Career Advice for Late 30 Product Manager

Cisco ncYw74
Dec 27, 2017 18 Comments

I see lots of articles on what you should do in 20s. So I want to learn what late 30 should do career wise. I work at Cisco as a Product Manager making about 200K per year. (Senior Manager)

Here is my question. I feel that making to a director level is pretty hard due to politics and luck (although I just need one promotion.) I am worried if I stay longer in Cisco that might be wasting my time. Things are moving slow and I am not learning much. Moving to other renowned companies seem hard and even if I do, I will have to downgrade. After MBA, I got three promos in Cisco but Amazon recruiter contacts me for Level 6 which is what you get after MBA.

Should I move to large renowned firms (e.g. FAANGM) with downgrade? Or should I move to smaller firm with more responsibility? Both will be challenging but I would like to spend some time to think about during the shutdown.

Any advice for late 30 non engineer would be beneficial. (Any book, course, networking event, side gig, career change, etc.) FYI, I am married and have CS bachelor and MBA. Thank you in advance.

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TOP 18 Comments
  • Amazon amzn11
    I wouldn’t dismiss the ‘downgrade’. I was in a similar situation as you (title, level, comp and even company) and made the jump to amazon as L6 PM. Once you get over the vanity of the title, I realized I got a 20% pay raise, was at a better company, working on a more innovative product, and actually had a larger scope that grew rapidly. I performed well and ended up getting promoted to L7 in a couple years and this role FAR exceeds all facets of what you’d experience as a director at a Cisco (or similar company). So if you feel stuck at Cisco, I think a step ‘back’ (only in title) to an Amazon/Google/FB is two steps ahead.

    Also, let’s assume you stuck it out and made director. There’s no guarantee this type company would want to interview you as an L7 even after that promo - we tend to care less about title than demonstrated results, so if that changes drastically maybe you have a better shot.

    Lastly, don’t get stuck on the ‘L6 is only for new MBAs part. That’s far from true. L6 has a huge range (in scope and comp) at Amazon. MBA hires come from elite programs and obviously starr at the bottom of that range. Most of the L6s I’ve hired have 5+ experience post-MBA, and in some cases quite a bit more, so you wouldn’t be out of place as an L6 on my team at least.
    Dec 27, 2017 3
    • Cisco ncYw74
      OP
      Thank you. Good to know. I will think about what would be my “two steps ahead.”
      Dec 27, 2017
    • Polaris funtime
      Solid answer.
      Dec 27, 2017
    • Amazon / Eng WocG38
      Great answer
      Dec 27, 2017
  • Google / Eng
    Wat🤷‍♂️

    Google Eng

    PRE
    Palantir, Microsoft, Google
    Wat🤷‍♂️more
    Sorry to totally turn this around on you, but did you feel like the MBA was a worthwhile investment?
    Dec 27, 2017 2
    • Cisco ncYw74
      OP
      Yes definitely. The experience changed my outlook of life. I loved every moment of it. It is costly but 2 year of vacation with nice resume bullet points - soul searching and gaining great perspectives on career and life.
      Dec 27, 2017
    • Google / Eng
      Wat🤷‍♂️

      Google Eng

      PRE
      Palantir, Microsoft, Google
      Wat🤷‍♂️more
      Thanks!!
      Dec 27, 2017
  • Uber DS Lang
    I would consider what you want in your life. If you like the way you are living now, stick with it. If you want something more challenging and competitive across your peers, then go with something like amazon. Level tiers differ across companies and unfortunately Cisco is not one that stacks great against others. Almost always you will be downgraded levels if you aren’t from tier 1 companies such as fb google etc. For what it’s worth Senior PMs are awesome at amazon and they Generally only recruit from top 10 MBA schools. If you got your mba at a top 10 then yea maybe don’t consider amazon. But it is what it is. The fact is not many companies see Cisco as competitive or innovative as they used to be. So you either take a hit or you take a lateral move to a company that is equally in that tier.
    Dec 27, 2017 2
    • Cisco ncYw74
      OP
      My MBA from one of schools that Amazon hires the most. And yes, I am thinking about what I want to do in life and not just about now but in more of the longer term. I know the harsh truths of Cisco level :) Thank you for your comments
      Dec 27, 2017
    • Uber DS Lang
      No worries. One thing to note is amazon senior PM is a level 6. Since you’re a senior manager you would essentially title match with a senior manager at amazon which is an L7 and because L7 is very senior at amazon (most directors even from MSFT will go in as an L7) my gut says they chose the level you would be best matched with which is one down. If you were a director at Cisco I think you would be considered for an L7.
      Dec 27, 2017
  • SoFi ehGL33
    It sounds like you’ve gone as far as you can at Cisco. Whether you go for big or small, I think you need to move on. I chose smaller, for better or worse and am at least happy with the diversity to my skill set and the pay bump. Jobs these days aren’t forever - just try something and if doesn’t work then move on.

    Btw: I’m in PM as well, mid-30’s with MBA
    Dec 27, 2017 0
  • Oath Zhdbww
    At least you are in Cisco, trust me, it could be worse.
    Dec 27, 2017 0
  • Amazon 007x007
    Follow this post
    Dec 27, 2017 0
  • Amazon / Eng WocG38
    You’ve topped out in your career. I was the same, and moved over here with a considerable downgrade in title (though not comp!)

    It’s all about what you want. You’ll grow either way. I will say these larger companies seem like political minefields in middle management.

    Small may be a good “palette” cleanser. Applying for big company skills to help something grow has been rewarding for some of my former colleagues.
    Dec 27, 2017 2
    • Cisco ncYw74
      OP
      Thank you. How is Amazon? I hear it is pretty political as well. Can you explain a bit there?
      Dec 27, 2017
    • Amazon / Eng WocG38
      Highly variable. It’s all about the group you get in with. My group is great.

      As a whole, we’re a company of very driven people, and lots of people are driving their careers hard. Some are painfully obvious in the games they’re playing, thinking others haven’t seen it before. It’s cute.

      That is to say, it’s nothing you couldn’t handle.

      All that said, if you want *no* politics, go small. :)
      Dec 27, 2017
  • Proofpoint rix
    Smaller is definitely an option. You can go for director at a midsize company
    Dec 28, 2017 1
    • Cisco junkbond
      @ ncYw74

      I was wondering what course of action you finally took.
      Jul 22