This article is based on Ambika’s brilliant interview on the Product Marketing Careers podcast, which you can listen to in its full glory right here.

I'm Ambika Aggarwal, the Director of Product Marketing at Culture Amp. In this article, I'll be excitedly walking you through the journey that led me to where I am today. Plus, we'll dive into the essential traits of a good product marketer, as well as the qualities I look for when hiring new PMMs.

  • My journey into product marketing
  • Driving strategic value in product marketing
  • The vital skills all product marketers need
  • What I look for in potential PMM recruits
  • Getting on the PMM career ladder

My journey into product marketing via product management

Going back to my high school days, I worked every summer. My motivation? Some disposable income.

My very first paid job was at a home goods store. I vividly recall dreading those quiet weekdays, from Monday to Thursday, where boredom was my only companion. I always craved busy weekends. They gave me the chance to chat with customers, ensure they found what they were looking for, and even suggest items based on our conversations.

Looking back, this was probably my first hint that understanding and connecting with buyers was something I enjoyed.

Fast forward a few years after I graduated from business school, I eventually stumbled upon product marketing when I began working for Athenahealth as a product manager. But even then, collaborating closely with a product marketing manager for key launches, I still didn't feel particularly interested in pursuing a career in product marketing.

That all changed when I joined Lyra Health, a behavioral health startup. I was one of the first 25 employees, and we all had to don multiple hats, stepping into roles that weren't strictly our domain.

It was here that I truly got my hands dirty with product marketing.

Working hand-in-hand with a PMM, I took on challenges like positioning our solution, setting up our first customer advisory board, building personas, and crafting messaging for our inaugural website and pitch deck.

The beauty of it all? Regular interactions with customers.

Their invaluable feedback, which I used to guide our product roadmap, made me a much better product manager. That’s where my deep dive into the world of product marketing truly began.

What fascinated me about the PMM role was its inherently cross-functional nature. PMMs collaborate with diverse teams, from product management to sales and account management. I was drawn to the opportunity to work across various departments and contribute value in multiple ways.

The more I was exposed to product marketing, the clearer it became that it was a better match for my skill set. PMM is less technical than product management but remains highly strategic.

One of my strengths as a product manager was being able to take a highly technical product and simplify it to highlight its core benefits and value drivers. This skill is essential for PMMs, and it was one I wanted to refine

My product marketing career highlight

I've only been in my current role at Culture Amp for three months, but I can already see potential career highlights taking shape. However, as I'm still building my team and getting integrated into projects, I'll share an accomplishment from my previous role at Momentive, where I built the win/loss and competitive intelligence program from scratch.

My journey began with a quest for better data on our wins and losses, which we could use in our messaging. Conversations with my boss revealed a gap in our win-loss data, so I spearheaded a program to address this gap, from conceptualizing the idea to securing the necessary resources and budget.

After establishing a solid foundation for win-loss insights, I expanded the scope to a more comprehensive competitive intelligence framework. We initially zoomed in on our primary competitor, but I designed a playbook for scaling this to other competitors through battlecard templates and deep positioning plays. I also conducted enablement sessions and one-on-one competitive deal evaluations.

This whole project grew from a need for improved data, but I seized the opportunity to expand it into something much larger.

I'm super proud of the work I did. In fact, it serves as the backbone for Momentive's competitive intelligence program today.

How to drive strategic value in product marketing

As you know, being a PMM is like being the company’s quarterback. We often find ourselves inundated with requests from various teams, which can be quite overwhelming.

This is where a strong PMM leader makes all the difference.

They can help you prioritize and ensure you’re able to spend time on strategic projects – the ones you're truly passionate about. These are projects born from close interaction with customers and market data, which reveal unmet needs.

At Momentive, I was fortunate to have managers who recognized PMM's strategic potential. They acknowledged the importance of day-to-day operational tasks but encouraged me to set aside 20 to 25% of my time to focus on new, impactful, long-term initiatives.

Their support gave me the freedom to elevate the strategic value of the product marketing function.

My product marketing superpower

My product marketing superpower is prioritization, which might not sound like a superpower when you first read it.

However, given how broad this role is and how we can easily become jacks-of-all-trades, prioritization is pivotal. Without it, the plethora of projects and initiatives coming your way can make it impossible for you and your team to focus on the tasks that drive impact.

There are a couple of frameworks I like to use to ensure that my team and I stay proactive rather than reactive.

For instance, I collate sales feedback a quarter in advance. I do this by dedicating around five hours a week to listening to Gong calls, and urge my team to do the same.

This gives us invaluable insights into buyers' and prospects' struggles, needs, and pain points. It also helps us understand the challenges our sales team faces. All this external and internal feedback helps me pinpoint the areas we need to prioritize.

It also means that when I engage with sales leadership or present to account management and other teams about our plans for the upcoming quarter or year, there's a palpable sense of trust.

They believe in our strategy, our insights, and most importantly, our capability to deliver results.

This isn't a fluke; it's an outcome of the consistent performance my team and I have delivered.

So, prioritization is one of my standout strengths. The other is my ability to transition between strategic vision and hands-on execution. With a background in business, I'm good with data, and I know how to craft strategic initiatives geared towards growth.

But it doesn’t end with planning. I take those plans through the necessary steps, from initial socialization to securing executive approvals. I then set out a clear DACI framework outlining roles, responsibilities, and execution paths. Balancing strategy and execution in this way, I'd say, is another one of my PMM superpowers.

The most vital skills for product marketers to master


The crux of a PMM's job is to distill the product's value into messaging that resonates with its target audience. This message should not only stand out but also be compelling. That makes storytelling one of the most vital skills that PMMs need to nail.

Whether you're crafting a new pitch deck, updating the website messaging, launching a campaign, or executing a positioning play, weaving in compelling storytelling is crucial. This ability doesn't appear overnight; it's a skill that develops with time, but I believe it's indispensable for any PMM.

Strategic thinking

In addition to storytelling, another skill whose importance I can't stress enough is strategic thinking. PMM is, by nature, a strategic role.

As I've mentioned before, they often act as the company's quarterbacks, pushing the business agenda forward.  Understanding the overarching company goals and determining how best to influence them through targeted go-to-market activities is critical.

For instance, you might grapple with questions like whether it's worthwhile to target a specific industry or if there's a new audience persona you should be focusing on. The ability to spearhead such projects, analyze both internal and external data, and present a compelling business case is invaluable. So, strategic thinking isn't just a plus – it's essential.

The skills you need as you climb the PMM ladder

Starting my journey as a senior product manager, I was fortunate to directly step into a senior product marketer role. I went from a senior PMM to lead PMM, and now I hold the title of director. As you advance through these positions, there's a noticeable shift in the scope and responsibility of your role.

Shifting and stepping back from the day-to-day

Moving up the ladder means gradually stepping back from the day-to-day execution. Instead, you find yourself dedicating more time to setting goals, crafting budgets, strategizing, and defining key projects for both yourself and your team.

Another significant part of the role is helping your team with prioritization, which we've already established as crucial.

Engaging with executives during cross-functional meetings

As you ascend in your PMM career, you'll often find yourself attending and presenting at cross-functional meetings. Engaging with executives provides a deeper insight into the company's operations, growth objectives, and areas where your team can contribute.

But there's another dimension to these meetings: they serve as platforms to underscore the value PMMs bring to the organization.

As PMMs, we sometimes face the challenge of ensuring parts of the organization recognize our value. At the directorial level, these meetings become crucial avenues to highlight your team's exceptional work and contributions.

Now, reflecting on all the roles I've taken on, I believe the position of lead PMM was the most demanding. The reason being, you're navigating a delicate balance between contributing to the overarching strategy while simultaneously executing various responsibilities. Add to that the desire to exhibit budding people management skills, and you've got your hands full.

Yet, this position is a pivotal juncture in a PMM's career. It acts as a litmus test, determining your readiness for the next step into a directorial position.

I’m a huge fan of the lead PMM role; it offers a fantastic opportunity for introspection, so you can decide if you're committed to taking the next step. If the answer is a resounding 'yes,' you've paved a clear path to the directorial level.

What I look for in a potential PMM recruit

I'm currently expanding my team. The qualities I look for in potential recruits vary slightly based on whether I’m looking for an associate-level PMM or someone more senior. However, there are some traits I search for across the board.

Go-to-market experience

Firstly, I look for some level of go-to-market experience. By this, I mean have they launched a product or solution? Have they tackled a new market segment? What was their specific role in the process? How did they collaborate with others to ensure a successful launch?

I’ve interviewed a lot of product marketing candidates, and it’s easy to spot when someone has led a go-to-market initiative as opposed to just casually contributing.

That leadership in go-to-market is crucial. It’s not about whether every launch was flawless, but how they managed it and what lessons they drew from the experience.

Growth mindset

Secondly, I value a growth mindset. This can be a little harder to pinpoint during interviews, but I'm particularly keen on understanding how candidates have transformed past challenges into learning experiences.

In product marketing, we're constantly iterating based on feedback. We're constantly talking with sales teams, engaging with customers, and adjusting our messaging. I need individuals who not only accept feedback but are also proactive in turning it into actionable insights to leverage it to their advantage.

How to get onto the product marketing career ladder

Firstly, let’s address a common misconception: While product marketing might seem niche, you don't necessarily need prior experience to land a PMM role. Yes, some candidates might come with experience, but that's not a blanket expectation. If you're aiming to stand out in the applicant pool, let’s look at a few strategies to consider.

First, immerse yourself in the PMM world. Familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the role. A practical way to do this is by connecting with PMMs within your current organization. Understand their daily tasks and the initiatives they're steering, and identify where they might need assistance.

Given the all responsibilities PMMs have on their plates – from product development to demand generation to sales – there's always an abundance of projects underway, and they’ll probably appreciate your help.

From conducting market research and delving into customer insights to gathering competitive intelligence, there’s no scarcity of opportunities. Having firsthand experience in these areas can give you invaluable insights and a tangible edge in the recruitment process.

I’d also recommend coupling hands-on experience with some formal training to bolster your credentials. Consider enrolling in a PMM certification course, such as those offered by the Product Marketing Alliance. This not only broadens your knowledge but also sends a clear message to potential employers: you're committed to the field. When I screen resumes, these certifications always catch my eye.

In short, seize opportunities within your current role to gain real-world experience, and complement this with some structured learning.  You’ll soon be well on your way to landing your first product marketing role.