Question: What other roles can product managers fill besides managing product managers?
I’m in my 40s now and have reached the Product Management Director level, managing enterprise software product lines and a handful of product managers and user interface designers. I’ve been successful in bringing products to market and generating over $30MM in product revenues over the course of my career. In today’s woeful economic climate and a desire to balance work and family life and possibly downsize one’s lifestyle and career aspirations, what alternative career paths do you see in a post-product management path that doesn’t include aspiring to VP or CEO levels?
Answer from Marty Cagan of Silicon Valley Product Group: There is no question that leading a product management team is one of the most demanding and high-stress jobs in a company. In a very real sense, this role drives the future success of the company. It’s not unusual for people to spend some time at this level and decide that they miss having a life. Fortunately, the experience in this role turns out to be very useful for other, less stressful positions:
Principle Product Manager – This is a very senior product manager, but the key is that they are no longer responsible for managing people. You might be given a particularly challenging product, or often your job is to provide that holistic view of product and help the other product managers. But as an individual contributor your stress level will be much lower.
Interaction Designer – If you have talent and skills in interaction design, or if you have the aptitude and desire for some more education, this role of interaction designer is in extreme demand and can be very rewarding without the pressure associated with being ultimately responsible for the product. There are some good programs ranging from as short as two-days to help provide training to product manager types in this area.
Product Marketing – You can certainly leverage your product management experience by taking your knowledge and helping the sales or marketing organizations to spread the word. Without the pressure of ultimate responsibility, you can spend your time sharing what you know rather than being responsible for coming up with the actual products.
Online Marketing – This is really where marketing meets product, and this is a rapidly evolving field where you can often make a big impact for your company (especially in lowering the customer acquisition costs). Your knowledge of product and the people required to get changes implemented will prove a big help.
While there are many other positions in the company that would benefit from your knowledge, these four are all individual contributor spots that will most leverage your value.