What are the different types of product managers, and how do you figure out which type you're the best fit for?
There are different ways you can think about it, but I like to think about PMs as those that build new products (0-->1) and PMs that come in to manage an existing product (1-->N).
- 0-->1: Product Managers who build a new product or service from scratch often need to innovate, which means building something that no one else has built before.
- 1-->N: Joining a company to own an existing product, also means that product-market fit has been already established. As a PM you will focus on scaling to new or more users.
I'm planning to release a new video on this topic in a few weeks, so stay tuned. Here is a link to the channel - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsAz_arwNkiPobhi09VrMFg
Some key types I have encountered are:
- UX/UI product managers: These product managers are responsible for the user experience and user interface of a product.
- Platform product managers: These product managers focus on building and managing platforms that enable other products or services to be built on top of them.
- Growth product managers: These product managers focus on driving growth and increasing user acquisition, retention, and engagement.
- Technical product managers: managing the development of complex technical products. They work closely with engineers and designers to ensure that the product is technically feasible and meets the needs of the target audience.
As for each type, the skillsets vary broadly. For UI/UX having a good understanding of customer issues and be able to ensure a UI can tackle these challenges are key. Metrics are more end user engagement related.
For Platform PM's, building a scalable and reliable platform is key. These are more technical in nature and may/may not directly interface with customer needs but indirectly via the products they support.
For Growth PM's, a solid metrics and funnel background is key along with UI/UX.
For Tech product managers, good understanding of technical systems, their interplay and abillity to collaborate with engineering is key.
For all PM's, prioritization, goal/OKR setting, communication, leadership and strategic thinking are a must.
Just like there are a million ways to segment the market, there are also a million ways to segment PMs. :-) Here are a couple of ways I like to think about PM segmentation:
B2B versus B2C. This is probably the most obvious. In B2B, there is a smaller pool of customers, so you truly get to know them and build long-term relationships with individuals at those customers. The drawback is that you're always fighting against the "whales" (folks paying you a lot of money) skewing your roadmap in their favor rather than what you want to do as a PM which is to build for a market. In B2C, you need to be much more data-oriented, since a minor change can impact millions or even billions of users and materially move the needle. The downside is that the job can be very impersonal, particularly for a mature B2C product, as you're spending a lot of time trying to optimize for a 0.01% gain.
Domain-specific versus domain-independent. There are PM roles that require deep technical knowledge in a domain, and there are those that don't. An example of the latter (and maybe these folks are going to hate me for saying this) is growth. The skills of a growth PM can be easily transferable between domains, as they are essentially about creating great onboarding and upsell journeys in-product, and the tactics are often very similar no matter what the type of product is. The downside is that growth is frequently one step removed from the actual customer problems i.e. JTBD that a customer is hiring the product for in the first place -- some other PM works on that.
External versus internal, or another way of saying revenue-facing versus not. I used to say this was customer-facing or not, but this is inaccurate because every PM has a customer. The distinction is whether that customer is external (paying your company money) or internal (some other constituent inside your organization). An internal PM would be someone who works on, say, data systems or billing systems. These jobs can be very secure and valued, but there can be limited growth prospects because the level of ambiguity is very low. One other way of saying this is whether you work for a profit center or a cost center.
To the second part of the question -- there's often no way to know a priori when you're starting out in PM what you are going to like or not like. You likely have intuition (a hypothesis) of your preferences but you don't know until you get there. The best thing you can do is apply good PM skills to your own career: stay curious, ask yourself the "five whys" of why you do or don't like something in your job, don't stick around too long if you're not growing or you truly are hating something, and challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone and try something that scares you.