Rebooting our UX and Product Management career path
Last year we merged our Product Management and UX teams. We operate as a single team now with shared management so some of our PMs have managers who are UXers and vice versa.
One of the main concerns we heard from the team was the career path wasn’t clear so we got right to work on it. We see these roles merging and we wanted to embrace that trend and help our team members broaden their skills. As part of that effort we needed to bring together two separate career paths.
Everything we take into account is based on observable behavior. How many years of experience you have is not a consideration. What we think you know or believe is not a consideration. What matters is what we’ve seen you do. We evaluate and judge behaviors, not people.
We wanted something that was:
Clear – Made it easy for people to see what roles were available and what was required to move up. We wanted managers to be able to sit down with a team member who wanted to be promoted and be able to come up with a plan for them to learn and then demonstrate the required behaviors.
Compelling – Allow team members to travel many paths within the company including changing focus areas, leading people or leading how we practice UX and Product Management. Not everyone wants to lead people and it’s very important that the skills and practices we use are best in class so we have two paths staff can travel.
We started with research by looking at our peers in Engineering and a lot of outside sources to make sure we created something that would be appealing and understandable both inside and outside of 3Pillar.
Here are some of the resources we used
- Buzzfeed Product Design roles (Link goes to the most recent version, we worked off an earlier one)
- Product Management Career Ladders at 8 Top Technology Firms
- Career Alternatives to Management | Best Design Practices for Blogs
- Dual-Track PM Ladders
Not surprisingly we started small and did a lot of iteration based on feedback. We started with rough drawings of paths and roles then we started to create a table with details. This is something I would recommend a small group work on with periodic feedback from a larger community because of the complexity of information. I had a crew of three working on it with input from me, my leadership team and the larger team.
What we look at when evaluating performance
For each level we have requirements for these areas
Functional skills – What skills can you offer and at what depth? We define specific Product Management and UX skills someone needs to be able to do and what level of oversight we expect them to need. For more junior roles we expect people to execute on a strategy or within a framework while we expect senior people to create that and monitor quality.
Operations – How much leadership are you providing on a team? Junior staff should hit deadlines and raise concerns while senior staff should be leading the team and managing execution. We also expect more senior staff to communicate progress, resolve issues and shape the strategic thinking of executives.
Talent – How do you support and develop yourself and your teammates? Everyone should be pushing themselves, supporting their teammates and the more senior you are the more mentoring and coaching we expect.
Thought Leadership – How do you contribute to our practices? We expect senior practice-focused team members evaluate new tools and practices then train others on the team. We expect them creating content for blogs, talks and more.
What we’ve learned and are still working on
Team members were most concerned if they felt their project didn’t allow for them to develop or demonstrate what we are looking for. In those cases their supervisor/manager worked with them to create those opportunities on their project or outside of their project. It’s the team member’s responsibility to take full advantage of the opportunity.
Team members like clarity and options. We’ve noticed that these new career paths are being used much more often than the old ones. Managers are bringing them out in 1-1s and talking about development more because they are easier to understand.
We’ve still got work to do on creating clarity. There is still confusion between levels and what’s required. We’ve only been using these for a few months and in a single review cycle so there is tweaking to be done.
We considered introducing the title of Product Designer and the team discussed it at length. It’s important that the titles we use are understandable to our internal colleagues, clients and make sense to the larger market. As a group we felt it was too new for us to to adopt it so we didn’t. We’re monitoring trends in the market and will likely do this soon.
Image: A section of a painting I did for a mixed media class at Captiol Hill Arts Workshop