The 6 types of Product Managers. Which one do you need?

Eskimos have 1,000 words to describe snow. Marketers have well defined adjectives for their field: affiliate, SEO, content, performance, enterprise. Developers describe their functions and their expertise: front end, back end, java, node.js. And then there is Product, which often starts and ends with a single defining word…product.

Background — The rise of Product:

Ten years ago, Product was barely discussed as a function. Roll forward the clock to today, and product managers are some of the most in-demand talent. Just last year, the WSJ published an article stating that the most coveted post-MBA job is a product manager role (a bit frightening, I admit).

So, what is a product manager? There have been a number of articles outlining the skills of product managers: many write about product as a blend of business, ux, and tech, including posts by Marty Cagan, Martin Eriksson, and this gem by Dan Schmidt. And then there is this classic post by Ben Horowitz and David Weiden on Good vs. Bad PMs.

Credit: Martin Eriksson

Overall, as Marty Cagan says in his book Inspired, the job of a product manager is “to discover a product that is valuable, usable and feasible”.

Why this matters:

However, this broad definition is missing a set of adjectives for the role, Product Manager. The lack of a common vernacular creates a shallow definition for the variety of product people out in the world. And, that lack of definition leads to hiring mis-steps and not understanding the superpowers and kryptonite for each type of product person.

At first, you might believe that this is a large company problem because they can hire multiple product managers, each with their own specialties. But this is even more critical for startups where you must make sure your first hires are the right ones.

The 6 main product manager types:

The product profession has grown enormously over the last ten years and deserves to have a set of common adjectives (probably even more than 6). I look forward to the day when all companies and job descriptions use a common set of vernacular to find the right person!

With these product types, you’ll be able to determine exactly what type of PM your company needs, and what questions you’ll need to ask to find them.

Questions, comments and debate desired…I’d love to hear what you think.

If you’re building a startup that is scaling or looking for product advice, I’d love to hear from you and explore how I can help. Reach out to me at

product & tech obsessed. lover of behavior change. vc @firstmark. former cpo @shutterstock and @weightwatchers.

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