As part of my not-yet-done , I created a career ladder. I’m hoping that by sharing it’ll foster better career conversations. If your organization doesn’t have a career ladder, take this one! Feel free to share and modify. Just link back with attribution please. Just like online recipes, I’m going to talk at you for a little while and then get to actual career ladder at the end. Don’t worry, you can . I won’t be offended.
Side note: Based on a sample of about 20 companies, there is no real consensus on what to call these things. I’ll refer to them as Career Ladders, but other common names include: PM Competencies, PM levels, Rubrics, Job Ladders, Career Framework, Role Guidelines, Career Pathways and Career Tracks.
What is a career ladder?
Career ladders outline the skills needed for each level of product management. They’re primarily used for consistency in performance reviews and promotions across the product organization. Demonstrating the skills within a column means you are meeting expectations for that level. They’re also helpful in setting expectations for cross-functional partners.
I like to think of Career Ladders as a merging of the
Levels of your Product Management organization Core skills you expect PMs to have, Dimensions you expect PMs to mature in as they progress
Usually end up being a table with columns for PM Levels and rows for PM Skills. As you go across from column to column, you have will expect more maturity in each skill.
Career Ladders are the start of a conversation
Career ladders aren’t designed to be exhaustive and they are not a checklist to get promoted. They help set a consistent baseline for career conversations throughout your company and should be used as a starting point for career conversations. Managers and leads will have calibration processes to instill consistency in leveling.
This varies company to company, but promotions typically happen when you have demonstrated the ability to perform at the next level for 3-6 months.
Product Management Levels
Usually you have two tracks for PMs where you can switch over into management around level 5. Sometimes there is something like an interim or entry level management position at level 4 to ease someone in before promoting them into a full time manager role. Ideally your career ladder highlights differences between the IC and Management tracks for the higher levels.
In my career ladder I only went up to Level 5 (Staff and Group Product Managers) in my career ladder but you can go all the way up to Chief Product Officer if you want.
Product Management Skills
Your company may choose to highlight different skills or put them into different groupings. There’s often some overlap between groupings. You will need to have very clear distinctions for each skill as you go from level to level. And you’ll need to show how these skills mature along your chosen dimensions.
Other common dimensions include Autonomy and Complexity. In my example I’ve chosen to have autonomy be a part of Ambiguity and Complexity as a part of Scope.
Product Manager Career Ladder
Staff PM (IC) or Group PM (Manager)
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