What are some skills a Consumer PMM needs to move up the ladder to a Director level role? What are the criteria of evaluation?
It’s difficult to define growth by titles since titles vary greatly by company and company maturity. Also, more and more companies are shying away from title heavy culture. When you consider growth and trajectory, I encourage you to evaluate it based on your goals, what you want to learn, and what you want to do next vs. a title. Focusing on obtaining a title can be short sighted and may result on you being lost after you achieve it.
That said, with career progression top of mind, here are some tips:
- Perform at the next level: Companies want to see that you can demonstrate performing at the next level before being promoted. It is helpful if your company has a job level to review it and understand your strengths and opportunities and where you need to focus on. It may be helpful to get a mentor at the next level to help provide guidance, advice, example deliverables, etc.
- Own -> Lead: Transform your approach from owning an initiative to truly leading it. Identify and bring forth the strategy, establish the vision, ask the hard questions, identify and address potential barriers, define success, and bring key stakeholders along.
- Know the Business: Understand the overall business, including business drivers, company goals, and overall strategy, even if these are outside your specific role. In knowing how the company operates, you are well informed to make decisions that align to the company’s overall goals and increase your impact.
- Cover the Basics: be collaborative, nail your day job, and go above and beyond.
Moving up the ladder from an IC or manager role into a director role is typically dependent on a few factors, some of which individual PMMs are very much in control of, some of which they are not unfortunately. At a high level, some of the requirements needed to progress include the following:
- Clearly defining your team's purpose and strategy and clearly articulating how your strategy aligns with the overarching company objectives. I will start by saying I am fully in the camp that the words 'strategy' and 'strategic' are often overused and serve as a default term to describe, well, nearly everything in the business world. In this context, I'm using the word strategy to describe the "how" - specifically how you'll accomplish your goals. That said, having a clear strategy is critical to being a successful product marketing leader. The reality is that it's so easy to get caught up in the day to day and to get caught up in execution mode which is why having goals that the company cares about and a clearly defined strategy to accomplish those goals is critical. If you're always heads down in the day to day, you're probably not taking a step back to look at the bigger picture and your work is likely not making the impact it could and should.
- Drive business impact individually. Having managed numerous product marketers through my career I've found that it's very easy, especially at larger companies, to overindex your time and energy towards the supervisory and managerial aspects of leading a team and you often spend a lot of time supporting all the initiatives your team is working on rather than focusing heavily on and prioritizing your individual impact. However, being a strong people manager is not enough to progress in your career and as a product marketing leader, it's critical to still carve out a couple meaningful workstreams for you as an individual to own so you can demonstrate the value you are bringing to the table beyond building and supporting an amazing team. Being able to speak to a couple very specific large initiatives that you've driven in addition to being a strong leader will only further support your progression to the next level.
- Ensuring your career goals align with company's business needs and resources. Sometimes a company is growing at lightning speed and opportunities are thrown your way. Sometimes a company is growing too slowly and does not have a business need for growing its workforce and its PMM team. In the latter scenario, if leading and managing a team is a top priority of yours and if it truly seems like there's no flexibility or near term growth, then unfortunately it is likely time to consider outside options.
When business needs align with your career aspirations, here are some tips on how to boost your career progression:
- Be proud of and celebrate your accomplishments. Don't shy away from letting others know about the amazing work you do and embrace when others acknowledge your contributions. In order to move up and be rewarded for your accomplishments, key decision makers need to know what you've done so don't be shy and celebrate the amazing work you do!
- Ask for the opportunities you want. If you don't speak up about what you want, chances are no one is going to go out of their way to help you. It's important to ask for the opportunities you are interested in and excited about and to work with your manager to build out a plan to help you get there.
- Perform at the level you want to be at. Most companies I've been at promote on a lagging basis, meaning you need to already be performing at the next level for a substantial period of time in order to get promoted rather than just demonstrating ability to perform at the next level. That said, take any opportunity to show others what you're capable of.
- Develop advocates in your cross-functional partners. This one is obvious but a good reminder that the more people who are aware of your contributions and who support your career progression, the more likely you are to get promoted and be given more responsibility. Leverage your cross-functional partners to be your #1 advocates as they likely have the most visibility into what you've accomplished as well as how you've accomplished it.
This varies across every organization, but if you’re looking to move up from your current role, I’d recommend bringing it up with your direct manager in your 1:1 even if you think the leveling up is a ways away. Starting the conversation will allow you both to focus on the skills you need to work on in order to get there. In most medium or larger sized organizations there is a competency framework that is used for calibrating levels which has requirements for each role.
More broadly speaking, the more senior you get the more broad the scope becomes. That can mean a bigger area of responsibility such as managing larger projects that span across teams and longer timeframes, being responsible for multiple products/categories, managing larger teams or having to plan for longer horizons.
The specific skills and criteria may vary depending on the company and industry. If you are unsure what these are in your specific role, it's a conversation to have with your manager to understand the leveling rubric in your org. With that here are a few key skills or focus areas that grow in importance as you grow in your pmm career,
- Leadership and Management: A director is often overseeing their own initiatives and the work of direct reports. Experience managing a team and providing mentorship to help team members grow is critical. As a leader you have accountability for the work of your team and a professional responsibility around the impact and trajectory that you will have on your direct's individual careers.
- Strategic Thinking: Thinking strategically about the business and the market, analyze data, identify trends, and make informed decisions that support the overall goals of the company. You'll be expected to have a strong understanding of the business and the industry in which it operates. This can include identifying new opportunities for growth and innovation,being aware of potential threats and challenges, partnerships, etc.
- Communication & collaboration: As a lead (especially in a remote world) you'll need to be an excellent communicator and willing and able to articulate your vision, goals, and strategies to various stakeholders within the organization. You should be able to build strong relationships with stakeholders across the organization, and be willing to help others achieve their objectives.
-Results-Oriented: To move up you should have a track record of delivering results, and be able to set and achieve goals.