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What are some skills a Consumer PM needs to move up the ladder to a Director level role? What are the criteria of evaluation?

2 Answers
Roshni Jain
Roshni Jain
Volley Head of Product/VPJanuary 27

The jump from IC PM into product leadership whether as a Group PM or a Director of Product is one of the most challenging progressions in a product career. At this step a Consumer PM's career, the skills and behaviors that have helped them excel as an IC PM - excellent execution, strong PRDs, great squad management are not the exact ones required at the Director level. To earn this role, it's important to really think about the responsibilities about the Director - the main criteria of success are around building a strong team, ensuring that they're working on the right things and that the sum of that work aligns to the outcomes the business needs. A lot of the job becomes setting the vision and strategy for this broader area, setting up the organization to best deliver against it and then focusing on enabling PMs, not making the specific decisions for each feature or launch. To succeed as a Directors it's important to have strong cross-functional relationships at your level and to have really strong executive communication. You want the other company leaders to really understand what your team is doing, why, the impact and how it moves the company forward.

The way a PM might be evaluated as ready for this role is demonstrating an ability to take on larger and larger strategic scope. Even without the formal role, they've enabled others enough to have the bandwidth to think and act with a larger scope than one or two teams, but rather a broader area. One way I've seen PMs successfully bridge this is by taking on strategic projects that cross outside their teams. In articulating an approach that works across this scope and then working across the teams to have this delivered - they show the ability to own larger initiatives.

Lastly as a Director of Consumer PM, it's important to have a strong understanding of your core customer. This is an area that you cannot delegate away - you must stay close to the customer and have a strong perspective on the most important problems you can solve for them. This, in addition to staying up to date on successful consumer products and experiences will enable you to keep innovating while ensuring your product meets your customer needs.

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Jeff Chow
Jeff Chow
InVision CEO (former CPO)March 22

In general, all PMs are responsible for impact and pace of execution for their area. As you grow in career, the size of impact and area of focus expands, but the same goals are true. The difference being as your remit grows, you are now expanding to running multiple teams and working with broader stakeholders.

For those going up for director, that means a couple things:

  • People leadership: Is your team executing well through good product prioritization and impactful delivery. This is displayed through a balance of mentorship of your Product Managers as well as partnerships with your design and engineering peers.
  • Are you as a leader clearing a path for your teams success: Part of setting pace is being quick to triage competing priorities and identifying any impediments in the path to your teams success. A big part of that is clearly representing the work to various stakeholders (executives, other product teams etc).
  • Does the broader organization understand the goals and impact your area is focused on. This is key to making sure your teams focus is aligned with the broader organization usually represented through articulating the overall strategy and goals of the group to other product teams or leadership.

The single trait that seems like one that differentiates a Director skill from a GPM or Senior PM skill is your ability as a communicator. At Director, you are not just articulating the why and what to your design and engineering partners and Product reports, but you are more often doing the same to other areas of the org and most importantly articulating that to stakeholders beyond your immediate manager (be it a VP, CPO etc).

The output of this is a better understanding of your groups vision and direction, how that ties to your specific areas of focus and all the way down to empowering your teams to more deeply understand their purpose and often times key tradeoffs being made.

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