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Willie Tran
Group Product Manager, DocSend Growth at Dropbox | Formerly Mailchimp, CalendlySeptember 15

I've wrestled with this over the course of ten years now. I used to think Growth PMs and Core PMs should just be one in the same and every Core PM should be able to do Growth work. However, I don't really believe that anymore. From my experience, there's a place in the business to do optimizations (Growth) and a place to do exploration (Core) work. 

Core PMs generally have a stronger skillset around taking big bets which require a lot of coordination and patience. Growth PMs require high analytical acumen and rapid development, but much smaller bets, and not as much coordination. 

Jackson Hsieh
Senior Director Of Product @ Upwork at Upwork August 23

Great question. 

  1. One important piece of knowledge is that EVERY PM is responsible for having a growth mindset. Growth PMs are NOT the only PMs responsible for growth. 
  2. Growth PMs are defined differently from company to company, and some companies don't have titles called Growth PMs. The most common Growth PM team that I've seen is usually responsible for user acquisition. This means they own the product features that help users have a smooth onboarding experience. 
  3. Sometimes the responsibilities go deeper in the growth process where they are responsible for user acquisition, engagement, retention, and referrals. However, in most cases from my experience, every PM owns a certain piece of the entire product but their responsibility is to contribute to a certain segment of this growth process. For example, I ran a team at 23andme called the Engagement team, where we owned the homepage experience, and our goal was to get our users to engage with our product more often. The more they engaged, the more opportunity we had to upsell them. 
Sreenath Kizhakkedath
Uber Head of Growth Programs, Riders at Uber January 23

A traditional product manager is responsible for a specific set of features and functionalities in an application. They focus on building the functionality with great UX. A Growth Product manager looks more end-to-end and identifies opportunities to deliver incremental growth. Let's take an eCommerce website application. A feature product manager might be responsible for the checkout experience. They will be thinking more about building capabilities in checkout (like supporting new payment types). A growth product manager will take more of an end-to-end customer journey perspective and think about capabilities like driving more awareness for other related products in the checkout experience, increasing the average order value, increasing customer engagement and conversion on the checkout pages, etc. A growth product manager focuses less on building a specific component in an application rather more on the customer journey, conversions etc., across all application components. 

Ojus Padston
Director of Product Management at ezCater January 2

The skill sets for growth and non-growth PMs are about 85% overlapped. The key differentiator is analytical sense. While all PMs need to ensure the team is focused on driving customer and business impact, growth PMs always have a direct tie to driving business KPIs. This requires a more advanced level of understanding trends in the data to identify areas of leverage. 

On the flip side, it is important to know what a Growth PM doesn't need to be great at in a given role. For example, I hired a PM who led a mobile app working with a small, dedicated team. That means the bar for collaboration skills didn't need to be as high as other roles. Another time, I hired a PM who work on core site conversion with a clearly defined scope, so they didn’t need as much depth in product sense.