My biggest frustration is that I let people down. Currently, I work with teams of 50+ people, which means I need to be available all the time. The more senior as a PM you become the more folks you need to work with. Time becomes the most valuable thing and I'm still learning how to manage it effectively.
If you enjoy Product, a typical path is either to become a people manager, remain IC, or quit to start your own thing. In big companies like Salesforce, there are plenty of Director level individual contributors (ICs), so if you don't want to manage other PMs, you are better off in a bigger company where you can focus on one specific product.
To make the decision, I think of opportunity, ambitions, passion, and time:
It's less about metrics and more about the outcomes you are creating for the business. For example, you might bring 10,000 new users or improve a UX for a specific feature -- but what matters at the end of the day is how you impacted the business. Has any of that made the business grow faster or made it more resilient among competitors?
Depending on the company size and what you do, some outcomes might be more obvious than others -- for example, there was a time when I worked as a PM for a relatively small product, which generated direct revenue to the business. When the product made the first $1M, everyone wanted to talk to me including the CEO. On the other hand, you have internal products that might not directly translate to revenue. It's important to provide this visibility and translate how your product affects the business e.g. more users, less cost, faster feature delivery, etc.
Suggest you check some of the videos I recorded here as they cover this topic partially - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsAz_arwNkiPobhi09VrMFg
There are different paths that each product manager takes, but the common ones I've seen are:
1. Joining a tech company as an Associate PM or an intern straight from college.
For college grads, I suggest starting by connecting with other product managers (e.g. via LinkedIn) to better understand what we do. There are great books available on this topic as well -- "Cracking PM Interview" is among my favorites. I also created a series of videos explaining tech jobs and what do I do in more detail - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsAz_arwNkiPobhi09VrMFg
2. Transition from other roles e.g. Engineering, Professional Services, Support.
This path is easier, as it assumes that you are already in a tech company and can make connections with internal PMs. Picking a PM as a mentor or just becoming a friend with one is a great place to start. I also need to point out that PMs sit at the intersection of Business, Technology, and UX (Customer) -- that is why engineers who transition to a PM team will have an advantage as they understand the technology much deeper. On the other hand, someone in Support who wants to become a PM brings a much deeper understanding of a customer.
My favorite interview question was asked by a hiring manager ~8 years ago when I interviewed for an Associate PM position at MuleSoft.
I was asked the following: "Imagine humans decided to take the moon and put it through a giant chopper/grinder. The mass that comes out of the chopper is being dumped on the surface of the earth. The question was - do you need an oxygen mask to climb on the top of this mass"
This is a quantitative question that is typically asked in the PM interviews, but more fun to think about :) The right answer is to show your logical thinking e.g. your approach, unknowns, corner cases, etc.
Leveling up to Dr level meant being a point of contact for many people at the company, which meant more inquiries from sales, customers, leadership, and other product teams. Since I got promoted, my inbox and # of slack messages doubled :)
My learning from this experience is that you want to document as much of the process as possible so people outside of your team can find SMEs and relevant information for your area.
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).
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
Let me break it down by covering 3 different levels of PMs:
Different folks would enjoy different things e.g. if you are an introvert -- the IC track might be more suitable as you will be spending a good chunk of your time creating docs, prototypes, etc. It's fun -- just a different kind of fun. If your personality craves people interactions, the people leader track might be more appropriate.
Being a good people manager is hard, you need to lead by example and support your team whenever they need you. You also need to be comfortable with confronting people by giving them radical candor. Staying "nice job" to something that you think is a "bad job", is not an option. You need to help people grow and it's harder than it seems.