups any more. I wanted to be involved in creating new products that solve people’s problems.

First I thought I wanted to be an engineer, then a designer. Finally I came across the term Product Manager and I felt blessed ever since. I love identifying people’s problems, breaking them down, coming up with solutions and executing on them.

Fast forward I’m a project manager at a creative agency where we develop digital products. Mostly websites and apps for firms. Not quit what I’m looking for. As a PM I’m not involved at a level that I wish I was. Usually clients tell us what to build and we just execute. In general what they want is not data driven, no user interviews. It’s simply their assumptions. I’m tired of it.

I want to be the one who decides what to build. Just like at a startup. But I don’t want to be a pm at a company working on 1 product. I love working at an agency where I get to work on multiple projects. However I think I’m not ready to be a PM at such agency.

So do you guys think I should accel at development process (sort of what I do) and then transition to PM at a product agency? OR it’s better to move to a company where I’ll be a PM working on 1 product and then move to product agency?


I’m not sure these two desires are compatible.

You could work at a large company and work on different products over time but a PM not focused on a single product or closely related products would be a red flag to me.


@NaomiNwosu, Nah what I mean is I should have a chance to work on products over time. Like in every 6 months maybe…


I go back to the comment…

“I’m not sure these two desires are compatible.” 6 month projects are client driven in an agency setting and unless they give you complete control (often not the case), I think you’ll have a difficult time getting that.


@Naomi, Anyway what’d be a better choice to stay at the agency as the project manager and to learn more about development process or to accept a pm job at a startup where I’ll have to do everything on my own?


Depends on where you want to grow and develop and how much support you think you need in the process. Project Management and Product Management are two different things. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it.


That book is in my To Read books :slight_smile: but nowhere soon, I got books lined up.

Like I said I want to develop products. I love working at an agency environment. However I want to be involved in product details on ground level. Identifying what customers need and all that kinda stuff.

I can accept a PM job at a startup and I’ll be involved in that but I’ll have to say goodbye to agency environment where I get to meet people and work on multiple products.


@DaveKim, Why not start with being a PM for a single product first? I don’t think too many businesses would put someone in a position to manage multiple products, eventually, before that person has proven themselves capable of managing even ONE product successfully.


From my experience, it takes a while until you’re the one who decides what gets built. If you’re not the owner of the company, there are stakeholders you work with and their opinions matter as well.

You mentioned you wanted to be an engineer, then a designer. How do you know you won’t change your mind about being a PM? The soundest solution would be to try your hand at being a product manager, see how you like it. You can also consider a Product Owner position. Product Manager and Product Owner responsibilities are quite different from company to company, so you can look into that as well.

Good luck!


Are there any opportunities to productize one of the services you offer at your current company? Or a piece of one of the services? This is a great article from HBR about the concept. Specifically the section “Embedded Products in Service Offerings.”

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@PriyaVarma, Yes there are! I had that idea. I could monetize some features we’ve already built for our clients. However I do not have time for that. I got too many projects going on.

Thank you all for your insights. I think I will continue with Project Management at my current company and gain some more experience and side by side work on the some of the many projects that come across.

Thank you once again all.

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