From Product Manager to Product Executive by Jonathan Nightingale "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs 18 November 2019 True Becoming Product Manager, Career Development, product career, ProductTank, producttank toronto, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 434 Johnathan Nightingale speaks at a Toronto ProductTank Product Management 1.736
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From Product Manager to Product Executive by Jonathan Nightingale

Unfortunately, a crystal clear career path from product manager to product executive just doesn’t exist. So, if you are working towards becoming a product leader, you’ll quickly realize that your progression roadmap isn’t as well-defined as that of your engineering or sales counterpart. In this ProductTank Toronto talk, Jonathan Nightingale, Co-Founder of Raw Signal Group, gives us three reasons why PMs face what he calls a “career chasm”.

Watch the video to see his talk in full. Or read on for an overview of his key points:

  • Career challenges to expect
  • How to maintain a Public Profile

The Challenges

Having been involved in product for over 20 years and after speaking to hundreds of product managers, Jonathan explains that the career is a chasm, one that many face challenges within.

There is no direct journey leading people into a product role which makes it difficult to transition.  What’s more, in many cases, you’ll find that your organization’s leaders don’t come from a product background and aren’t equipped to coach your progression.

Additionally, these same leaders are likely to mistake your strengths as a product manager for potential weaknesses as a manager. Your test-focused, incremental and sustainable approach to delivery will be seen as a lack of boldness and passion. Your tight engagement with internal stakeholders and customers will make you appear as “too operational and stuck in the weeds”.

At this point, you might feel discouraged but there is a way. Jonathan shared great insights on what product managers can do to take control of their career and find a path towards product leadership.

Maintain a Public Profile

Jonathan offers some advice for those seeking to make the career transition no matter their starting point. The first is to maintain a great public profile. This means telling their story on social media and using various touchpoints to consistently showcase their skills. For product people, it’s important to put themselves out there and create conversations around the topic.

Secondly, he explains that executives are deliberate about their careers and see each role they undertake as a tour of duty which is thought of in a confined way. Over the duration of a particular job role, understand what is required by the company and what you require from the company. Finally, switch seats by understanding what a job entails and how advancement up the ladder is done.

The key takeaways are that while becoming a product executive can be challenging for a number of reasons if product managers are deliberate in their careers they can map out their own journeys to the role.


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