Why do UX designers become product managers? UX Question #33

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Sarah from Ponta Delgada, Portugal, asks: Why do so many UX Designers move into Product Managers positions? Is it all about the money?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Sarah. This is UX Question number 33 and I am Ben Judy.

Why do UX designers become product managers?

Well, I worked with a Principal UX designer early in my career. I was surprised when he said he was transitioning into a Product Manager role.

I said, why would you want to do that? You’re a really good UX designer. Why change roles?

As I recall, he had two reasons. One, he wanted a new career challenge. He had been doing UX for a while, and he wanted to do something a little different. Two, he wanted more influence on the product strategy and the business aspects of making software.

And I think usually it boils down to those two things.

It is true that in most organizations, product managers usually have more positional authority than UX designers. And PM’s also get paid on average 30% more, according to salary data from Glassdoor. But I don’t think people make this career change only for the money.

There’s a degree of overlap between the roles of UX designer and product manager. UX practitioners empathize with user needs and design product experiences that meet those needs. Product managers focus on that as well, although they aren’t typically doing any UI design work.

But pivoting away from UX to PM means focusing less on solving for the needs of users, and more on delivering value to the business.

As a PM you’ll ask different questions. Instead of, “How can I create an easy and delightful experience for the user in this shopping and checkout flow,” a PM will ask, “What new features will increase our competitive advantage and profit margin?”

After some time working in any job or career, you might get restless and want to focus on different problems. UX designers are the same as anyone else in this regard. Personally, I’ve never grown bored of UX. While my passion has evolved from web and software design to strategy, design leadership and design ops, I don’t find myself with a wandering eye toward product management.

But if you think you might be happier prioritizing features, creating product roadmaps, setting goals and measuring business success—then a switch to product management may be right for you.

Just know that once you cross that line, there’s no coming back. UX is a very tight knit community and we take it personally when people leave. We won’t want you back.

Naw, just kidding!

Keep asking your questions about UX. Next time, I’ll answer the question: How can I proactively solve UX design problems?

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