When do you hire your second product manager, and how do you decide their seniority, responsibilities, etc.?

Hi all - we hired their first PM who was for all purposes a senior hire. They helped to establish a product process and drive some key projects early on. Now we are thinking to hire a second person, simply because we are scaling and have more surface to cover.

What considerations should we make? What impact does this decision have on the shape of our organization in the future?

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Have your first hire delegate some things to a new hire. Observe how they work together. If they are both same level seniority will be shown by a leader or manager. Either you have managerial skills or not. Most of the time employees leave workspace because of their managers. Culture in your workspace is crucial.

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So - the most important thing you can do is establish roles and responsibilities early on - is the new PM subordinate to the existing PM? Having 1 person report to another person as their only report is rough, unless you expect to quickly grow the subordinate team. Better to have them both report upstream.

Still, if the current PM has put together all of the processes, talk to both folks early on and explain that the processes are good as they are, but you expect that they’ll partner up and make plans going forward.

Third, they have to have aligned teams - you need to find a way to have engineers aligned with each of the PMs, otherwise there’s going to be conflict about prioritization - this can be project-driven, it doesn’t have to be permanent, but if there’s not enough work for a PM to be partnered with engineers, you don’t need a PM.

Finally, you need to be really clear with both the current hire and the new hire around how you see the roles evolving. I see a lot of PMs interviewing where they started as an IC PM at a startup, assumed they were auditioning for the VP/SVP/CPO role, and when the company raises a lot of money and they hire in an experienced PM exec, they are bitter and unhappy. I’ve also been the exec hired into these roles and it sucks to manage people who feel like they’ve been lied to about their prospects in the job. It’s possible that the people you have now are the people who can grow with you to a much bigger size, but the odds are against them, and they should understand that.

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Practical answer? More senior owns the future, lower level owns the past.

So, senior owns launch, AR/PR, service/produce blogs, sales messaging, reference architectures. - things we will do in the future

Junior owns the past - references, use cases, web updates, customer briefings, etc. - things we have done with customers

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Startup consultant here…a good rule of thumb we use is to have one PM per 4-6 devs depending on product complexity. Not hard and fast, but if you don’t have that level of dev work being done you probably need a different role / profile.

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When have Product Owners sit on-top of Project Managers in terms of seniority.

It’s a slightly different skillset, but so far, we’ve always graduated project managers into product owners.

Generally product owners have a portfolio of products, and project managers have a single product lifecycle that they manage. Other businesses might have the inverse of this in terms of portfolio size due to product/project complexity.

So: have your existing PM take a “product owner” role, and have the new PM work under them. The Product Owner decides the feature definition and feature priority, and your new project manager deals with execution.