PTPA #014: Is Product Management a good fit you?Mar 25, 2023
Read time: 5 minutes.
Product Management continues to be a hot topic and I won't lie - it's pretty fun being one.
But... how do you know if Product Management is for you?
When I was trying to get into my first PM role, I was blindly following what everyone else around me was doing.
Somehow it worked! and I can say with excitement that I enjoy my job.
But what if I didn't like it? Could I have known if Product Management was for me before putting all my time and effort into becoming one?
In short, yes! and here's how.
These are 5 things to consider about being a PM before you get your first (or next) PM role.
1. Are you comfortable with Ambiguity?
When a data scientist on one of my previous teams became a PM, his first question was: How do I know what am I supposed to do next?
This is the day-to-day of a Product Manager. Every day feels like a blank page and yet there are 1,000 things to complete.
Ambiguity in Product Management means that you have a defined Goal. For example, sometimes the Goal can be creating a new solution to a problem. Other times it could be working towards improving a specific metric.
You know your destination, but you don't know the best way to get there or the things you should avoid along the way.
The good news is that you won't be alone and you'll have a team to support you along the way.
The bad news is that as the PM on the team, your job is to figure out how to get your team to the goal.
Every framework you've seen or heard about are tools to help you navigate uncharted territory. These tools will help you, but won't remove the ambiguity in your day-to-day.
As a Product Manager, you have to be comfortable with big goals and little to no instructions every day.
2. Do you enjoy learning about Technology?
I always thought that reading tech blogs and speaking about the new cool features released in a product was enough to say that I "speak technology" as a Product Manager.
I was wrong.
Being comfortable with technology means that you should learn how systems work, even if you don't know how to code them.
Even if you are not a Technical Product Manager.
For example, you should know (or be curious and willing to learn) what is an API (Application Programming Interface) and how it works. You need to understand how your engineering team uses APIs, why they are important, and what you can/can't do with them.
Like this example of APIs, there are countless other technical terms that you should know about (let me know if you'd like me to share a list of tech terms!). Or at least, you should be comfortable researching, asking questions, and studying in your almost inexistent free time.
As a Product Manager, you have to be comfortable learning about how technology works, not only how cool it looks.
3. Do you prefer to work with others (most of the time)?
Product Managers are not the "CEOs" of a product. Product Managers have no authority over anyone around them (until they become people managers).
Product Managers are both the glue that sticks everyone together to solve customer problems that align with the business goals, as well as the guide that everyone wants answers from - even if they don't have them.
Influencing people takes time and effort. Influencing people start like any investment: You start with small and constant efforts that will pay dividends in the long run.
You'll be working with people every day, many hours a day. Yet, you do not need to be an extrovert to thrive as a Product Manager. Introverts manage their social energy in different ways and can also be PM rock stars.
While Product Managers still have to accomplish a lot on their own (like creating strategy documents, presentations for their leadership team, and sorting through tons of data), they have to prioritize building those relationships and ensuring that their team is unblocked and has a clear direction.
As a Product Manager, you have to be comfortable knowing that a big part of your time will go into getting to know everyone around you. Knowing that you need to invest in getting to know what motivates others, what they struggle with, and how you can bring everyone together to achieve something greater.
4. Do you like having a lot of exposure and responsibility in the company?
Product Management is that role where everyone celebrates when things go great, but where the PM is the first to get questioned when something goes bad.
Product Managers are the decision makers, the experts, and should be the most knowledgeable person on the team about their product. They are often pulled into meetings with important customers, put in front of the executive team to review strategic plans, and get the center stage on important presentations.
Sounds cool, doesn't it?
That is until something goes wrong... Then PMs are also pulled into all those meetings to answer questions and are held accountable.
As a Product Manager, you are responsible for aligning everyone toward a researched and data-driven goal. You are responsible for the exciting parts of it, as well as for being the first to have to answer questions.
Product Management is a High-Risk, High-Reward job.
5. Are you ok with doing MANY things outside of your job description?
Product Manager job descriptions tend to be thorough and lengthy... and yet, they are never complete.
You've probably heard the typical responsibilities of Product Managers:
- Working cross-functionally
- Leading without authority
- Working on User Stories
- Creating a Strategy and Vision
- Being data-driven
And while yes, those are part of the world of Product Managers, what about...
- Creating all the text for your product because there's no person in the content team to help.
- Doing your market research because marketing and data analysts are busy.
- Working on your dashboard (and learning SQL) because your eng/data science teams are busy.
- Drafting the marketing campaign, the release notes, or the Sales training documents because your product marketing team is busy.
- Editing the 5 urgent last-minute presentations needed for sales, marketing, and the leadership team. All due yesterday.
- Answering the cryptic emails from the executive team that is sent at 10 pm about a customer complaint.
As a Product Manager, you'll be doing plenty of things not part of your job description or what you read in a book to help your team and your product succeed.
Product Management is a great career path that puts to the test all of your hard and soft skills!
If you answered yes to those 5 questions, then Product Management is a career that you'll enjoy for a long time!
- Are you comfortable with Ambiguity?
- Do you enjoy learning about Technology?
- Do you prefer to work with others (most of the time)?
- Do you like having a lot of exposure and responsibility?
- Are you ok with doing MANY things outside of your job description?
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