How do you explain Product Management to a layman?

Hey Folks,
Just wondering:

  1. How would you describe what you do to your grandma?
  2. How has PM changed since you started your career?
    Would love to hear from y’all.
    TIA
8 Likes

I’ve explained this position to so many people here’s the way I do it.

Here’s what I say: It’s my job to make a product better so that it makes more money for the company and it’s a better experience for the user.

I’ll use any product that I have around as an example. Usually a shoe or a phone case.

I tell them that I want to change the grip on the phone case or the color. I ask people who bought the case before if they think is a good color change or good grip change, and the people who I want to buy it I asked them as well. Everybody agrees that purple is the best color. I send those requests over to the people who build phone cases. By the time the people who build a case make the changes. I would have already made a commercial, to tell everybody about the color changes. Then we hope that the phone case sells more cases than it did last year.

That’s how I explain it. My job is to make the company more money by making the product better for the people who buy it.

7 Likes

@LawrenceMartin, I think you start too late in the process in your example, and make the PM too central.

I’d tell it like:

Say my company has a goal to increase phone sales by 15% this year. It’s my job to interview phone users with my team and understand what problems we might solve to drive sales. Now say we discover the phone is difficult to hold and unappealing. Members of my team take a crack at those problems and I’m responsible for making sure their ideas are actually going to increase sales for us before we start mass-producing them. Say that through testing we discover that a phone back that’s purple and more narrow test the best; I work with the development side to get those phones built and with marketing, sales, and other internal teams to make sure they have the info they need to successfully launch and support the new phone.

7 Likes

@Rob, Thanks. I’ve been doing this type of explanation for a long time.

Last year however my neighbor asked me what I did. I told him I’m a product manager. He says “Oh yeah? You make the big bucks!” I was shocked because he’s the first person (outside of work circles) I’ve told I’m a product manager and didn’t have to explain what it was.

I also laughed out loud because he said I made big bucks, :joy:. I don’t work for one of the MAANA firms, so I guess that’s all relative.

But apparently here in NC, a lot of my neighbors work in tech.

6 Likes

Thanks. I’ve been doing this type of explanation for a long time. I hope someone comes through with a good answer. I’ve tried to explain to my family for years what I do for a living. They still don’t get it.

Last month however my neighbor asked me what I did. I told him I’m a product manager. He says “Oh yeah? You make the big bucks!” I was shocked because he’s the first person (outside of work circles) I’ve told I’m a product manager and didn’t have to explain what it was.

I also laughed out loud because he said I made big bucks, :joy:. I don’t work for one of the MAANA firms, so I guess that’s all relative.

But apparently here in NC, a lot of my neighbors work in tech.

5 Likes
  1. My company builds software but I’m not a developer, I don’t code. My job is find out what to build next. I find out what other companies are doing, find out what our customers need and build out a list of things that will make the company the most money in the shortest period of time. Then I work with the team to build it.
  2. I used to do a bunch of research up front, Like Months! Then Build something. Now I just build stuff, get feedback and change it real quick if customers don’t like it.

Also because I used to suck at job I used to not talk to customers and design the solution myself.

4 Likes
  1. I manage a team of people who manage teams of people who build software things, all the while vacillating wildly between feeling super empathetic to my team when they complain and ask for help when things don’t go perfectly (which is constantly) and wishing they would toughen the fuck up and batter down doors and figure some shit out for themselves like I had to and suddenly understand why people don’t take a chance on new PMs because it’s so, so, so hard to bring even good ones up to speed, then feel like a total shitbag for feeling that because my job is to enable them and I knew what I was signing up for rather than building products any more, then I feel it again the next day anyway and wish for the fiftieth time I went Principal instead.
  2. It doesn’t take me six months to deploy something.
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Grandma: So, baby. What do you do?

Me: I’m a Product Manager at XYZ.

Grandma: OH, what is that?

Me: It’s someone in a company that spends time finding out what customers want and what competitors are doing and what future market trends will be and explains to really technical engineers and really creative designers and really energetic business people on what to build so people will buy our stuff, make a lot of money, and keep funding coming in.

Grandma: So you’re the boss?

Me: Yeah, Grandma. I’m the Boss. :blush:

2 Likes

I see a Sr. Principal PM in my org happily solving one of the hardest and most interesting cross-platform problems we have with no direct reports, and giving almost no fucks.

Gets paid more than me and doesn’t have to care about team dynamics, hiring, on-call rotas, processes, promotions, budgets, arguments about processes, herding all the different directors, our incredibly annoying new CPO, arguments between VPs and C-Suite about priority, expenses, conferences, training, personal development, people having personal spats, etc. etc. etc. and can just… build cool, interesting things. Jealous of her nearly every day

Product leadership is super overrated as a goal other than “prestige”

1 Like

New products, new features both have lots of great ideas from lots of folks. We prioritize, flesh out, enhance and then confirm that they work (are valuable) once they’re completed.

Phone example - there are 20 colors suggested, we find out/decide which is best then spend the effort there.