Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Breaking Into Product Marketing or Product Management, Part 3

Part 1 Here - How others got in
Part 2 Here - Some core skills needed

This is Part 3 - Big Company or Small Company?

I will publish a few more parts shortly.

On Saturday, 24-March, 2012, I had the privilege of moderating a panel discussion at the Silicon Valley Product Camp on how to break into product marketing and product management.  Jennifer Doctor and Faisal Nisar were my co-panelists and I can <hand over my heart> say that it was a successful session.  The room was set for 60 and about 80 or more people crowded into the room or watched from the hallway.  It was supposed to end at noon and I finally shook hands with the last attendee at about 12:30.

Here are the slides I presented on SlidesShare. 

Here's some market research I did - oh if only it were true...

Before you think there is a magic path or simple, clearly defined way to get into the product professions, let me just state this disclaimer: ACTUAL RESULTS MAY VARY.  If it were that easy, then there wouldn't be so many discussions on how to get into the profession.  Some people fall into it, others diligently work their way into it. 

So on to the main topic this week: Is it easier to get into the product professions at big companies or small companies?

Well, that depends.

Big Companies

Big companies tend to have more entry-level or assistant-X positions available as they have more things to do or lower-level corners of the their product portfolios where the PM or PMM requirements aren't as stringent.  The pay rate for these roles is going to be lower than full-fledged positions so be aware before you leap.  Also, there are more opportunities to transfer into the role within a big company as there tend to be more 'adjacent' roles where you interact with PM or PMM regularly and can help out directly on relevant projects.  Jumping departments can be a matter of an internal recommendation and away you go. 

However, there are several caveats to transferring from another department in big companies.  First, will you be burning any bridges by moving?  Simply asking your boss for a transfer may be a career limiting move in and of itself.  Be clear on this one.  The seond concern is the danger of only being known for what you currently do - the dreaded pidgeonholing.  "Bob's a great guy but he's just a tech support wonk or <fill in the blank>."  You are so good at what you do that they can't imagine you in any other role.  If either of these situations is real, then you'll have to look outside your current company.

Small Companies

Small companies are great for creating PM and PMM opportunities just be being there.  Oftentimes you can just work your way into the slot simply by picking up an oar and rowing.  The smaller the company, the less likely core product activities get done and anyone who just does them because they need doing will be well suited to creating the role for themselves.  If you can stand the pace and volatility and have the extra time to do a proper job on product activities.

The downside is that you may not have enough time to do extra jobs or do them properly.  You might also get asked, "Do you really have the time to do this when we've hired you to do X?" Also a potentially career limiting move.

Both options are viable ways to work yourself into the professions - and they both have their drawbacks, too. 

Key Take-Aways:
  • There's always options to move your product career forward, some better than others.
  • Jen and Faisal are great folks to be with on a panel.
Next Up: Getting experience at the professions without having experience.


  1. Thank you for the post, Tim. Would you recommend getting certifications from AIPMM, such as CPM and ACPM for someone who is just starting out in this profession? And if yes, which of the two is better for Product Management? Thanks.


    1. Carter,

      Sorry for the long delay. Yes, some kind of certification is good but I am not in a position to recommend one over the other. In addition to the ones you mention, 280 Group, Pragmatic Marketing and Proficienz all have product management certifications or courses. The UC Berkeley Haas School of Management also has a post-MBA Product Management program worth investigating.

      I'll see if I can get others in here to comment or offer advice.



    2. Reading this post is really awesome experience. i gain really informative information. really appreciate this blogger..
      Marketing Degrees