In addition, engineers have commoditized many technical solutions that used to be challenging in the past 15 years. Scaling used to be a tough challenge, not any more for many companies. In fact, part of my daily job is to prevent passionate engineers from reinventing wheels in the name of achieving scalability. It's not because we don't need to solve scalability problems, but because the infrastructure is good enough for most of companies. Building and operating so called "big data platform" used to be hard, not that hard any more. Building machine learning pipeline used to be hard, not that hard any more for many companies. Of course, it's still challenging to build a highly flexible and automated machine learning pipeline with full support of closed feedback loop, but many companies can get by without that level of maturity.
But maybe it's actually an appropriate term, now when our interview processes so clearly have ceased to be job interviews, and have become auditions - because nothing less satisfies our own grandiose self-importance.
> "On the other hand, how many companies desperately need product talents to figure out what is valuable to produce?"
These middle-management positions are so unmeasurable that I think they may be greatest source of bullshit jobs in tech. So if it's true that their success is largely unmeasureable, I wonder how you've come to that conclusion?
Yes. This one is accurate.
And yes, in a past life I was a master licensed plumber.
But, product improvements shouldn't be immeasurable. Through analysis of engagement metrics, talking with users, etc. one can measure improvements. Sure, it isn't a direct measurement, but pure unmeasurable intuition is not how good PMs function
It's the credit assignment problem IRL.
If this were true, hard-won experience would be prized, as it is in law, medicine, and all real professions, instead we have rampant ageism and statements like “young people are just smarter”.
Programmers that call themselves "engineers" are fooling themselves. Unless they are doing the sort of programming that the NASA shuttle team used, none of us are "engineers".
There is a career called C.S. Engineer and it has an huge amount of math and physics (equivalent to an undergrad + master's in the U.S.). Most of us take the career that's equivalent to an undergraduate degree though, the extra math (and grueling attrition) is mostly useless.
But graduates are very sought after because they've proven themselves able to go through a tough grind (even though they don't have a shred of practical experience after graduating)
And anyone with a degree who works in there field is a "engineer" even though the number that go for full Chartered status is a small minority - and that is more about who you know not what you know.
The BCS is a complete joke, completely irrelevant to anyone working in the field, I have no idea how it still exists or what it actually does for practitioners or for the industry.
I never bothered going that route as the BCS kept changing their minds on qualifying experience and the rules and actually don't do anything concreate for their members unlike say the BMA does for doctors.
So honest Q here if you feel so strongly why haven't you got your Ceng / E status
I don't feel strongly about it. I don't need people to call me an engineer, because I'm not an engineer and I have no intention of being one.
I'm a software developer, which is very different.
It's really not. Most of the software you use every day was developed by very average software developers. The vast majority of the work software developers do isn't terribly novel or particularly difficult. And you know what? They do just fine. Things work well. Systems stay on line. Companies make money.
I've seen too many "bad" teams produce perfectly functional software over the years to think that this gap exists anywhere but in Joel Spolsky essays.
I think comparing carpenters to software engineers does a disservice to carpenters. Software developers to me are more like dry-wallers. A really good one can do it faster, but the end result mostly always looks the same.
The difference between an average and a great carpenter, however, is immediately obvious. There is real craftsmanship there, and you can clearly see the difference.
It isn't until you get to the edges of software development that those same differences become clear. When you're dealing with very high scale, very aggressive performance metrics, or very difficult mathematical concepts you see the difference between average and great developers. But those are less than a fraction of 1% of software projects I'd wager.
* I should note: I'm a software developer.
If you have great developers, there will be a single straight wire from the switch to the lamp.
The end result for the user is the same though, until the mess of wire eventually overheats and burns down your house.
The key factor that you're probably not thinking about is time. A good dev doesn't think faster or have blazing fingers that fly across the keyboard, a good dev is constantly setting him/herself up to shave time off of future tasks, and those investments are constantly paying dividends.
Those "bad" teams can definitely produce software that runs, but they do it 10x slower than a "good" team could.
What takes a bad team of four six months to make takes a good team of two only 5 or 6 weeks.
Time is the key. Writing maintainable code is the investment a good developer makes because it pays off by increasing speed of interacting with that code.
I should note that I’m a software dev and a family member is a general contractor
While I do feel that folks grossly underestimate the skills that the best carpenters acquire over time, the software ecosystem generally is unique is that it's vastly large and complex. By any measure (switch points, surface area, person-years, etc.), the software we've all built in the past 70-ish years is the most complex thing ever implemented by human-kind.
Long ago it became far too large for any one person to "master" to the same degree an excellent carpenter might master his or her skills.
And the market agrees with the point of view, and values the economic output of the "best" software developers (at scale, not just one data point) at a far greater multiple over the "ok" ones, relative to other skills and trades.
One may not like this analysis (and my associated statement), but it is the state of the world.
For example, the people at Apple who came with blocks and Grand Central Dispatch did an amazing job, but the difference between them and the average software developer is like 100x. A great software developer can write something that other developers can build on, which makes them more productive.
Conversely, the people who came up with Java, they figured out how to turn a great programmer into an average one, and make them want to quit computers altogether, but the below average programmers are now also average.
Projects that don't fail, usually have to be rescued from some crazy doomed plans fairly regularly.
You seem to have found a calmer, saner corner of the industry.
Any profession to which someone can devote their life to (incl. carpentry or software development) is going to have gaps in skills between "ok", "good", and "great". Pejorative attitudes which measure something like software development as "harder" than carpentry are not beneficial and simply dilute the discourse.
Especially as many software devs are becoming more like "code plumbers," if anything the skill gap may be bigger in carpentry in the future.
First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.
Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.
The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.
The bigger question in my mind: why firms at all? If individual PMs are so great, why bother with employees? Wouldn't you rather just contract all the elements of a technical project to other folks for a fixed fee?
I do wonder what portion of good ol' boys and good ol' fashion nepotism tend to fill out the "PM" position on big firm's org charts.
From the article, "Firms exist as an alternative system to the market-price mechanism when it is more efficient to produce in a non-market environment."
Also, programmers are (often) worth more in teams. Two programmers who work well together are far more productive as a pair than the sum of what they'd do in isolation.
This isn't to discount the hard work involved in completing the technical tasks, but commiting _to_ begin something along a certain development vector is, indeed, the hard part.
Why not just... not employ the people you need to fight in order to get anything done? How does the organisation and its shareholders benefit from employing full-time professional obstacles to progress?
talking to customers (read: networking for their next job),
going to conferences (read: shmoozing with their next potential boss),
researching competitors (read: figuring out where to apply)
researching products (read: learning on the job)
Is it any surprise they tend to make more than people stuck in the office coding?
going to conferences -> Because face-to-face contact is far faster and richer than sending emails
researching competitors -> What aren't we doing that others are doing better / what are we doing that's winning / what to change?
researching products -> well, yes, constantly learning
Listening to customer needs, staying ahead, constantly learning. Sounds like good general career advice.
A paradigm shift is necessary before we end up strangling ourselves.
Nothing wrong with learning new things, though. I can get behind that. It's important to stay intellectually honest, however.
On the other hand, research efforts on vision, language and autonomous systems are genuinely pushing boundaries.
I 100% agree that most companies don’t need nearly as much ML as think though.
I think that's what the bad PMs do. Good PMs think 'what is the smallest possible thing we could do to start truly adding value against our problem space?'
A good heuristic is that good pms are problem oriented - bad pms are often focused on solutions first
On a side node, engineers do sometimes need to function as PMs to build great product.
I'm also of the opinion that a technical manager who purposely relegates engineering to a forgotten past is one who is pragmatically posturing for premature obsolescence; an axe in denial who refuses the occasional sharpening cannot be discerned from a rusty shovel and will sooner dig his own grave.
Also, even in the 0 experience group, the selection will be tougher. This is independent of the measurable or existing differences in skill. The person that is best at convincing the employer of hiring them as a solo product manager is in a better position to negotiate than the person who managed to be among the five seemingly best developers.
This could make the difference between having to do a complete rewrite at great expense, vs a small tweak.
For startup with no customers it's probably fine to cowboy up a solution, then throw away and start again, to find market fit.
But if you've got lots of customers, and you're forced to rewrite because the previous engineers left an unmaintainable mess, it's going to be hugely complex, risky, long & expensive undertaking.
I think that's perfectly reasonable. I find it hard to believe it would be "extremely irrational" to most people. Maybe I'm underestimating the extent to which money is fetishized in your culture (I presume the US).
Also, being able to save 2/3 of your net salary is... a ludicrously privileged position, underpaid or not.
I worked in the Bay Area and currently in Boston. I live in the startup culture.
> Also, being able to save 2/3 of your net salary is... a ludicrously privileged position, underpaid or not.
Yes! We software engineers are lucky. Even when we're underpaid (I'm paid $90k and my friends with similar experience, same education, same interest/skills are paid $150k--$250k) we can afford to have a comfortable life. It seems like I won't be able to afford to buy a house any time soon compared to say a Google engineer making $300k a year, but that's the only disadvantage I can think of now. (I hate mortgage and what not)
There is nothing wrong with being underpaid, but in the long run you want to make sure that it is for a good reason. It is hard to focus on more important things and ignore inequality, because inequality sucks. It doesn't matter how much attachment your have to an area, or what it means for your quality of life to live close to that workplace, when your rent skyrockets. You will most likely move while instead your landlords and their new tenants do whatever they think is important.
Maybe you are prepared for it or found some way to avoid that, but to me the US often just seem fundamentally incompatible with caring about important things without a lot of effort or money to back it up.
So if you started your career at 21 and if you are above average, your salary will grow from 25 to 25 / 37 or even 40. After that, ageism will play a role, so also newer tech that companies would prefer to hire the younger version of you rather than pay you your high salary.
Given that, if you already settle for a low salary and remain content at 21, you'll very quickly get priced out of your neighborhood in Boston (I own a rental unit there in Fenway and know the going rents for 1 BR, 2 BRs), and if you do end up getting married and having kids, your current lifestyle and saving will not be sustainable.
The greatest acceleration of your salary occurs early in your career, but that applies to most careers. The sustained level of your income is dependent on how you progress.
Personally, I think the movement to project management is a Bad Idea for programmers, because we make lousy project managers and they get paid like crap, because PM-ing is considered a "generic" skill that is not IT specific.
Product Management and Architecture roles are paid better because they need the hind/foresight to actually lead the development of a product/service. That skill is pretty much only developed by experience.
So like any industry, your career development will lead to potential income changes. How that reflects your needs as an individual (eg family etc) is up to you.
Though if I ever get close to this the plan isn't to retire just to have total choice of the work I do.
Best of luck to you.
1: Fair, but should you worry about getting fired? Even if you are in danger, if save 2/3 of your paycheck for every month of work you can afford a month of unemployment with no adjustment in lifestyle, that's already large, but you could increase this padding by having a market-conforming salary.
2: Is this worth $500+ a month to you? If so, I'd suggest you seek a therapist, because that is a much healthier long-term way to solve this problem.
3: Well yes... You can also try to not worry about it while earning more.
A nice company, normal hours and a good and interesting job is certainly worth an enormous intangible amount!
However, all things being equal I would not recommend you keep being intentionally underpaid.
My goal is to maximize the amount of money that can be made without the stress, pressure and demand of the job overtaking the enjoyment of the compensation.
Admittedly, I could be making more money and being more aggressive in my career but ultimately I am satisfied with the balance I have found.
I have a tendency to ignore things like stress (hard to measure) when selecting a job while overvaluing things that are easy to measure.
A thousand times this. Working for a small company it is expected that they won't be able to pay a highly competitive salary, but I have quite a few benefits.
However the most important part by far is being able to work solving software problems. Sometimes when doing explorative work I actually get to implement and (hopefully) reproduce recent scientific papers results. The highly technical work plus the low-pressure enviroment has been great for my mental health.
I even get to leave early the days I have classes, with no reduced pay.
For instance, Kubernetes is really hot right now, and there's a limited supply of people who know it, so people that know it can make upwards of $200K.
OTOH, you could be the world's greatest Windows admin and you'll be lucky to make half that, because there's a million people who know Windows.
TLDR: specialization is more lucrative than sheer hard work and expertise.
What do you think a billionaire does with his money? How much shit can you buy before you simply, run out of shit to buy?
What your talking about, is upper-middle, lower-high.
Eventually if you make enough cash, you will hit that limit. Sort of the whole "ball-washer" bit by Lewis Black.
its not a criticism; merely a remark - there is a point where that observation, hits a limit.
> they have become like animals with unlimited money, but money ended quickly though.
yup. pretty typical. takes a lot of mental discipline, to handle a serious wad of cash.
The life advice they offer has a different set of (mostly comical) issues. Mostly revolves around various permutations of "I worked 30-40 years at a company and got a pension paying out 10-20x what I contributed. If millennials would just work harder, they too could do that!"
1. Stop using the word "earning". We get paid, we don't necessarily earn our pay. Detach your pay from your perception about the work you do, and detach both from the value in the rest of your life. That may help you to take more money as well, if it turns out that that's what you really want.
2. As sibling comment says, it may be worth taking a pay cut in order to do something niche that interests you. I did this a long time ago and haven't regretted or reversed it. It returns the feeling of control to you.
3. Check out the country-wide or global statistics. I don't get paid all that much by HN standards, but I'm still in the top decile for my (rich) country.
4. People are very good at cutting cloth to what is available, and at making accommodations with it, so long as they are happy in other ways. I've had friends who get paid ten times what I do, and they are still living on the edge - one financial shock or employment setback and they're in trouble. My situation is no less secure than theirs.
The amount you get paid is a fact. It's comparable to other facts, but the comparisons themselves are also just facts. Maybe they and other facts will help you make a case for raising it (or to your manager, a case for lowering it), but if those arguments are couched in "should" language they are probably less likely to succeed.
Beautifully put. I kind of want to frame this, because it captures the brutal honesty of compensation.
If they don't blink and want you to come in, you're right: you're not making enough.
I've gotten, "Well, we should probably stop this call soon because my cap is X and you're asking for more than that." It was reassuring.
If they hire you you'll then be faced with the feeling that you're out of your depth, overpaid, and incapable of doing the job you took, but that's a different set of problems.
For recruiters who contact me from companies that aren’t my usual area of career interest, I do this to see what the upper bound is. It once backfired on me. Shortly after finishing grad school, a recruiter contacted me about a quantitative finance position and asked what range I was looking for. I replied “about $350k”. He responded, “We can work with that.” I think I had to scrape my jaw off the floor. I didn’t go any further with the process because the job seemed to require extensive travel and 80+ hour work weeks (and who knows if I could have even passed their rigorous interview process), but his reply was quite the revelation for someone who had never been in the workforce.
If a company has to pay you that much over typical market rate (for software devs), there's a reason.
All the market drivers are in place to make companies compete for senior/principle talent. Your salary is always a symptom of these economic drivers, not your tenure in the field.
Your financial well-being will be defined by negotiating during these goldrushes. Taking a “good” salary during these times could be the biggest mistake of your career.
Sleep on that!
The crazy thing is, going from 50k to 200k, I can't honestly pinpoint whether I'm signficantly happier or not. So I try to not get envy about even the more ridiculous salaries. How does one get off the hamster wheel and feel content enough with salary to just live?
I guess I’ve made it one of my goals to strive for more, but If I’d end my career at my current salary that would still be a solid endgame.
To me, I see rising trends in terms of cost of healthcare, cost of buying a home, schooling for kids, kids themselves, caring for aging parents, etc. I just think "Damn, even with a salary that is way above median for the country, can I realistically reach all my goals in 'due time'?".
Right now I'm not sure if the answer to that question is yes, but I know that when looking at some of the salaries I see around there that grabbing a job at that salary can definitely ease my anxiety.
Preparing for SWE interviews is definitely a rat race, and I may need to move to a high COL area to earn these types of salaries, but it's a trade-off I'm willing to make to help ensure that I can reach the goals I've set for myself.
The whole cultural bias against talking about how much money one makes has to go away - it serves no one except the people writing checks.
My friends and family rate has drifted down as low as $75 an hour recently, and I have gone as high as $400 an hour but it is uncommon.
I don't "work" that much and make just shy of 200k a year. I also round out the 40 hour weeks when I'm not billable by doing networking, marketing and tools development.
For the lazy: "Median comp package at FB is $240k/yr (this number is skewed low since it's over all employees, not just engineers). Google, Amazon, etc. pay similarly. Combined, these companies employ > 100k programmers in the U.S out of maybe 3M-ish programmers." Directly followed by a screenshot of one of ryandrake's older comments.
FWIW, I don't make $300k, or even $240k (yet) nor work at FAANGM. I also don't live anywhere near the bay area, but that matters less these days (at least if you're in the US). Neither of the numbers are unreasonable targets.
EDIT: For what it’s worth, I’d like to point out you’re attacking me personally in your message, and not even addressing what I said, which is that people tend to take a bunch of exaggeration and extrapolate.
To reiterate: $300k/yr is not an exaggeration. If you continue making the same sort of message in future threads relating to dev salary, I'd encourage you to up the number considerably or change your location frame to somewhere not in the US. You're right I was overly aggressive in my opening remark, I'm sorry for that.
There was a while when startups were more attractive for compensation than FAANGs, but the big companies really stepped up their game.
Nowadays you can work at a startup and hope to make a few million dollars in the unlikely event that it IPOs and you got in early enough to have a lot of shares, or you can work at a FAANG and be guaranteed to make a million dollars every 4-5 years, or even more frequently, and you'll have better benefits too.
at the low end a person making 130k in base is pushing 200k total comp.
“The average penis is 8 inch”
PMs come in a little senior to rank and file programmers. That doesn't mean that a PM of ten years experience makes more than a programmer of ten years.
"The salary advantage for product managers has only grown, says Hired’s data scientist Jessica Kirkpatrick. 'We see that software engineers have always been paid less than product managers, but that the pay gap has widened over the past year,' she wrote by email. The trend holds after accounting for experience. Software engineers, on average, are paid about 10% less than product managers in their first year as well as after six or more years of experience."
So it's not just a matter of PMs being more experienced.
No one is getting a product manager title at 21 right out of college. Lots of people are getting SWE titles at 21 right out of college.
I would expect their salaries to be in the same ballpark as a senior engineer or line manager.
There shouldn't be any surprise that these are highly compensated positions.
They don't need to be masters at any one of those things (aside from organization and management), but they need to be well above average at all of them, which is rare nexus of talents to find.
Also, experience and skills like that are usually earned through entry-level work in other fields. Most of the good PMs I work with came up through other career paths (like non-profits, academia, print or tv production, paralegals, etc.) that are typically not so well compensated. They make lateral moves into product management for financial reasons, and they top out quickly. The highest paid PMs I know were mostly just former engineers themselves.
Sales, product development, customer and market research, internal management, marketing - these are all critical skills for startups. People leaving to start their own businesses would shrink the pool, and put upwards pressure on wages.
I've also seen a lot of PM job ads asking for people with startup experience.
And the numbers in the article appear to be national, not limited to SV (despite the headline)...
"...31,146 interview requests from 1,848 companies made through Hired’s platform..."
"...Analyses of H1B work visas and Glassdoor data from Google, Facebook..."
There were plenty of generic product manager jobs in other industries, but they were all wondering why she's worth so much if she doesn't have experience in their industry. Shifting industries, even with the same generic skill set, would have resulted in a 10-20% salary cut.
Compounded by the fact that most companies don't hire PMs until they're more mature (aka more able to pay higher compensations), the methodology is pretty broken.
A company might have a whole team of engineers but only one PM, and the PM typically has a title like "Director of Product Management". So it gives the impression that product manager is a director-level position. But eventually as the company grows, they'll eventually hire more PMs who report to the Director of Product Management the same way the software engineers report to the Director of Software Engineering.
Edit: this does raise the question, though: where do product managers come from? What does the career path of a PM look like, including what happens before they become PMs?
I came over to the dark side from software development. Was tired of implementing other people’s bad ideas and convinced product leadership at my company that I could be an idea guy myself (along with all the other footwork and juggling you need to do as a PM). So it was an internal transfer. I think the good PMs have strong hands-on “actual development” backgrounds. I realize this is a self-serving opinion, too.
2) Internal transfers - Software Engineers switch to PM
3) Management/Technology Consultant -> PM: Folks switch from consulting (where they are implementing products designed by vendors) to becoming PMs in the vendor companies.
Most PMs I know are former software engineers (or if hired as PMs out of school, studied computer science) with good people skills and high level knowledge of what they help coordinate. I would hate to work with an MBA-type PM who couldn’t appreciate technical problems and solutions
According to sallaries on glass door, in sanfrancisco with 10-14 years exp:
Product Manager: 145k$
Web Developer: 110k$
Software Engineer: 135k$
Those middle management jobs seem to be super high stress, long hours, and low reward. Literally everybody I've known who went into one of those jobs did so upon the birth of their first kid, when they felt the financial pressure. Myself included.
Now that's my impression. If you like the job, of course I admire that, and welcome you to collect your reward!
I freaking hate this question as there is no magic answer aside from "whatever it takes to minimize the overall negative impact of the outcome for the company/project/product"
Switched to People Manager / Product Manager / Many Other Hats role around the birth of my child.
I find it quite rewarding, but yes, endless hours and high stress. It's also an adjustment from programmer life when you had very short feedback loops, but now as a manager no one ever tells you "Hey, you're doing a good/bad job here!" and instead, you have to just read every situation better and generally don't see results of initiatives or work you've done until months (or years) later
When people grow and you find opportunities for them, it's incredibly rewarding and amazing. That's one thing I could never have as a programmer on my own.
Turning "off" is hard but I manage my hours so that I get home early enough to make dinner and spend the evening with my son before he's in bed by 8pm. I usually work (or think about work) after that unless I have a planned event.
I'm just spewing now -- I think most of us product managers need therapy sessions to just talk to people. There's just so much .. :)
I don't know. I love the product we've built and I find challenge through iterating on the big ideas. Sometimes I like to go back in the code and improve non critical things. Maybe I'm just a workaholic?
If your company is using the sprint model, the Product manager is not doing much of project management.
At the end of the day, what a PM does depends on the company and how they use PMs
In practice I'm not sure how different they actually are. Typically when someone is desperate to say how much better/harder their title difference is it's because it's not really obvious otherwise.
The project managers are in the engineering department and interface with the engineers, suppliers, operations, etc. Most have engineering degrees.
They work out most of the project documentation together, such as the specifications, budget, schedule, etc.
Yes, they make more, in some cases much more, but after being in IT for over 20 years, I desire my "8-4 M-F no work nights/no work weekends" life more than I do a little extra coin. I go home and do zero work save things for the wife and kids, which are more akin to fun projects. I have told my boss more than once that I have a union mentality towards work. I work only during working hours. I demand a life/work balance and would happily leave should this become otherwise. I tell young IT people all the time to not allow themselves to be burned out. Work your day job and go home to your girlfriend/wife and enjoy your down time. When I'm home, I don't do any IT work other than tinker with Raspberry Pis or projects with my kids.
You cannot hit the rewind button if you have a family. Your family will not remember you for your long work schedule (hell, they may not even remember you), rather you will be remembered for the quality time. I have told myself that I want my kids to remember our time together as one big, fun on-going series of projects where we learn things together and have fun doing it.
I take my kids fishing and hunting, for example, things they thoroughly enjoy. We go to the cinema, bookstore to get hands on reading time, they have learned how to budget for groceries, gas, fun money, etc. I could do none of this were I chained to my desk at work pounding out code in Visual Studio.
(For those of you reading this who haven't ever been a hiring manager at a bigco, there's a whole negotiation dance we tend to have to do with our internal HR department that you as a candidate don't see. This is why giving us hard data on what your other offers might look like, for example, helps us knock sense into the bean counters. Whee!)
But, all that said... I could never do what they do. Oftentimes PMs are the last guys to leave, working weekends, scrambling for last minute keynotes and honestly pushing out ideas faster than anyone — good or bad. So even though I don’t always like working under a PM, I definitely respect the position and think in general the good ones really deserved the $$$.
Trust me, I’d love to dig into the code (and most of the engineering team doesn’t realize I read their PRs + code every day still so I’m well aware when they’re sane-bagging) but the goal of a well run team is push/pull.
I can weigh the benefits of a product feature from the business and engineering tech debt, retention, etc angles and I do from time to time when the team doesn’t step up but I’m going to be biased towards shipping business value because I’m the umbrella that catches all the praise and the shit-storm when things go wrong.
You need a ton more victories to survive in PM world then you do in Eng world. It’s easier to be mediocre in Engineering then product b/c you’re gone after the 2nd or third bad launch.
Maybe you’ve never worked with a good PM?
In fact, when startups are acquired, this is often exactly how their C-suite ends up: CEO -> PM, CTO -> TL, COO -> PgM.
Sales Engineering has that "talk about the business," "talk about the tech," "talk about the people" flavor but with directly measurable outcomes, high transferability across jobs, and depending on commission structure and company - 2x-3x pay.