What do you do as a PM? Explain

I asked a PM, what is your exact job? This is how he reacted:
Well, it’s hard to explain. I own everything of the product like the CEO, not the actual CEO, but the responsibilities are huge, you know. I actually do a bit of research, like crypto, NFT, etc. building features for a product. I don’t actually write the code although I know a bit of JavaScript but I don’t do the coding. A PM’s superpower is that when we look at the screen, we exactly know what wrong with the product. We have calls with overseas customers, and customer interaction is a part of our job. Technically it helps to have a PM on the call.


What do you do?

  • Easy Answer: “I work in software development”
  • Simple Explanations: “I coordinate software engineers” or “I am the hub against which all spokes of the business connect, like engineering, marketing, and sales”
  • Prone to receiving blank stares: “I am responsible for how we add or change features for our product, in what order, and how it is shared with customers.”

It’s typically in my best interest to follow up these answers with transitions:

  • “What do you do?”
  • “Is that a keg?”
  • “Erica! What are you doing here with a child-sized coffin?”

Not as bad as product owner. I’ve had customers assume I was the actual owner of the company or had some financial investment in a way that suggested I had way more influence than I actually did and started to complain to me about our support team.


This makes me wonder if a product manager is what resulted in a CEO not wanting to do their traditional job back in the 80s?


@AngelaBlue, IMO the CEO job is so stretched these days, it helps to have a product owner / manager.


It does but they used to be the one calling all the shots. Now they are worried about vision, funding, growth, investors…


Imo, the product manager is more like the stuff that software engineers were tasked to do but it had so much importance that needed to be its own thing. Like I still remember my software engg class back in the day, a lot of it was customer centric, finding out what the user wanted, user requirements, UML around user interaction etc. etc.


Here’s how I’d have elaborated:

“You use Tinder/Facebook/Instagram (name any popular app) right? So, there’re so many aspects of it - how the app should look like, what features it should have with different persons working on it. Well, one person who kind of coordinates all of them to bring that product out is the Product Manager” :slight_smile:

Tad bit verbose but gets the messaging across.


@RohitKumar, Ah so a program manager keeping up with UX trends, got it.


Just had this thought - Unlikely that the target audience is aware of terms like “Program Manager” “UX trends”:wink: And if they do know the difference, they’d know what’s a product manager is


I usually just say I don’t code but I decide what gets coded. Obviously over simplifying and not entirely true but makes the conversation only go 5 seconds if they don’t actually care


“I figure out what the developers need to build next” or “I come up with the strategy for building apps” are my go-to’s when speaking with non tech people.


Clueless people need an example, so I give them one.

“Steve Jobs was basically a product manager, he made product decisions, and worked with designers and engineers to figure out what each version of the product will be. Now I don’t get on stage or anything like he did, but I do a lot of the same work and make similar decisions for my product.”

(I know he’s not the perfect example, but it’s a decent starting point when explaining. And no I don’t want to be like him)

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@LawrenceMartin, “I’m not a CEO, I don’t do public speaking, I don’t have a final say over anything, but I still like to think of myself as Steve Jobs” would be better IMO

Steve Jobs was an insufferable salesman and a CEO with a knack for spotting the next best thing. I don’t understand why people aspire to be like him.

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I didn’t say I aspire to be like him (I don’t). I said he’s the example I use to explain what a PM does, because the average Joe doesn’t recognize many other examples. Of course, we know the names of actual PMs and their products, but normal people don’t. So, he’s not the best example, but a decent starting point when explaining.