The product management career path can be incredibly fulfilling as you build and work on products used by millions of users around the world.
However, a PM career looks different than other roles in tech. The success of a product, or even an entire company, rests on the product team. PMs lead the way on what to build and why.
Building impactful products is exciting! But being a PM comes with a lot of pressure to perform and drive results. Are you cut out for product management?
Strategic Direction is Not Yours to Own
The first thing you should know about becoming a product manager is that strategic decisions won't fall squarely on your shoulders. Leadership and upper management will likely set the direction of the company and the products you're building.
You'll also likely be hearing a lot about the priorities of a technical program manager if you work at a big company in your first job.
This means that as a new PM, you may not have much say in the strategy of the company. Product managers are trusted to follow through on the company's objectives and vision, even if they don't always agree.
You'll likely have opinions about the products you're building. Unfortunately, they may not always be heard.
Companies rely on their product directors to understand the business landscape and make product decisions based on the information they see.
If you're the type of person who wants to own the product lifecycle and plan big things, you may be disappointed early in your career!
Even if you're not 100% committed to the products you're building, your team needs you to be on board. Designers, engineers, and product marketing teams all rely on cooperation to get the job done.
You'll have to check your ego at the door if you want to be a successful product manager.
Feel free to share opinions in planning meetings about things that may or may not go well. But don't expect the whole company to pivot because you don't think a particular feature or product is going to move the needle.
Product managers are sometimes called the "CEO of the product," which implies more ownership than is sometimes given.
Knowing this before jumping into your product manager career path is important if you're the type of person who likes ownership!
If that's something you need, consider starting your own company or creating your own product. Own the product outright and be in charge of the strategy of its release.
Product Management is Wishy Washy
Product management is not a predictable 9 to 5 job. Every day will look different.
If you're the type of person who needs consistency every day, you're probably not ready to be a product manager!
Product managers don't have a fixed to-do list. Instead, they're facilitators of building and completing projects.
One day you may be involved in planning meetings to flesh out a new product feature. The next day you may be working directly with your team to overcome a technical bug. And some days you may just need to give your team a morale boost when things get tough!
Every day is different for a product manager. If you like structure and planned sprints for your tasks, product management may be an unpleasant and stressful job for you!
Read What Does a Product Manager Do All Day? - A Day In the Life of a Product Manager to gain a better understanding of how unpredictable the day can be.
You're Responsible for a LOT
Being a product manager is a LOT of responsibility. If you work as a product manager in tech, it's likely that the products you work on are the bread and butter of the company.
If you work at Google, that means you could be working on Gmail or even Google Search. Both are products used by billions of people around the globe and there's a lot of pressure to not mess things up!
PMs, just like sports coaches, get to celebrate both the wins and the losses with their team. When a product launch goes well, you'll feel like a hero.
However, if a new product launch doesn't go well and underperforms, the blame will be directed to the product team.
The product manager's job is to ensure features aren't a failure by interviewing users, launching beta tests, and observing the marketplace.
If a feature doesn't go as planned, it's on your shoulders to own the mistake.
Good product managers need to work well under pressure and make decisions to correct course quickly. If you prefer to work in a calmer environment, a PM career may not be for you!
Slower Career Growth
If you let blog posts on the Internet influence your view of product management, you may assume you'll be leading teams of people to build cool products.
The reality is that it can take years, even a decade, to grow into a role that has you managing direct reports.
For many years, product managers will work under the guidance of more senior PMs and directors.
If you're looking to grow into a management or leadership position shortly after transitioning into product, you'll be disappointed.
Even software developers may find themselves managing junior engineers within two or three years of their career. But PMs are expected to prove their strategy and vision within an organization before they're given the keys to the castle.
After you move through the ranks of APM and even land your first product management job, you likely still have years to go before you'll become a manager.
Even senior PMs don't always manage direct reports!
If building a team and growing into leadership is something you'd like to do in the shorter term, you may not want to become a product manager.
Should You Become a Product Manager?
Product management isn't for everyone. But at its core, the PM role is strategic and empathetic. It's what interviewers are looking for in product management interviews.
If you enjoy listening to people, digesting data, and working with teams of all shapes and sizes, a PM career may be right for you.
Being a product manager means wearing a lot of different hats and taking things slowly to make sure you're making the right call. Building products used by millions of people all over the world can be thrilling.
But if you're hoping to rise through the ranks quickly and take all the credit for big product successes, a PM career may not be a great fit.
Product Manager Interview Prep
Want to become a product manager or upgrade your career? Check out all of the product management courses and resources Exponent has:
💬 Review more commonly asked sample PM interview questions.
📖 Read through our company-specific Product Manager interview guides
Most Popular Interview Guides
- Google Product Manager Interview Guide
- Facebook Product Manager Interview Guide
- Twitter Product Manager Interview Guide
- Amazon Product Manager Interview Guide
👯♂️ Practice your behavioral and leadership skills with our mock interview practice tool.
👨🎓 Take our complete Product Management interview course.