Question Page

What do you think is top 3 skills a PM should have acquired to move to director level?

6 Answers
Natalia Baryshnikova
Natalia Baryshnikova
Atlassian Head of Product, Enterprise AgilityFebruary 16

1. Storytelling. You need to be able to tie many disparate pieces of product work - user needs, business goals, technical limitaitons, competitive landscape, innovation opportunities - into a coherent, compelling narrative. A director can fill in the blanks in the following sentences with ease: "This year, my team is trying to achieve _____ because our comany needs to _____. In order to reach our goal, we need resources of ______ , focus on ______ and ______ and support from ______."

2. System thinking. A common mistake I see in PMs is trying to get *their* work done without thinking through the impact it has on adjacent teams - think, I need to meet MY goal and have MY feature on the home page, without consideration for a global optima. Directors need to think at least one level of abstraction about their own area. Who else will be impacted by your work? Is that impact good? Does it add up to greater good, or is it a local optima? 

3. Inspire others. The difference between a manager and individual contributor PMs is that the goal of individual controbutor is to "get sh*t done", and goal of manager is to "make sh*t happen". You need to be able to achieve goals through your own work AND the work of others on your team. This is only possible if people can be inspired by your vision, integrity and leadership. 

836 Views
Vasudha Mithal
Vasudha Mithal
Care Solace Chief Product OfficerAugust 22
  1. Exemplary people leadership (ability to bring people along)
  2. Strong relationships across various functions (including non-R&D teams) - get done what's needed to solve a problem, and get products launched.
  3. Maturity to know when to switch course for a product line, drive tough decisions, and leverage #1 to bring your team along with you in that decision.
308 Views
Milena Krasteva
Milena Krasteva
Walmart Sr Director II, Product Management - Marketing TechnologyOctober 6

1. Communication

2. Execution

3. Domain expertise

I'd add stakeholder management as an important one but I can only do the top 3 :)

294 Views
Julian Dunn
Julian Dunn
Chainguard Senior Director of Product ManagementDecember 1

My answer to this depends a lot on whether the "director" title includes people management or not. Personally, I believe that it should, and that the IC (individual contributor) track should only use the titles PM 1-3, Senior PM, Staff PM, Principal PM, Distinguished PM, etc. But I don't make the rules for the industry :-) and I recognize a lot of organizations use "director" to mean IC as well.

I am going to answer the question assuming you mean that it includes people management. Accordingly, the top skill you want to have is a) knowing that you want to manage (a/k/a model, coach/mentor, care) other humans and that you don't just want to be an IC with more influence, and b) learning how to do that, or at least walking into it having some kind of a philosophy about management. I don't believe it's necessary to have prior experience as a people manager before becoming one (otherwise it's a chicken & egg situation and there would never be any people managers!) but demonstrating coaching / mentoring / feedback behaviors with your peers is a great way to gain these skills before you manage other people.

I can't emphasize the foregoing enough because if you do not truly care about understanding human beings in general, what motivates the specific humans on your team, and how you can coach them to being better PMs, then you are going to view the "process" of managing people (HR reviews, hiring / separation duties, compensation management, 1:1s, etc.) as drudgery rather than tools to build an amazing team.

I would say that the other two skills that are critical are:

  • Being able to drive change through your team, representing both their plans and their achievements to senior management and advocating for them, and
  • Executive presence and gravitas, including the ability to remain level-headed and confident no matter the obstacles in front of you, to give both your team and your management the confidence in you as a leader.
409 Views
Paresh Vakhariya
Paresh Vakhariya
Atlassian Director of Product Management (Confluence)March 28

The 3 top areas I think are:

Leadership and team management

Managing a team of product managers, as well as collaborating with cross-functional teams across the organization is key. Provide feedback on all aspects of strategy and execution is key to becoming a leader. Hiring and onboarding PM's is key.

Setting strategy and vision for the team

Build a vision that the team rallies around, decide on the org structure, OKR's that your team will drive and ensure that aligns with long term company strategy. Also setting product strategy, prioritizing areas for the team to work on, making tough trade-offs, and aligning the product roadmap with business goals. Understand company strategy, market/competitive trends, and identifying opportunities for growth are crucial skills. 

Cross functional influence:

Ability to work with cross functional leaders and set direction for all the disciplines such as Design UI/UX and engineering.

982 Views
Subu Baskaran
Subu Baskaran
Splunk Director of Product ManagementFebruary 13

The PM-Director role can differ from company to company. Based on my experience, at the Director level, one becomes a people manager managing an area of the business. I see a good Director of PM who understands the changing landscape and has a POV about how your company should navigate the change. So here are the top 3 skills I believe a PM should acquire to move to a Director level:

  1. Consistently delivering results that positively impact many customers and iterating on them with a long-term vision.

  2. Has east-west thinking, meaning understanding the value across product portfolio beyond what’s in your control

  3. Influencing cross-functional groups to build futuristic capabilities that impact a large number of customers and helps position your company as a leader in the space

Finally, find a sponsor, typically a senior executive, who can spot your vision as not only aligning with company goals but also bringing long-term benefits to the customer. Having allies at the executive level will help you position yourselves as a leader.

391 Views
Top Product Management Mentors
Shahid Hussain
Shahid Hussain
Google Group Product Manager, Wear OS
Natalia Baryshnikova
Natalia Baryshnikova
Atlassian Head of Product, Enterprise Agility
Deepak Mukunthu
Deepak Mukunthu
Salesforce Senior Director of Product, Generative AI Platform (Einstein GPT)
Derek Ferguson
Derek Ferguson
GitLab Group Manager, Product
Tom Alterman
Tom Alterman
Notable Head of Product
Patrick Davis
Patrick Davis
Google Group Product Manager
Hiral Shah
Hiral Shah
DocuSign Director of Product Management
Marvin Green
Marvin Green
Splunk Director, Product Management
Maxime Prades
Maxime Prades
Meta Director of Product Management