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Making Sense of Product Management Job Titles

B2B vs B2C Product Management

Product Management job titles have a broad set of responsibilities that can be more simply broken down into 2 dimensions:

(1) Internal vs external

  • Internal: more work with internal business teams, engineering, design
  • External: more time with customers, marketing, and sales

(2) Tactical vs strategic

  • Tactical: more day-to-day execution and delivery
  • Strategy: medium to long-term strategy of the product and in relation to company goals

Product managers don’t perform or own all these activities; instead they influence their outcomes and fulfillment. The priorities for these activities change based on the product’s lifecycle stage, but with these dimensions we can plot a Product Manager’s responsibilities to make sense of Product Management job titles:

Product manager job titles

Various related roles similar to Product Manager will go deeper in some activities where they might be more likely to own the activity entirely instead of only influence. 

Product Marketing Manager

Focused on the positioning and messaging to differentiate products in the market and creating the programs and collateral to market and sell the product effectively (e.g., write blogs and white papers, train sales team on messaging). 

A large primary responsibility is launching a product into the market (of course, with help from a lot of the company). They should be an expert on competitor and the market such as who the buyers are, how they buy, and why.

Commonly works with: Marketing, Sales, Product Managers
Good Background: Marketer, Consultant
Example job descriptions: link

Technical Product Manager 

Focused on improving the product’s core functionality or a company’s tech stack, reliability, security, etc. 

Less worried about the appearance of the product and instead are focused on the internal workings. They should know the technical in-outs. Oftentimes this role is similar to an Engineering Manager working with highly-skilled engineers. A good transition role for an engineer who wants to break into Product Management.

Commonly works with: Engineering
Good backgrounds
: Software Developer, Hardware Engineer
Example job descriptions:

Product Owner

Focused on writing and prioritizing product requirements by being actively involved in Scrum activities. 

Product Owner is a defined role in Scrum (most popular Agile approach). This role is more common at larger companies who have a well-defined product development process and formal Scrum ceremonies. They should be very knowledgeable about the market and customer – often this role is someone who has a background or deep-expertise that understands the customers. 

This role is very similar to Product Managers, but tends to me more tactical with engineering and doesn’t rely on as many customer conversations because the Product Owner knows the customer’s needs very well. Many Product Managers are also Product Owners

Commonly works with: Engineering
Good backgrounds
: Subject-matter expert in market, Product Manager
Example job descriptions:

Product Operations Manager

Focused on meeting KPIs and improving operational excellence by creating best practices, streamline processes, accelerate feedback loops, and improve feature adoption.

More common at larger companies who have products that require more operations type activities as part of its offering. For example (1) Scale AI has large overseas data annotation teams who transform customer data or (2) Nuro has an internal operations team who remotely controls cars in certain situations. This role would help these operations teams meet KPIs, improve operationally, and give input on product prioritization.

Commonly works with: Engineering, Customer Success, Product Managers
Good backgrounds
: Consultant
Example job descriptions:

Growth Product Manager

Focused on user growth and engagement of the product by conducting A/B testing to measure success on new features or projects. 

This role has grown in popularity as organizations are adopting a product-led growth strategy. Often this means leading with the product using a free trial or freemium model to drive acquisition and employing a low- or no-touch sales channel as part of a go-to-market strategy. These organizations naturally move at a rapid pace because of the low friction to gain new users.

Commonly works with: Product Marketing, Marketing 
Good backgrounds
: Digital Market, Advertising, Psychology 
Example job descriptions:

Strategy Product Manager 

Focuses on shaping and sharing a strategic vision for the product by conducting market research, market sizing, and defining product vision.

97% of senior leaders said being strategic was most important to their organization’s success … however 96% said lacked the time for strategic thinking! (link)

It is very easy for Product Managers to lose track of strategic direction when stand-ups, customer interviews, presentations, and a million other demands crowd a PM’s calendar, vying for precious time. So companies defined a role specific to important strategic thinking. They should be comfortable synthesizing and communicating their exploration, analysis, and strategic development to improve top company goals. 

Commonly works with: Business, Product Managers
Good backgrounds
: Consultant
Example job descriptions:

Data PM

Focused on designing products and features by leveraging advanced data-driven insights, visualized insights from statistical analysis, and identified unique relationships between variables via hypothesis testing and modeling  

You put data at the heart of everything you do with a hypothesis based approach. Often important to work with cross-functional teams to set up the right hypotheses and metrics to track. They should be comfortable handling messy data, setting up data pipelines, and applying data science techniques to make product decisions. 

Commonly works with: Engineering, Marketing, Product Manager 
Good Backgrounds
: Data Scientist, Data Analyst
Example job descriptions:


Using Internal vs external and tactical vs strategic dimensions, we can make sense of Product Management job titles. Let me know your thoughts! 

Andrew's Articles are for professionals who are trying to break into or excel in Product ManagementAndrew's Articles are for professionals who are trying to break into or excel in Product ManagementAndrew's Articles are for professionals who are trying to break into or excel in Product ManagementAndrew's Articles are for professionals who are trying to break into or excel in Product Management
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