What would software tech be without confusing titles and jargon? Whenever someone says they’re a ‘PM’, it can be tough to know exactly which PM title they’re referring to and what it entails. And in fact, it can vary even by company. So let’s go through the most simplified definition possible:

At most tech companies (Facebook, Google, Airbnb etc):

  • Product managers establish the vision and drive product development
    • Works with user research to identify meaningful problems and growth opportunities to tackle
    • Collaborates with data scientists to size the opportunity and determine what areas of work to prioritize
    • Utilizes both analyses to sets the long-term vision and strategy for the company’s products
    • Communicates the strategy to all of the relevant participants and stakeholders
    • Works with engineering to execute on the strategy
Product Manager/Martin Eriksson
  • Project managers organize tasks and teams to ensure flawless and timely execution on short-term goals with clear outcomes.
    • Builds relationships with cross-functional teams and stakeholders (Product, Engineering, Marketing, etc.) to launch multiple products
    • Designs and implement efficient and scalable end-to-end processes and frameworks for the product teams
    • Prioritize and manage multiple projects simultaneously
    • Create dashboards that can be used to make business decisions and other tools to automate operational workflows
  • Program managers organize long-term, complementary projects that foster organizational growth.
    • Manage cross-functional programs across a range of areas
    • Develop and manage end-to-end project plans and guarantee timely delivery
    • Develop internal process improvements across multiple teams and functions.
    • Work with Engineering, Product, Marketing, Legal, Policy, Operations etc to build program requirements, scope work and implement them.
  • Technical program managers (TPMs) organize long-term projects between the engineering and product orgs.
    • Manage cross-functional software engineering programs that balance technical risk with business needs
    • Identify inefficiencies that are holding the team back, and drive better, more efficient workflows
  • Tech leads (aka Technical team lead) facilitate execution within the product engineering team.
    • Typically a senior engineer, but different from the engineering manager who is more focused on managerial duties & matching the work needed on the team with the aspirations of the individuals on the team.

At Microsoft:

  • Program managers at Microsoft are similar to the product manager role at other companies. However, they tend to be less responsible for vision & strategy and more execution-oriented.

Also good to know:

  • Product owners help prioritize the product feature backlog and produces product requirements for design and engineering to execute on.
  • Product specialists investigate bugs and issues within products, monitor trends and communicate findings to the product team.


In general, product manager, program manager and project manager roles tend to have similar compensation, ranging from $100k – $160k for a mid-level employee. Product owners and specialists have more narrow scope and are typically paid a band less as a result.