Can someone be both Product Manager and Software Developer at the same time?

Can someone be both Product Manager and Software Developer at the same time in the same organization? If yes, how common is this?

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Wearing multiple hats is not impossible but very difficult.
I would say that this is quite uncommon.

If you are in a startup and you have the dev skills it may happen.
But you should try to plan to get a dedicated Software Engineer as fast as possible since focusing on product is hard and time consuming enough already.
And you are taking away valuable time from product discovery by diving in the minute details and also producing good code.

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If you’re doing both skills effectively. You’re likely a co-founder and you should get paid accordingly.

A lot of recruiters ask for this combination and will not pay you accordingly.

There is a reason both jobs are separate full time jobs.

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@PaulineFrancis, This is a perfect response. If you are putting in your time and effort doing multiple jobs simultaneously you are a genius and you need to be compensated for that. imo

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Echoing what’s been said already, I’d always ask why they need to be the same person. That will tell you something important about the maturity/funding of the organization.

  • Can they be the same person? Sure.

  • Can a sculptor also be a painter? Sure, why not?

  • Will they do both equally as well and with their full attention? Probably not.

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Often the eng manager on a devops pod acts as a product manager as well in smaller orgs should there not be a dedicated PM to devops… while also doing software eng work.

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In specific contexts - absolutely yes. One that immediately comes to mind is a platform project, where one can be both developer, and a (technical) PM/PO for the project.

For customer-facing initiatives this would be fairly uncommon, unless a consequence of some unfortunate staffing/funding situation (e.g. the PM quit and isn’t backfilled, so a member of a dev team takes on their role).

Why fairly uncommon? Because there’s a reason for PM role - you don’t want a fox guarding the henhouse. Each discipline (engineering, marketing, sales, etc), if given a chance, would run the product in a way that advances their agenda and goals. E.g., an engineer might over-invest in the tech stack and overkill the solution with some bleeding-edge technologies, unless kept in check.

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I worked for a startup, starting as a developer and transitioning into the product owner/manager role as we needed leadership and direction. I was paid accordingly and didn’t feel used or overstretched, but it gave me some great insight into the engineering/business link. I could get an ask from the CEO and then immediately translate it into an actionable story that I could THEN go and… well… action upon. And it also allowed me as the engineer to push back and provide alternatives for asks that solved the problem (instead of implementing a solution brought to me).

So, definitely doable.

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I did this in an agency setting also including some design work like wireframing.

End of the story: burnout and left the job. Wouldn‘t recommend it :slight_smile:

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Before the advent of product management in software this was an extremely common practice, and where the the ole adage of “engineers make the best PMs” comes from.

A lot of us old timers had been doing product management before it had a name.

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Very difficult unless it is a ground up new product with 1 or 2 small customers where you are in the MVP stage.

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Depends on the size of the company.

I started learning about the EOS business format and instead of an org chart, they use an accountability (roles) chart. So that as a small company grows from 1 person to many, the roles are covered and don’t overlap.

EOS is a pretty popular business format with lots of free resources on YouTube and the EOS website. If you are interested in small business (less than 100 employees), I recommend you check it out.

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I’m not sure how common it is but I’m a software engineer and I do PM work. I work in a large organization but we’re resource strapped so maybe that’s why I wear multiple hats. But that’s why I want to make the official switch into product management so I can have the title and the salary.

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In this day and age, very unlikely to play both the roles of a PM & SDE.

We are at the age of specialization. You are better off getting really good and getting very focused at your role.