8 - How to grow as a Product Manager?

Set your aspirations, ask for opportunities, set goals with managers or mentors, solicit feedback, and put in the work.

Why It’s Important

Growth requires both feedback loops and engagement with your professional community. If you don’t seek growth in a structured and proactive manner, you will miss opportunities for advancement. If you don’t put in the work, you won’t get the necessary experience to advance.

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How to Use This Principle

Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses. Challenge yourself and seek guidance from others. Be specific and you will receive better feedback. Ask for opportunities rather than waiting for them to arise. Engage with your Product Management community and seek mentors who will push you to achieve your goals. 

Real-life application by Felix Watson, Product Manager at Google

It took me nearly two years to earn my first promotion as a product manager at Microsoft. About 18 months into my PM career, I started to apply this principle and within 3 months I had earned my first promotion. 

In the first 18 months, I didn’t reflect deeply on my goals enough to know that a promotion was important to me. And without knowing that, asking for opportunities was the last thing on my mind. I was focused on “keeping my head down” —thinking that my hard work would be recognized and rewarded without needing to ask for a promotion. But because I didn’t ask, I wasn’t getting direct feedback on whether my efforts work aligned with my desire to be promoted. 

After my second review cycle had passed without a promotion, I had finally set my aspirations. I wanted to grow my impact on the team, expand my scope, and work towards more opportunities to mentor other PMs; I needed a promotion. In my next one-on-one, I decided to skip the “Status update” discussions that typically transpired. I sent my manager a note in advance of our 1:1 and said I wanted to discuss my career goals. 

In the meeting, I said, “I’ve learned a lot in my first 18 months on this team and I think I’m ready for the next level. I think I have a gap to fill in defining product vision. What do you think?” 

To my surprise, my manager disagreed. He thought I had done a great job presenting product vision in the past and I was known for strong communication skills, particularly in leadership presentations. He said I needed at least one more high-impact deliverable for promotion. 

Although I’d shipped some features in the past, we ended up killing the product so we didn’t get to see the impact we’d hoped for. The good news was I was already working on high-impact work to secure beta customers for a new product we wanted to build. I worked with my manager to develop a timeline for securing beta customers and pushing for a promotion. After getting some guidance from mentors, I determined we could use mockups and wireframes to pitch our ideas to customers and it worked! Two important customers committed to being early users of our new AI capabilities and a few months later I successfully earned my first promotion as a PM.

Looking back, I was applying this principle before I even wrote it 😅. Being clear about my goals and asking for what I wanted helped me align with my manager and prioritize the right work to achieve those goals.

How to set up a Product Organization?

Begin with four pillars: goals, structure, alignment, and measurement, then adapt each to your context.

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Principle Nine - Product Manifesto

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