I posted this question in the Designers Guild Facebook group, but I'd love to hear thoughts from the DN community too:
As a product designer, the more experience you have the more ambiguity or open-ended your work can be. At larger companies, there are career ladders for ICs who want to continue down that path. But at smaller companies, without taking a detour into people management, I'm having a hard time seeing the path forward.
- I love mentoring and coaching, but I don't want people management to be my main focus.
- I'd like to focus more on product decisions and business opportunities (as opposed to team building and operations).
- Performance reviews measure me against a next step in the ladder meant for management. Rather than being measured by my product impact or taking on larger product challenges, I'm only being measured by my efforts to build the team by recruiting new designers, mentoring and teaching other designers, etc.
- To be considered for a promotion or a raise I would need to divert my energy tasks that are for a management role. Long term, I fear that I might not be considered in "good standing" if I don't shift my focus.
Am I approaching my career growth the wrong way? Is there a way to continue to progress without making a lateral move to people management? Should I just become a PM?