GUIDE 2022

What is the Technical Product Manager Career Path?

Interested in designing and developing technical products? 

Technical product managers don’t stay in the same positions forever. They rise to more senior managerial positions and acquire additional responsibilities. 

As you embark on a professional journey in the field of product management, you must familiarize yourself with the technical product manager career path. 

This guide breaks down the typical career path for a technical product manager. It also explores potential endpoints or career peaks.

To learn more via video, then watch below. Otherwise, skip ahead.

Step-by-Step Career Path for Technical Product Managers

Technical product managers do not step into full positions at first in most cases. Instead, they begin as junior or assistant-level professionals. As they acquire skills and experience, they rise to acquire more responsibilities and higher salaries.

Here’s a breakdown of a technical product manager’s career path.

Associate Product Manager

Most technical product managers start as associate product managers. These entry-level management positions work under other product managers for large companies. Associate product managers are university graduates who are just commencing their careers as product professionals.

Associate product managers assist other product managers. Some of their responsibilities include:

  • Gathering customer feedback
  • Reviewing quantitative metrics
  • Checking customer surveys and responses
  • Working with a diverse range of team members to design, review, and market products

Those associate product managers who enter the role without more advanced managerial skills and experience remain at this stage in their careers for several years. More proficient associate product managers get promotions within a year or two.

However, promotion is contingent on open positions at their employing companies.

If you’re just starting off your career in product management, be sure to check out our PHQ Certification Product Manager Courses to help guide your professional development and lay the foundation for success.
Product Manager Certification Courses

Technical Product Manager

Technical product managers are full product managers with an emphasis on technical design or analysis. Sometimes called “mini-CEOs”, technical product managers work for one to three years as associate product managers before promotion.
Technical Product Manager Framework
Technical product managers are in charge of designing, developing, or iterating products over time. They understand the intense competitive space of their market/niche. They develop a product vision and strategy to meet company goals and make products that meet consumer expectations and desires.

Senior Technical Product Manager

Senior technical product managers are more advanced product managers with additional responsibilities. Companies promote technical product managers once they have demonstrated solid output within a three to five-year period. 

Senior technical product managers have other product managers or associate product managers working beneath them. They collaborate with other product managers, drive broader manufacturing goals, and design or develop multiple products. They also design products to work with other existing ones in the market.

A senior product manager also communicates with upper management personnel or executives.
Communication Strategy Framework
They represent the people in their teams during such meetings. Senior technical product managers have a deeper understanding of their target markets and products as well as the product development process. In these ways, they know what is possible to develop and market within specific time frames.

Group Technical Product Manager

Some technical product managers become group product managers or GPMs. These professionals interact with executives or higher leaders more often. They remain up-to-date with the newest market trends, consumer developments, and desires.

Group technical product managers have larger teams and oversee several smaller groups beneath them. They’re in charge of designing, iterating, and launching multiple products. They also oversee technical product development and launches for major marketing pushes.

Additional responsibilities for group technical product managers include:

  • Risk analysis
  • Business strategy development
  • End-to-end product lifecycle streamlining
  • Coordination with leaders of other teams
  • External stakeholder negotiation
  • Team management
  • Recruitment and promotion

Director of Technical Product Management

Directors of technical product management are leaders. They take charge of product planning and execution. They have less of a hands-on role in the product development or design process. More often, they hand down orders and requirements to other technical product managers.

They are responsible for considering product strategy relative to other market conditions. They’re also responsible for coming up with marketing or outreach plans/programs to ensure product sales.
Product Strategy Framework
Directors of technical product management collaborate with other debarment directors, such as sales or marketing directors. They ensure that their product launches go according to plan. They have additional responsibilities that include:

  • Developing budget strategies
  • Coordinating with team leaders
  • Negotiating resource or product deals or collaborations
  • Performing risk analysis
  • Doing in-depth research for market demands or consumer trends
  • Coming up with scalable business products or services

VP of Technical Product Management

VPs or vice presidents of technical product management teams are also leaders. They focus more on managing product lines and bigger teams. They have almost no hands-on involvement in product design or development.

Instead, they act as their company’s face for media events, conferences, or other social happenings. VPs build teams, optimize design and development processes, and are always up-to-date with their market niche.

They also act as crucial social bridges between chief executive officers and product teams. They make and communicate messages between both areas of the company when needed.

Chief Technical Product Officer

A chief technical product officer, also called a chief product officer, is the highest level of this profession. These C-level executives focus on big-picture product strategies. They set long-term goals for the company alongside other executives and set the pace for product development teams beneath them.

Chief technical product officers work in large organizations such as Fortune 500 companies. They perform an intense amount of product research and incorporate many of the social responsibilities of VPs, such as attending press conferences.

CTPOs report to the CEOs of their organizations. They also work with any C-level stakeholders. Their crucial responsibilities include:

  • Managing team budgets, profit-sharing agreements, and revenue
  • Interviewing and recruiting high-level team members, such as VP technical product managers
  • Interacting with consumers in formal or public spaces
  • Building product organizations
  • Identifying new business partnerships
  • Coordinating with product team leaders and C-suite level executives
  • Setting long-term visions and goals for their teams
  • Performing in-depth marketing research

Technical Product Manager Skills

Because technical product managers must wear many hats, they also need a variety of skills. These skills include:

  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills. These skills allow them to lead teams and to understand the target audiences they hope to create good products for. Communication and interpersonal skills become more important as technical managers rise up their career ladders.
  • Leadership skills. These are also important for executives or high-level technical product managers since they have to motivate their team members to excel during product development.
  • Data science and machine learning analysis skills. These skills enable technical product managers to fulfill their primary job functions.
  • Statistical skills. These skills help technical product managers to interpret large data sets. 
  • Strong design skills. Technical product managers must design or develop products that fulfill market demand. Thus, they must understand how to make products for their industries/niches.

Since technical product managers must demonstrate all of these skills, they must receive fair salaries and compensation packages that match their output.

How Technical PM Skills Evolve Over Time

When technical product managers start off in the role, the most important skills they need to develop are those that are tech-oriented. As they acquire additional leadership response abilities, they need softer or leadership-oriented skills.

For example, at the beginning of one’s career in tech PM, data science and machine learning analysis skills are more important than others. Since a technical product manager oversees others, they focus more on skills for leading a team, managing and delegating tasks, and breaking complex data topics down into simplistic ideas for executives.

This reflects the changing responsibilities of technical product managers. At the beginning of one’s career, a technical product manager is more hands-on. They are integral pieces in the day-to-day product management tasks of their organization.

As one’s career progresses, technical product managers deal with more abstract goals. They lead teams and organizations, outline initiatives and benchmarks, and use soft skills to ensure subordinates perform to their maximum abilities.

Key Takeaways for Technical Product Manager Career Path

Technical product managers have a variety of career options and end positions available to them. Depending on preferences or personal goals, technical product managers stay on the technical side of things. A successful product manager becomes a higher manager and leads growing teams. It’s up to individuals at the end of the day.

Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter is the co-founder of Product HQ, founder of Technical Writer HQ, and founder and head of product of Squibler. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.