What do PMs leave companies?

Hi everybody,

I’m new to PMing, just a few months, but in this time frame the rather mature and large global company has dealt with a lot of attrition. I figure in this market, attrition is felt in many companies but what do you think are the top drivers of people getting burnt out and looking for a new PM role?

I’m hoping to find out more internally with some of the recent losses in PM specific roles but I’m already feeling the need to jump for more pay due to inflation but feeling like I need 1-2 years of experience to even consider that.

Interested on hearing everyone’s experiences and thoughts dealing with this over the last two years.

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Well, I think it’s because the role is often not a real PM role including discovery but simply a PO role in a delivery team. Sometimes it is even PO + Project Management… That’s my little experience I shared. Let’s hear what the more experienced folks have to say.

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It hurts how true this is. And good PMs can only do this for so long, even for good money, before they get bored of the feature factory and have to move on. Typically for a massive salary bump somewhere else.

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This made my day. My boss called what I did for the past three months “not PM experience”. I’m sure he meant well but it is demoralizing when you are doing more than being simply a PO and you look like you’re not doing real pm work because the norms have gotten so distorted.

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This and some of the other comments is so me right now. Leaving after only 1 year of experience but headed from a large, feature factory-esque, top-down company to a start up with a pay bump where I’d hopefully get to do more discovery and strategy work.

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Often it’s PO / Project / Program Manager / Scrum Master but listed as Product Manager.

In Product, you either set the vision and work with others to execute it, or have it funneled from the top and you just execute it.

Many companies advertise the former, but in reality it’s the latter.

When it’s the latter, then it’s likely that the role is more of a PO / Program Manager / Scrum Master.

Nothing wrong with those if that’s what you want / like. However, know the organization you’re in and its culture, as it is often not going to change anytime soon.

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I’ve been stuck in the latter situation you mentioned. Is the transition to a real PM easy enough? What would it take to get into a real PM role?

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I’d check the organization first to see if structurally and culturally the shift is feasible.

  1. If the “product” function is distributed across other areas, and if you really like the company and want to stay, then try to transition to one of those areas. For example, if Business Development or Marketing own pricing, and Operations own strategy, then you may want to transition there. Or if possible, try to get a custom role created for you.
  2. If the company culture is really not product minded and more feature factory focused, or top down execution focused, then you may have to leave. Watch closely for postings and job descriptions to ensure you’re not looped back into a Scrum Master / Product Owner / Project Manager role.

Good luck!

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I think a big part of it is the same reason why non-PMs leave companies for new ones.

Say you make $120k. You’ve been at your company for three years. It is quite a stretch to ask to be bumped to $170k. However, if you apply for a position in a new company, it is very doable to get such salary for virtually the same position.

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Move regularly. Here’s my path since moving to the Bay Area.

  • 2012 Company A Sr Product Manager TC: 197k
  • 2015 Company B Product Line Manager TC: 243k
  • 2017 Company C Director of PM TC: 230k (moved for title)
  • 2018 Company D Sr Director of PM TC: 347k
  • 2020 Company D VP & GM TC: 376k (promoted but barely moved the needle $$$)
  • 2022 Company E Director of PM TC: 500k (much bigger company, scope and impact, title downgrade)
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I think one PM-specific one is the product space simply not being interesting to you after some amount of time. As a PM it’s pretty important to be invested in your product’s and customers’ success, and it’s far easier to do that if you actually like and care about the product. I left my last role after 2 years even though my team, comp, and promotion outlook were solid - I just really wasn’t interested in what we worked on, to the point where it materially impacted my motivation to be productive at work.

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Echoing what everyone else has said about compensation. It’s easier to get substantially more salary after you have a year or two of experience. One other factor is that some PMs derive a sense of joy from a less rigid and more empowered role at a smaller or less mature company like a startup. Because you are more delivery focused at big companies because making real significant change has a ton of governance around it.

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Pay and opportunity. Large companies move too slow to promote and you have over achieving PMs looking for the next challenge

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I think this doesn’t correlate with company size as you may think. Been at startups as well as large companies.

In a profit driven organization, there is not much short term incentive in increasing an employees salary to meet the hiring market demand. It’s not what they’re in business for. It is a hard pill to swallow and it took me a decade to accept it, but it’s just how it is. No matter how much you fool yourself, a corporate is a virtual entity that has a very different moral compass than we do. We humanize it to feel good about what we do, but in reality and very similar to evolution, it doesn’t give a damn about the individual’s well being or interests.

There is sadly no other logic that is more fundamental that this to the matter. Even if a company is “fast enough” to meet the PM’s ambition and desire for a challenge, it is not going to be doing so because of the color of your eyes . It will be doing something that it will indirectly sell you on it being for your well-being and for keeping you well paid and being challenged.

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Overly focused on process and doing things by the ‘book’ when there’s no single way to actually do discovery and it should all be contextualized. People just have trouble dealing with VUCA so want a project management framework for everything rather than just swarming and executing proactively against a strategic roadmap. I spend more time in internal meetings and filling in docs now than doing valuable work.

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Boredom and lack of impact are why I’ve left in the past. I am happy working 60+ hour weeks if I am mentally stimulated and learning. But I’m not happy working 20 hour weeks if I feel like I’m not advancing my skill set.