Careers & Interviewing
Team Leadership
I've been offered Product Director roles, but for some reason I'm reluctant to take the big step. How do I push myself to make this career move?
Question from Zeshan
I've been offered Product Director roles, but for some reason I'm reluctant to take the big step. How do I push myself to make this career move?
Answered by Ali Brandt
Product Leader, Coach and Consultant

In the startup world, and especially in Product Management, a lot of focus is placed on rapid career growth, so I can see why you’re feeling pressure to take these growth opportunities when they’re offered to you. But it’s important to listen to your inner voice to make sure that you’re building the career that’s right for you. If you’re feeling reluctant to take a Director role, there’s most likely a reason why. Before you take the leap, I’d recommend digging deeper to better understand your reluctance and the role. Then you can make the decision that feels right for you. Here’s how I would approach “de-risking” this decision.

1. Ask yourself: “Why am I feeling reluctant?”

The first step is to take some time to explore why you’re feeling reluctant. I’d recommend using whatever method works best for you. You can find some quiet time with a journal or a whiteboard to write out all of your thoughts. If you think better out loud, you could find someone with whom you can talk it through (a friend, mentor or coach). List out all of the different reasons you’re feeling reluctant so you can figure out how they factor into your decision. For example, let’s say I did a brainstorm and these were the reasons I was feeling reluctant about a promotion to Director:

  • Fear that I might fail
  • As a director, I’ll spend more time managing people and strategy and less time delivering products
  • As a director, my work hours will be longer, I’ll have less time for my family and for myself

The first reason is not an uncommon thought for someone who is taking on a new opportunity. If I’m feeling this way I might remind myself:

  • People wouldn’t be offering me a director position if they didn’t think I could succeed
  • It might take time for me to adjust to the new role (which at times can feel like failure), but that’s true for everyone
  • A fear of failure, which is often a part of imposter syndrome, is very common and often isn’t based in facts

The second two reasons are assumptions I’m making about the new role. The important thing here is to validate whether these assumptions are correct, and if they are, determine whether I’m willing to adjust to these shifts in my work and workload to take on this new opportunity.

2. Do your research: Validate expectations and assumptions

Once you better understand why you’re feeling reluctant, a good next step is to get a better understanding of the role and to validate any assumptions you have about the opportunity. You can do this in a few ways:

  • Read through the job description to understand the expectations and responsibilities.
  • Talk to the hiring manager to understand their expectations for the role and for you.
  • Talk to other people in similar roles to understand how the transition to director went for them, and what their day-to-day is like in the role. Ask them what they would have done differently, and what advice they have for you as you consider the role.

3. Ask yourself: “What do I REALLY want?”

Once you’ve understood your fears and the new role, the next step is to figure out what you want from your next role and from your career. I’d recommend writing down what your personal and career goals are for the near term (6-12 months) and medium/long term (5-10 years). Where do you want to be? What’s important to you? What’s not important to you?

Once you’ve mapped out your goals, you can compare them to what you’ve learned about the role and ask yourself if the two align. Will taking a Director role put you on the path to where you want to be 5-10 years from now? Does the role align with what’s important to you?

You might decide that what you enjoy most is working on the front lines with a team delivering great products. In that case you may be more interested in exploring an Individual Contributor (IC) growth path where you can continue to develop your expertise but maintain your focus on building products.

What if you want to invest more time in your life outside of work, and work/life balance is your top priority? In this case, taking on a Director role that will require a heavier time investment from you might not be the right fit.

Or maybe you see yourself building a career as a product leader and working as a CPO in the next 5-10 years. In that case taking on a role with increased scope and responsibility will put you on that path and the Director role might be the right move.

As you think through whether or not to take on a Director role, the most important thing to remember is that there is no SINGLE perfect career or growth path that everyone should follow. The right path for you is the one that allows you to achieve both your personal and professional goals. And don’t forget, no decision is forever. If you take a Director role and realize you don’t love it, you can always find a new role and path that’s a better fit for you.

About the author
Read more
Read less
Ali Brandt
Product Leader, Coach and Consultant

Ali is a product leader, coach and consultant with over a decade of experience at mission-driven organizations including Kiva,, and Gojek.


See all the questions & answers

Tag me in coach

Want to level up your product manager skills?

You can apply to a Guided Sprint and we’ll make sure you get the most value out of your coaching experience and being part of our community.

We want to make sure you don’t miss out on any of our free events and career resources, so follow Scale Higher on LinkedIn. Hope to see you at our events soon! 😊

See guided sprints