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What is a product manager?
The ambiguity of the product management function is its very essence.
Product management, it’s one of the vaguest and misunderstood roles in the tech industry. But, did you know that a massive number of current CEOs got their start as product managers?
Deep down, we all want to build things. It can be with our own hands, through our own skill and hard work, renovating, building, or making something. A table, vase, a new home, something that made us proud. Or it could be adding value to potential customers solving their problems, and consequently creating a new business.
I have been working in technology as a product manager and team member to bring products to market throughout my career. If want to become a product manager or build a new product, and want to know the tricks of it. Keep reading and follow us.
In this article, I will talk about what product management actually is. By the end, you’ll have an excellent understanding of the role, and hopefully, be even more excited about it.
Does that excite you?
If it doesn’t, You should probably leave now. You shouldn’t be a product manager. I’m kidding.
My experience as a Product Manager sums up in this diagram. I also love graphs. I will explore in more detail. The following video portrays a small piece of the struggle a Product Manager faces daily.
Product Manager Role
A product manager’s role and exact responsibilities change across different industries in different companies. A product manager from Tesla will have one set of responsibilities. And for Apple, a completely different set of duties. Even between companies in the same industry, it will depend on the combinations of company, the industry, and the size.
In the startup environment, almost every founder CEO also, acts as a product manager. Steve Job is one of the most famous product/CEO in our modern/tech history. Product management is about building the right product at the right time, so it is easily one of the most influential functions in any company.
My focus here is the core tenets that make up product management. The first and most important thing to know about product management is that you’re actually not a manager of anybody. No one reports to you, you’re nobody’s boss, and you definitely can’t fire anyone.
This is by design; a product manager needs to continuously interact with many different people, get maximum collaboration from their engineers and the designers they work with.
You want honest feedback from engineers and designers you work with, but you’re also their boss. Do you really think they’re going to give you 100% honest feedback if they have any disagreements with what you have to say? Probably not, right?!
So you want them to be comfortable to question and disagree with your ideas. A product manager sits in between multiple areas of a company and acts as a communications hub, organizer, and enabler for everyone else. So, I have a few funny stories around that. A few years ago, I joined a commodity company to built tech products. I remember been introduce to several people, and everyone asked the same question: “What do you do?” After a few clumsy answer, I finally arrive at this version:
I am the guy who will say more NOs than YESis, and I’ll do my best to better understand your pain and try to find a solution that fits you, our business, and it’s scalable.
For engineers and designers, a product manager is a blocker slash enabler. The communication between a product manager is his team is crucial; the enabling aspect of product management goes beyond that relationship. Remember that you are working with specialists, Engineers are good at engineering, and designers are good at designing. So, invest your time to help your team do what they do best.
While engineers focus on solving technical challenges, product managers talk with stakeholders. Collecting feedback, looking at metrics to decide what things should be built next, which are most important, and the best time.
You probably use, or have used a product, whether software or physical, where the product is good, but (always a but) is there a small piece that is just terrible? And you must ask yourself, how did they not see this? The product’s general responsibility lies with the product team (PM, engineer, and designer); the product manager is the key link between you and the team to identify these failures before they happen.
A product manager is a communication hub, which also prioritizes, researcher, semi-data-scientist, a communicator. And, most importantly, they’re responsible for the success of the product.
You probably have a few questions by now:
“How to deliver a product without being a boss?”
“How to build a successful product?”.
I’m glad you asked. I will answer the first one in the following article and give you insight into the product life cycle you will use to build your own products.