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Level Up! Advancing Your Product Management Career

Originally presented at the Boston Product Management Association Fall Mentorship Meeting, September 2015.

The Boston Product Management Association invited me to speak today at their Fall Mentorship Meeting, which brings together executive mentors and mentees to share information and grow together in their craft. My specific topic was how to advance in your career.

Here’s my presentation:

Presentation Description: How do you graduate to senior roles as a Product Manager? We’ll start by putting some definition to those roles, then dig into some practical advice on how to make those kinds of transitions with a special focus on an issue every level PM contends with: Influencing others. Originally presented at the Boston Product Management Association Fall Mentorship Meeting, September 2015.

Presentation Summary

Opening caveat

Your mileage may vary since different organizations define product management and the product management roles very differently.

The Roles Defined

  • The Product Manager understands the market and generally focuses on an individual product or service. Short term development goals and long-term strategy.
  • The Product Director focuses on the process of how we do product management (building launch teams, standardizing reporting, facilitating collaboration, etc).
  • The Vice President of Product focuses on the business itself, making sure the executive team is focused on the right thing for the business and its customers and partners. They ask tough, probing questions.

Advice On Moving Up*

  • Get a good boss! And build a support network of mentors and sponsors
  • If you feel you’re ready to advance, humbly approach your boss and let them know you enjoy working for them (if that’s true), that you’d like a more senior role if one opens up, and that you’d like their honest advice on how to proceed. Take their feedback, process it, and figure out how to apply it. Then periodically check in to see how they think you’re doing.
  • Look for opportunities to demonstrate you’re already doing these advanced activities. If your company has interns, offer to manage them. Start mentoring a willing junior PM.
  • Most people don’t ask for a promotion. But of those who do, 59% of people who asked for a promotion get one. So when the time is right, ask.

    * Advice assumptions: 1) You’ve been a PM for at least 3-5 years on a few different products; 2) people like working with; and 3) you’re working at a company that is large enough to have a Director or a VP role.

How Do You Influence People?

  • By understanding the big picture of your company and how your product fits in;
  • By understanding the departments you work with and what their key, non-obvious goals are and how your product helps achieve those goals; and
  • By understanding your key stakeholders and what their goals and ambitions are and how you can help one another out.

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