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Elevating Your Resume for Your Product Career

Written by
Tony Pagliocco Tony Pagliocco
Senior Vice President Product Management @ ALDAR
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An Interesting Crossroad in Your Product Career

There comes a point in every product manager's career where they have to look at where they have been, where they are, and where they want to go. Most people I talk, to always refer to the leadership tract, where they have goals of becoming a CPO or VP of Product, but when I press them on “Whyˮ they want to go down that career path, the answer is usually around the thought process of “Itʼs what Iʼm supposed to do if I want to continuously move up in my careersˮ and that is actually a statement I find to be untrue and somewhat misguided.

What many people fail to realize is that climbing the corporate ladder and reaching positions of leadership does not automatically equate to personal fulfillment or happiness. Simply following a predetermined path because it is expected of them can lead to feeling unfulfilled and unsatisfied in their careers. It is important for individuals to reflect on their own values, passions, and strengths to determine what career path would truly bring them fulfillment and purpose. True leadership comes from a place of authenticity and passion, not simply following a prescribed path because it is what others expect of you.

“Your passion and attitude are two things that can't be trained in a course; you either have it or you don't, and that speaks louder than a resume sometimes.”

Tony Pagliocco, Senior Vice President Product Management @ ALDAR
The Routes Available

In reality, there are two paths that are in the product management career path, the individual contributor path and the management/leadership path. The key difference between the two paths is that as they both start out the same (Associate - Product - Sr Product), there comes a crossroads, where you can move ahead into a Principal Product Manager role or you can move into managing a team of product managers, which would be a Group Product Manager role. In the management career path, individuals are responsible for overseeing and leading a team of product managers. They are focused on setting goals, developing strategies, and executing plans to achieve their team's objectives. On the other hand, the individual contributor path allows individuals to continue to grow their skills and expertise in the product management field without taking on management responsibilities.

Career Paths XO (image courtesy of glasp.co)

The key difference between the two paths is the focus on leading and managing others in the management path, while the individual contributor path allows individuals to remain focused on hands-on product development and strategy. Ultimately, individuals must decide which path aligns best with their career goals, skills, and interests.

I know product managers who have had extremely successful careers in the Principal role, and eventually have had them leading complex product design and delivery while leading teams of product managers, but not directly managing them as their “line manager. It's about understanding where your passion is and why you love the art of product management. It's about understanding what drives you and what aspect of product management excites you the most. For some, it may be the thrill of creating innovative products that solve real-world problems, while for others, it may be the satisfaction of seeing a product through from conception to launch. Whatever the reason, true passion for product management is what sets successful product managers apart. It drives them to constantly learn and grow, to take on new challenges, and to inspire and lead others to achieve greatness in their own careers. It is this passion that ultimately leads to a fulfilling and successful career in product management.

What Should Stand Out?

When applying for management roles in product management, it is crucial to showcase your understanding of senior-level expectations. Hiring managers typically seek candidates who possess the following qualities:

  1. Leadership: It is crucial to demonstrate your capacity to lead and inspire cross-functional teams. Highlight any previous experience where you have set strategic direction and vision for products. Also, emphasize your track record of driving product success through effective collaboration with teams.
  2. Strategic Thinking: Employers highly value individuals who possess a solid understanding of market trends and customer needs. Display your capability to translate business objectives into tangible product roadmaps. Discuss any past experience you have in conducting comprehensive market research and competitive analysis to guide your strategic decisions.
  3. Data-Driven Decision-Making: Excellent analytical skills are greatly sought after in product management roles. Showcase your ability to interpret data insights and use them to make informed product decisions. Additionally, emphasize your experience in measuring product success and effectively communicating data-driven insights to stakeholders.
How Do Showcase This if We Have Never Been a People Manager?

When crafting your resume to showcase your leadership and management capabilities, even without direct people management experience, here are some detailed recommendations to consider:

  • Highlight Cross-Functional Collaboration: Showcase instances where you successfully collaborated with individuals from various departments to drive product success. Detail specific projects or initiatives where you played a key role in coordinating efforts, facilitating communication, and fostering a collaborative environment.
  • Demonstrate Strategic Vision: Illustrate your ability to set strategic direction and vision for products. Highlight instances where you contributed to the development of product roadmaps, identified market opportunities, and aligned product strategies with overarching business goals. Provide concrete examples of how your strategic thinking positively impacted the product's success.
  • Showcase Initiative and Ownership: Emphasize your capacity to take initiative and drive projects independently. Detail examples of situations where you proactively identified and tackled challenges presented innovative ideas, or implemented process improvements. Highlight instances where your self- motivation and ability to take ownership positively impacted the product or team.
  • Highlight Influential Communication Skills: Showcase your excellent communication skills, both verbal and written. Describe instances where you effectively communicated complex ideas, presented product strategies to stakeholders, or facilitated productive discussions to align cross-functional teams. Highlight your ability to articulate your vision and gain buy-in from others.
  • Illustrate Problem-Solving Abilities: Demonstrate your problem-solving skills by showcasing instances where you successfully navigated complex situations or resolved conflicts within the product development process. Highlight your ability to analyze data, identify patterns, and make informed decisions that positively impact the product's performance.

Remember, as a product manager, leadership and management capabilities extend beyond just people management. By following these recommendations and providing specific examples, you can effectively showcase your leadership skills and highlight your potential to excel in management roles, even without direct people management experience. These qualities are essential for success in a management role, regardless of whether you have direct reports or not. One way to showcase your leadership skills is to highlight a project where you were able to rally a team around a common goal, successfully navigate challenges, and deliver results. By providing concrete examples of how you have led without direct people management, you can prove to potential employers that you have the potential to excel in a management position.

Really at the end of it all, it's about you showing what you've done and how it aligns, and it's the core skill you need in product management to build products, prioritize features, and much more. It's a matter of how deeply you want to reflect on what you've done and how it applies to what you're actually applying for. Your passion and attitude are two things that can't be trained in a course, you either have it or you don't and that speaks louder than a resume sometimes.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tony Pagliocco

Tony Pagliocco
Senior Vice President Product Management @ ALDAR

Tony is a seasoned Product Management expert with 20 years of experience in building and leading outstanding product teams. Through a focus on building an empowered culture and leading by example, his teams have been responsible for the delivery of multi-million dollar revenue-generating products for industry giants like Boeing and Hasbro.

Three years ago, Tony moved to Dubai, where he took on the role of Chief Product Officer at RAI Digital. In this position, he built an international product management team and led the creation and launch of digital products across various sectors. In June 2024, Tony took on a new chapter in his careers as Senior Vice President of Product Management at ALDAR. Here, he oversees a team dedicated to enhancing the digital experiences of users across ALDAR’s commercial, residential, hospitality, and investment verticals.

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