My Best Moments in Product
"What are some of your best moments as a product manager? What do you enjoy the most?"
A common question I was asked by other product managers, those who are new, and those who are breaking into product. I'm going to provide my answers in this post. I'm not going to brag about my accomplishments though. I'm just going to share what I enjoy the most in product management, so far in my career.
There are honestly A LOT I love, so I'll explain this in 2 parts. I'll first name my top 3 favorite, then I'll briefly talk about other things I like.
HINT: NOT the title, NOT the pay, NOT the "CEO of the product" thing.
My Top 3
It's the People, Personal Growth, and No Boredom.
I probably have mentioned a few times in my blog (such as My Career Transition), that I strongly believe product manager is a people-centric role. As in, a product manager often doesn't directly build products. She leads and builds a great team to build great products. This was one of the main reasons why I stepped into product management in the first place. I got great sense of accomplishment by influencing people and empowering them to be successful. That sense of accomplishment amplifies, when doing all these in turn also makes myself (as a PM) successful (i.e. by collectively launching successful products).
Plus there are other side benefits. Because my role requires me to connect with many people very frequently, 1) I ended up building quite a lot of lasting connections with talented and great people. 2) I got better and more comfortable at interacting with people (as an introvert). This leads into the next point.
Sure enough, you would grow and get better at product management by being a product manager. But I'm talking about the personal growth beyond what's conventionally seen as product skills. The type of growth that leads me to become a better person and live my life more fully. Let me elaborate.
First and continuing on my last point - growth about People. Product management provides me daily, on the job training about dealing with people of all backgrounds and personalities. It's definitely never about any "trick" to convince people or make them like you. It requires genuine connection, deep understanding of people's need and motivation, being helpful, and empowerment. And these "skills", are totally transferrable to how you face your family, friends, or even strangers you run into.
Second, Prioritization. A PM not only prioritizes critically for her team; equally if not more important she needs to prioritize critically for herself: 100 people to meet, 100 meetings to go to, 100 docs to read, another 100 PRD/strategy memo/PR notes/etc to write in a week. You just cannot NOT prioritize and survive. Well such is life isn't it? You'd have 100 hobbies to nurture, 100 books to read, 100 restaurants to choose from for dinner, all parents/wife/husband/kids/relatives/friends to serve, all while needing to sleep. PM teaches me a lot.
Third, Business. A PM ultimately delivers value to and moves the needles for the business. In such role, she needs to look both broadly and deeply into how business operates, the entire industry and landscape, root of the gaps and problems, and develop strategies to lead the business toward the right direction. To me it's like the on-the-job business school (while getting paid). Why does it matter to our personal lives? Well it might matter more to some than others. But think about it, if you ultimately want to create your own business (small or large), it helps a lot. Even if you don't, I increasingly see how managing my career and life are like managing a business. There are growth, competition, financial aspects of things that are fairly similar. Also, I used to be thinking that I was never of interest to start my own business at all and I just wanted to collect good paycheck through the rest of my life. I started to think that it's not a bad idea to start a small business at some point. The reasoning is beyond the scope of this article :)
And there are many more. Basically, I believe product management trains us to be more all-around and balanced skills wise. And all of them collectively contributed to how I plan and live my life for the better.
This is highly subjective. For me, product management is never boring. Don't get me wrong, I got frustrated by all sorts of problems all the time. But I was never bored. That's because,
There are never ending problems of all kinds awaiting you to solve: business problems, product problems, user problems, people/colleague problems, execution problems, data problems, leadership/organizational/political problems, etc etc.
There are always news things to learn: whether you stay in the same product role or you switch around over the years. New domains, new market segment, new competitors, new technology, new trends, new way of thinking, you name it. You cannot survive if you're not constantly learning (yes, probably true for many other roles too).
There are too many kinds of human being to work with: again going back to people. I feel like I'm exposed to the whole encyclopedia of personality types + all sorts of backgrounds, preferences, mental models, communication styles, etc. Like it or not, you just have to figure out ways to work with all of them (NOT the same as "pleasing" all of them).
There's more. I like the breadths and depths. I like the problem solving process. I like the strategic components in this role. I like ownership. I like delivering impacts to the users and the business. I like applying structures to mess. I like to absorb a ton of information and synthesize before spitting it back out. I like to learn from failure and begin again.
I don't want to make it sound like it's the best role in the world. I don't think it is. There are lots of unique challenges in PM not mentioned in this article (just like any other role). It's also highly subjective depending on what you want. For me it's just what I have been enjoying doing so far, and I'm sharing with you why and what specifically. My hope is it'll get you thinking for yourself what YOU like about product management, especially if you're aspiring, or a PM who happens to be at the crossroad in your career.
Now, what do you like about product management? I'm eager to hear. Leave a comment below!