My thinking is that not many folks have a good idea of what product is, or like me, failed to even be aware that it was a career path after graduating college. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t look at articles or listen to podcasts, it was just straight up that PRODUCT MANAGEMENT isn’t something that’s necessarily hyped up at career fairs and interview events…
Or, as Wikipedia puts it..
“…an organizational function within a company dealing with new product development, business justification, planning, verification, forecasting, pricing, product launch, and marketing of a product or products at all stages of the product life cycle.”
You’re probably wondering what made me switch from a sales role — quite honestly it is that I’ve always been a lifelong builder. Back in high school, I took a graphic design class and since then have built a myriad of websites for entrepreneurs and businesses, as well as been blessed to run my own digital marketing firm for a time. This idea of creating something from nothing has always fascinated me, and when combined with the ability to alleviate a pain that someone has, there’s no way that I could pass it up. So that’s why I switched, I like to build stuff.
Now, let me be frank — I AM NO EXPERT, by any means; I’ve only been in product since October of 2021. That being said, however, I have learned an insane amount just by getting in, keeping my eyes peeled, and my ears open. So, to explain what I’ve taken away in the past few months, here you go.
So let’s take a baseball game for example. Let’s say the Dodgers (my favorite team) are playing the White Sox. The game starts 0–0. The Dodgers score 3 runs with a total of 3 hits — each of them a home run. In the same game, the White Sox score 1 run with a total of 10 hits. Now, on paper looking at that game, one could easily say well the White Sox played better because they got 10 hits even though it only resulted in 1 run. Now while this could technically be correct, at the end of the day it doesn’t mean anything. What matters is that the Dodgers scored 3 runs and the White Sox scored 1, resulting in a Dodger’s win.
My point is, the outcome is all that matters. In product, it’s the same thing. A client or customer presents a problem, we craft a solution and then provide that solution to the client. Nothing matters as much as solving that problem. The positive outcome of a happy client and a solved solution should be the top priority of any product manager.
I know this one might seem obvious BUT, I had to stress its importance. When in product, business, neurosurgery, or life really, we can’t afford to miss the details. Too often we let things slide by and we miss them because we’re too busy focusing on the big picture. Have you ever seen those videos where they show something outrageous, then ask you what color clothes a person was wearing?
It’s no wonder why eyewitness accounts cause roughly 52% of wrongful convictions according to Ohio State University — we often get caught up in the big event or ask in front of us, and yet fail to remember and explore the small things that can make all the difference. The point is, I’ve learned that details matter, and glossing over them can have large consequences.
Now, this being my final point, is probably the most important. Software engineers are a valuable group of people, especially talented software engineers. Combine this with a constant flow of customer feedback it can seem at times to all be just white noise. It’s because of this that as a product manager, we ask why.
It’s important to ask these questions when evaluating a new feature opportunity or request. In product, I’ve learned that it’s not about what you say yes to, but what matters is what you say no to.
So, that’s it. I’m just kidding. I’ve learned so much more in my first couple of months in product management. Most of it has been tactical — learning sprints, planning, and how to think about a business environment, but here in this list, I’ve included some of the high-level concepts that have been impressed upon me. If you’d like to get a bit more insight into what else I’ve learned from a tactical perspective, I recorded a quick video about it so you can check out WTF is Product Management on Youtube. Hopefully, after reading this you can come to a bit more of an educated conclusion in figuring out if product management might be a career path for you.