Would would a senior product manager do over and beyond a product manager. We don’t have any seniors at my startup and I’m trying to figure out what I need to do/achieve to get promoted. Any advice would be much appreciated.

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Often, I’ve observed that the difference between a product manager and a senior product manager is a factor of years of influence, experience, compensation, general seniority, and the overall higher set of expectations that come with those things.

In general, the difference is mostly observable to others through the influence component. Senior PMs can be expected to implement new process and structure, and serve as a mentor to other PMs (i.e., be a resource to the broader PM team). However, in practice, you may both manage a single product.

Sometimes, a Senior PM has junior resources reporting directly to them, but this is highly dependent on the company’s org structure.


In terms of tactical things you need to achieve, I think it’s hard to answer without really knowing your company’s culture.

In general, identify gaps in process/tooling/structure and recommend solutions to close those gaps. Then implement them.

In general, become to go-to person at the company for product decisions and questions. Take on leadership roles in product conversations. Don’t force it, just make yourself useful in a meaningful way.


I would suggest you ask your manager what do they expect a senior manager would do and build a growth plan for you.
From my perspective a senior PM should be able to lead complex capabilities that require working with multiple teams and will be comfortable working with customers.
Good luck!


My experience is at larger companies - 25 years at msft and now my current role. My big items for people wanting to grow as a pdm is Simplify and be a influence multiplier. Simplify messages, product stories and everything you do. Influence multiplier is building a network and connecting people


Sr PMs should focus on influence and be setting goals for the product and team. You should be forwarding looking but also be able to manage up to the executive level (directors and above). It doesn’t mean you care less about the day to day that keeps things running like reviewing customer feedback, competitive research, writing stories, unblocking devs, participating in architecture discussions (product dependent), release management, etc. but you’re more responsible for whether or not your long term decisions actually generate the desired outcomes

So show that you can run the tactical smoothly but next start demonstrating that the specific decisions you make or influence generate the utilization or P&L goals you set


I’d add to the above that you don’t need direction or help with all aspects of your role. Coming to manger with specific issues or questions is great but you should in general know how to do your job without being told.


These things really differ from company to company. If your goal is to be promoted, it's important to talk to your boss about your ambition and make a plan together about how you can reach the next level.

Generally speaking:
My expectation is that a PM can lead and inspire a team, can deliver results in a specific and well defined problem area, can interview and mentor other PMs, can conduct analysis on their products and communicate status and plans in a clear way.

At Senior PM level I expect this person to be able to manage multiple products at once, to be able to parachute into any arbitrary problem space and create a successful plan, to manage other PMs, to be able to communicate with executive leadership effectively, to deliver strong business results, to reach outside their team to help and inspire people in other teams and functions.

At Director level I expect the person to manage a large product area, to be able to create a cohesive vision, to be able to get executive buy-in to be excited to pay for it, to hire, manage, train, and inspire a team of PMs who respect and look up to them, to be able to think beyond the scope of their area and act for the good of the whole company, to craft a compelling, informed and aligned strategy and to create writing/presentations/artifacts to convey that out to the organization at large.

At Senior Director I expect a person to do this for multiple large product areas and to do all of the above at a larger scale while managing multiple directors and driving alignment across the company.


Influence to get alignment on direction, and executing (either IC or managing a team) against that direction - key to growth as a PM. The soft skill at its core is the same, just a function of scope and importance to company you can set with your vision and direction as the tiers and stakes increase.

To OP - if you hear chatter around your company that “hey we need to make a decision on the future of Product X, we should talk to OP” - you are doing a great job as a PM, but need to do a bit more work to get promoted to senior. You should be driving that conversation.


Thanks for the comments all, really helpful.

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