Interested in finding out how to become a director of product? Then you’ve come to the right place.
Becoming a Director of Product requires years of experience managing products and working with other product managers. That gives you the experience and expertise to get to the next level, where you start managing other product managers.
Over time, potential product directors need to show an ability to lead the entire product team. On top of that, they need to show success in every product strategy they own.
Excellent leadership skills, a fundamental understanding of product management, and a strong portfolio of success are the recipe for success.
That’s because some of the primary responsibilities of a Director of Product are:
- Managing and collaborating with product managers, design teams, product engineering teams, and various external partners.
- Working with the product marketing department to drive new marketing campaigns based on customer feedback analysis.
- Identifying new market trends, consumer preferences, and industry opportunities to drive new product initiatives.
This article provides a comprehensive list of five steps to help you get to that level.
- Fulfill the Educational Requirements (If You Don’t Already)
- Organize Your Experience and Portfolio
- Take Up Additional Responsibility
- Move Ahead from Individual Contributor Responsibilities
- Polish Your Skills and Take Initiative
Let’s get started.
Step One – Fulfill the Educational Requirements (If You Don’t Already)
Almost every product director job requires a Bachelor’s degree. Whether it’s in product management, product engineering, or any other relevant field matters little if you have a decent amount of experience backing you.
However, a lot of organizations also require an advanced degree. A Master’s degree in a relevant field may not be necessary at times, but it still goes a long way.
Therefore, relying on experience and certifications alone isn’t the answer. If you’re looking to move forward from a product manager position, you need to have a formal degree.
If you don’t, you need to start with one. At times, companies that require a master’s degree also accept people who are in the process of completing their master’s program.
That said, it’s still a good idea to get as many certifications as possible. Career progression gets a massive boost if you have the proper certification from renowned product organizations and institutes.
All of this helps build your credibility and provides you with a solid background and foundation. This makes it somewhat easier to showcase your experience, expertise, and skills.
Step Two – Organize Your Experience and Portfolio
It’s fair to say that you have a decent amount of experience at this stage. Therefore, it’s best to start organizing it if you haven’t already. For example, if you want to start applying for a product director job, you have to organize your CV according to it.
That means taking out all unnecessary previous experience and projects. You only need to keep projects and proper experience relevant to product management and your industry.
This is crucial when creating a relevant resume. Your experience and portfolio must show that you’re ready for more responsibility beyond day-to-day activities.
Furthermore, you also have to show a career path with your experience. For example, a proper career path starts from a junior product manager to a product manager to a senior product manager.
It’s possible that a company calls its junior product managers associate product managers. It’s best to use the exact title you have. However, make sure you show a proper career progression.
That said, it’s best to avoid adding any entry-level position if you want to keep your resume on a single page.
Step Three – Take Up Additional Responsibility
Every promotion depends on how much additional responsibility you can take. Working beyond the scope of your job is a surefire way of moving forward.
That means if you’re a product manager, providing recommendations for improving business strategy is beyond the scope of your job. However, if you give good recommendations that improve the entire product organization, it means you are ready to take more responsibility.
Going to the project manager, senior director, or even the Chief Product Officer to ask for additional responsibilities plays well as it shows initiative.
It shows initiative and offers you a chance to show your soft skills and hard skills. At times, it also shows your potential for a product leadership role.
Product leaders always take point in managing products. For example, if it’s a data product, they work with the data science teams, offering support, overseeing product vision, and ensuring everyone’s working towards the business goals.
Step Four – Move Ahead from Individual Contributor Responsibilities
Keep in mind that a director of product management focuses on product planning and strategy. They move ahead from all individual contributor responsibilities.
As product managers, you have to work in a hybrid setting where you manage the strategy and act as an individual contributor. Therefore, to move to a director position, you need to show how good you are with the strategy part.
That means a better grasp of market research, a deep understanding of the bigger picture, and an understanding of how it affects the product management department.
The best way to do that is to better understand the company’s portfolio. Offer product ideas, recommend new features, and provide ways to improve sales.
Step Five – Polish Your Skills and Take Initiative
At the director level, your people skills, communication skills, and analytical skills need to be top-notch. A good director has a strong work ethic and is excellent at people management, allowing them to lead product teams.
They also understand product management at the core to create robust product strategies and drive better product design.
The most important thing is to take initiative at every chance you get.
Director of Product Job Responsibilities
At the Director level, your job is more about ensuring that the product follows industry standards, utilizes state-of-the-art technology, and follows the company vision. The Director of Product job responsibilities is a mix of these three primary functions.
In any case, the following are some common Director of Product job responsibilities and duties:
- Oversee the product department, including the oversight of key product strategies, hiring of manager-level product employees, and the product vision.
- Evaluate industry-standard technology and focus on implementing it into current products.
- Create new products by adopting new technology and processes.
- Take part in developing key marketing campaigns that help promote products and services to the target audiences.
- Meet with top-level clients to maintain client relationships, provide solutions, and discuss key product development needs.
- Collaborate with the engineering department and designers to create prototypes and improve upon existing products.
- Oversee the product testing phase to levy your expertise and provide recommendations.
- Review customer feedback and study the latest market research to better understand your customers and their wants.
- Identify changing consumer preferences, market trends, and industry shifts to determine how to shape your product’s future.
- Maintain healthy relations with manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers to ensure that product quality remains consistent.
- Go through sales reports every quarter to get a better sense of how well each product is doing in various markets and identify and analyze market gaps.
- Have regular meetings with the product team and other major stakeholders to discuss various products, development processes, and any other relevant changes.
- Take ownership of the success of all the product lines and products.
- Provide feedback to product managers and other product employees who have a direct impact on product success.
While these duties and responsibilities are common in most Director of Product jobs, there are industry-specific duties that pop up based on your niche.
Director of Product Skills
A Director of Product needs to have a few key skills, including:
- Leadership – Leadership skills are crucial in a director-level position because you have to manage the entire product department. You’re responsible for all the product managers, senior product managers, and other roles like the product marketing manager. Your job is to lead your team through the product process, motivate them, and encourage them to work together and better.
- Communication – Communication and interpersonal skills are important for all levels of employees. However, at the director level, this becomes a necessity. You need to be the best communicator in the department and have to convey information to everyone in a way they understand. You also need to communicate with external stakeholders, including other departments, suppliers, manufacturers, and more.
- Strategic Thinking – The Director of Product needs to oversee the strategy of all product lines. They need to be up-to-date with the latest industry and market trends and incorporate them into existing product strategies. Directors have to make key long-term product decisions that determine a product’s future. It’s important for the Director of Product to evaluate product success and make hard decisions.
- Research and Analysis – A Director of Product needs to have excellent research skills to understand the industry, market, and customers. While you do not need to do the research yourself, you need to be able to make sense of it. Your analysis skills help you make sense of the research so you get a unique perspective. Sharing that perspective with the team and communicating its importance helps product teams better understand how to follow your vision.
Other than the major skills above, the Director of Product needs to have some additional skills.
Other Director of Product Skills
The following are some additional Director of Product skills:
- Finance Knowledge – As the Director of Product, you need to understand and analyze the financial data of all products. That includes operational costs, revenue, and pricing, among other things.
- Presentation – Conducting demonstrations, presenting at conferences, and leading webinars are important skills that you need in this position.
- Technical Product Skills – Understanding product technology is important, including understanding the product and engineering team’s processes, tools, and methodologies. It helps estimate features, develop release plans, and define future product requirements.
- Empathy – Connecting with the customers and clients is important because it helps better understand their needs and wants.
- Vendor Management – Since you have to maintain a healthy relationship with suppliers, manufacturers, and distributors, it helps to have good vendor management skills.
- User Experience – Overseeing product processes and managing them requires a good idea of how to develop a good user experience.
Other than these skills, there are other industry-specific skills that you need to become successful as a Director of Product.
Director of Product Job Requirements
The Director of Product job requires you to tick a few boxes to be eligible. Here is an in-depth look into the educational, experience, and other requirements.
A Director of Product needs to have a Bachelor’s degree in product management, economics, business, or another related field.
However, industry-specific degrees also work. For example, a computer science degree works for a product professional in the software development industry.
Furthermore, a Director of Product also needs to have a Master’s degree in a similar and relevant field.
Other educational accomplishments add to your resume but aren’t necessary for success.
As a Director of Product, your experience speaks for yourself, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to get certified by well-known product institutions and authorities.
This adds to your credibility and allows you to widen your network.
Furthermore, it helps to have certifications specific to your industry too. For example, if you oversee data science products, it helps to have a certification in data science to show you have the right knowledge.
A Director of Product needs to have extensive product management knowledge. They also need knowledge of their industry, niche, and products.
This level of understanding and knowledge comes from steady experience and knowledge. For a rough estimate, a Director of Product needs anywhere between 6-10 years of experience in product management.
Furthermore, if you have prior experience in other roles like business development, sales, and marketing, that also helps. Experience in other departments shows that you understand interdepartmental dependencies and how to manage them.
Typical Director of Product Work Environment
The Director of Product oversees product development, launches, and marketing. That means they work with product managers, product marketing managers, product owners, engineering teams, and marketing teams to ensure product success.
Despite that, the Director of Product spends most of their time in an office environment. On occasion, they visit the engineering and development teams.
However, the Director of Product often travels to meet clients, suppliers, and other company personnel, if the organization spreads across multiple locations.
Any deadlines for product launches, updates, and more fall onto the Director of Product. That adds to the overall stress of the job.
However, at the same time, the Director of Product also takes complete ownership of the success of all products since they have a direct impact.
Therefore, the job is often rewarding when product success leads to the company’s success.
Future Work Trends for the Director of Product
Product management is an evolving field that brings in new expectations from product professionals, including the Director of Product.
Here are a few trends shaping how the Director of Product goes about their work.
There has been an increasing emphasis on providing a good user experience to customers. Users are becoming more demanding, and there is a need for accessibility and ease of use.
Every customer-oriented company participates in a race to provide the best user experience. Functionality still plays a role, but users prefer a mix of good functionality and user experience.
Therefore, the Director of Product needs to utilize their position to drive development toward a better user experience.
Attention to detail is important when it comes to UX. This means making tiny but meaningful changes to product features, usability, UI, and design.
While agile practices aren’t new to product management, they still play a major role. A Director of Product who understands agile methodology is better able to implement an agile approach.
Extreme competition and market saturation are driving companies to improve their adaptation times. For that, an agile approach is a better way to move forward.
That way, the Director of Product and their team have a better chance at identifying market changes and industry trends. This helps understand and predict evolving customer needs and demands, and make the necessary changes to existing and future products.
Artificial Intelligence and Automation
There are a lot of AI-powered apps and machine learning software that help automate certain business and product processes.
The Director of Product needs to know about all the applications and software that have the power to improve working efficiency.
Furthermore, since the Director of Product also has to worry about budget, revenue, and costs, they need to utilize existing resources better.
It’s possible to save overhead costs using AI and automation. The Director of Product needs to identify such instances and implement them.
What is the Director of Product Salary?
According to Glassdoor, the average Director of Product salary in the US is $273,000. The typical salary range is between $175,000 and $440,000. However, the median range falls between $216,000 and $353,000.
Out of that average salary, the base pay is $168,000, and the additional pay accounts for almost $105,000.
Glassdoor allows you to add certain filters to get a better idea of the Director of Product salary according to your preferences.
There are filters for years of experience, industry, and company size. Adjust these filters to better reflect your position to get a more accurate salary estimate.
For the most part, the Director of Product salary depends on your experience level. However, the kind of experience you have also matters. For example, experience with startups isn’t enough to get you a good salary at a multinational company.
Other than experience, your level of education also plays a role in most industries.
Besides their base salary, Directors tend to earn additional compensation in the form of stock options, bonuses, commissions, and additional benefits.
Furthermore, according to Glassdoor, the top-paying companies for this job are:
- Google – $442,000 per year
- Meta – $425,000 per year
- eBay – $403,000 per year
- Amazon – $390,000 per year
- Adobe – $378,000 per year
Other companies include Cisco Systems, Zynga, PayPal, Electronic Arts, and Intuit. Most e-commerce companies have high-paying positions for this job role.
Other than that, some of the highest-paying cities for the Director of Product job are San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, and Boston.
How Do You Become a Director of Product Without Experience?
Getting to the director level without experience is not possible. You need to have ample experience as a product manager to have an idea of what a product director’s typical day looks like.
Working with group product managers, product marketing managers, and other teams gives you an idea of how to oversee each team and manage them.
That’s because as a director of product, you overlook the entire product organization while answering to the Chief Product Officer.
You need to learn about building teams from scratch, scaling products, and you need a strong track record of managing products.
Since you’re responsible for all product-related activities, you need ample experience, expertise, education, and skills.
Therefore, the best way to fast-track toward a product director position is to get ample experience as a product manager. After that, it might be a good idea to apply to an SME or startup.
What Does It Take to Become a Great Director of Product
While experience and expertise are crucial to getting to the director position, the following are some characteristics and skills that set you up for success.
- Leadership – Since directors manage multiple product teams and oversee them, it’s crucial to have excellent leadership skills. They allow you to guide your team better, motivate them, and steer them toward product goals.
- Problem-Solving – As a director, it’s possible to face new challenges every day. You need to be ready to tackle them, offer solutions, and lay down the foundation for long-term sustainability.
- Strategy – Product directors oversee product and business strategy. They need to use strategic thinking to drive long-term goals, adjust backlogs, and make informed product decisions.
- Networking – Networking skills prove to be essential, along with excellent communication skills. You need to have good relations with internal teams and external stakeholders.
That said, understanding budgeting, marketing, and research methods also go a long way.
Becoming a product director is not an easy feat. It requires years of experience, learning, knowledge, and consistent effort.
The most important of those factors is relevant experience. It’s best to stick to a single industry and product niche to build experience faster.
That said, an aspiring director of product needs to adopt a habit of consistent learning and reading for steady growth.