Product Manager Vs Engineering Manager : Better growth/comp etc?

New mohi13
Jan 10 16 Comments

Just shutting down my startup, previously was SDE 3 at Amazon, now need to decide shall I choose PM or EM ladder. What are the pros of PM ladder w.r.t EM in your opinion? My thoughts:

- Different roles w.r.t work. A personal choice.
- On average PMs are underpaid vs EM.
- A dev background can help me get promoted faster as EM.
- After VP level, both anyway converge to a GM role.

Also, can a PM move to EM roles if he later decides that its the best path for them?

A little more context:
- I am pretty good at tech/architecture.
- Have good social skills to manage people.
- Also, I am quite interested to understand business, product vision etc.

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TOP 16 Comments
  • Autodesk DouP01
    Have the same question :D wanna see what others have to say
    Jan 10 1
    • Pinterest OJay
      Are you shutting down autodesk ?
      Jan 10
  • New AaBaA
    EM is better. You get paid more and learn more in depth about engineering decision. PM is more about mumbo jumbo talking
    Jan 10 0
  • Akamai Technologies / Eng Trn
    Do you enjoy coding or solving engineering problems? Then it’s best to be on the EM path
    Jan 10 1
    • New mohi13
      OP
      A little more context:
      - I am pretty good at tech/architecture.
      - Have good social skills to manage people.
      - Also, I am quite interested to understand business, product vision etc.
      Jan 10
  • Apple hfr
    EM is probably the right path for you, but fwiw, if you’re really interested in PM roles because you think those things are interesting, a solid tech background can get you noticed and promoted faster on that chain sometimes. A strong tech background for a PM can really stand out and make people take notice of your work. Whereas with an EM, everyone’s got a tech background and you’ll need something else to stand out.

    Then again, with strong skills that would make you successful as a PM you’ll likely stand out as an EM and without those you won’t get anywhere as a PM.

    So, really, IMO, chose entirely based on whether you’re more interested in managing people or product.
    Jan 10 0
  • Qualcomm / Eng
    Tintontun

    Qualcomm Eng

    PRE
    Qualcomm
    BIO
    Embedded software engineer
    Tintontunmore
    Engineer's have more nuisance value. There are more opportunities for engineers. PM roles are a little too few, comparatively speaking, then again you can transfer to other industries.
    It's a choice of what you like to do more. Do you enjoy making decisions of the future of your product, working with people to make that vision a reality? Do you enjoy solving technical problems, implementing solutions. Both roles emphasize different skills.
    Jan 10 0
  • OpenTable Meliodas
    Most likely, no, a PM can’t move to an EM role. Just as an architect can’t easily move to a structural engineer role.

    Look at it this way, an EM can “veto” anything a PM wants to do, the reverse is not true.
    Jan 10 3
    • Apple hfr
      Uhh. Both of your statements are false in my experience. It isn’t super common for people to move between EM and PM but it certainly happens. Especially if you have the background which would allow you to do either role and decide you want to move.

      Also while PMs may not be able to veto directly we can usually get a project killed easier than an individual EM can if we think we gotta. An EM just makes decisions for their own team. If I see something going wrong, I’ll take it directly to their manager or a VP, and whatever VPs I need to get in a room will take my meeting to talk about it.

      If a line level EM wants to meet with a VP to get a decision like that, they’ll usually need to ask a PM to set it up. ;)

      Our power isn’t direct authority, we just chat with the people who have the direct authority about how they should use it. And we can have that chat with any exec and manager in the company about that, at any time, not just one specific management chain. So while an EM has more authority over their particular team, a PM that knows what they’re doing and is good has more influence across the entire company. And ultimately will be a major part of determining what the EMs in the company are told by their execs about what to work on.
      Jan 10
    • OpenTable Meliodas
      Exactly, PM’s provide advice to the engineering management chain making the actual decisions.
      Jan 10
    • Apple hfr
      I fail to see the difference between this and an EM providing advice to execs making actual decisions. Except that at comparable levels, PMs generally will be heard across a wider segment across the company while EMs will be heard with somewhat more weight in a more narrow segment. It’s a depth vs breadth question really. Line level EMs don’t have much authority around anything outside their own team either. :)

      If you want to own a piece, choose EM. If you want the largest scope possible, PM is a real option to get it.
      Jan 11
  • compensation wise there isn’t any significant difference between PM and EM.
    Jan 10 1
    • Apple hfr
      Ehhh. I don’t think I agree with that. I’d say on average at least a 10% discount depending on the organization and how they value talent.

      It’s really not enough to worry about but it’s not the same comp.

      Which is wild since in my experience it is harder to find a good PM than a good EM! Which partly drives the idea that there aren’t any, which generally leads people to undervalue them, which generally means folks who could pick both paths pick EM... thereby making the cycle worse. :)
      Jan 11
  • Dropbox QqLQ41
    If you don't mind coding / tech, stay as EM give you more option down the road with more money upfront.
    Jan 10 0
  • Amazon / Eng Awst
    EM
    Jan 10 0
  • Facebook / Eng
    fb2017

    Facebook Eng

    PRE
    Google, Oracle
    BIO
    worked at Oracle, then Google, now Facebook.
    fb2017more
    PM maps to SWE. Manager of PM maps to EM
    Jan 10 0