Product Management has become increasingly popular, but would you actually recommend the career to others?
I think we all can agree there’s been a huge rise in popularity for this role and many people asking for advice on how to break into it. My question is to new or experienced PMs, would you genuinely recommend this career to others if they asked you if they should pursue it, or to someone who didn’t know what career they wanted?
I’ve been in product for 4 years with the last 2 working in tech on software products. I do enjoy my work and feel fulfilled and know there’s a lot of career growth left for me, but I can honestly say I would not recommend it to just anyone. While there are a lot of great things in PM, it can also be extremely overwhelming, there’s a certain pressure constantly on your shoulders and you have to balance so many things at once. Not to mention there’s no standard operating procedure for the role and in most cases, you are the one responsible in creating your work - it’s not going to just come to you from somewhere or someone else (sans maybe a feature request from a stakeholder). I think that’s what makes product management such a unique role, but I understand it’s not ideal or suitable for everyone.
I mean for me personally; product is cool but definitely not worth the hype. There are cool days but mostly it’s just plain stressful and requires most of my mental power towards tracking and figuring out all of the annoying problems that pop up.
I have been emotionally removing myself from the role recently and just doing my best and collecting the check. Definitely not drinking the kool aid anymore. Haha.
I’d recommend it but give the real view of what it actually is and not what you see on LinkedIn. Also recommend having a plan to do something else after like 5 years since product can be a launching pad to tons of different jobs.
@PriyaVarma, Being able and empowered to have that mental skill is a blessing. Believe me I’ve been in roles where I’ve been told exactly how to make the widget or what people want. It’s a waste of skills.
I will say having a boss or mentor that backs up your decisions or trusts you has been the changing point for me.
I agree people play up the mini-CEO part too much and not the “getting kicked in every meeting” element because of things out of your control. But that’s life.
A lot of PMs that do not want to be working “in the business” but rather “on the business” move into a product operations role. They are like the PMs of the PM experience, as Chris Butler, Prod Ops at Cognizant puts it. Their mission is to help accelerate product portfolio outcomes. Product operations is a horizontal move but it can definitely be a welcome change and then you can get promoted up to director of prod ops or higher.
Product operations helps with these things:
product and portfolio processes and tooling
strategic and portfolio planning
portfolio visibility and stakeholder engagement
customer and user engagement
product analytics, experimentation, and planning
financial / headcount planning and tracking
product tools and vendor mgmt
Operational excellence - people management, templates
This is a great post that sums up the mission and responsibilities of prod ops and what an org with prod ops looks like.
The best thing about Product IMO is that it’s a little bit of everything. You have to be both creative but also a critical thinker. You get to be strategic, but also tactical. You are customer facing (ish) but also inward facing. You must lead a team, but also get to do your own work.
If you are:
A highly motivated individual,
Interested in being a ‘generalist’ instead of a ‘specialist’, and
Like building things, I don’t think there’s a better role than PM.
However, not everyone is interested in working on such a wide range of things.
I agree but everything you described can also be a negative, depending on the state of systems, extent of bureaucracy, etc. When things are broken, it sucks to be the one to have to interface with all of the broken systems, especially when it is difficult to break through the red tape to fix them.
100% this! I can understand the complaints about mental workload, you should find fun and satisfaction in understanding and working in very complex and abstract matters. It’s fun for more and that makes me love my job. The working hours and mental stress though… I would prefer to not have them though, but I also learned to handle them in the past 7 years and also learned that with every increase in pay there comes a piece of new challenges and workload you have to live with. The 6 figure salaries you can get in some companies are clearly also a pain killer.
@NathanEndicott, Yep dealing with that struggle now. I switched to a big company to manage an established product and inherited the roadmap. It’s been a challenge to actually carry out that roadmap because I’m trying to figure out what it all even means and who I need to partner with to execute. I’ve been able to tweak it a bit with my vision, but changing a roadmap halfway through a fiscal year is not a good idea
The part about getting to a level where it’s more strategic and less hands on resonates with me a lot.
As I’ve moved around roles, I’ve found a lot of energy in not being in the day to day with a tech team and instead being thinking “up and out” on meaty strategic problems. I love a good tech team and getting things done, but it’s been nice to have my head in the clouds a bit
Yes… if you have a combination of the following (and more)
Empathy for the customer: and the investigative chops to suss out the real root cause of customer pain points (be customer obsessed)
The ability to prioritize and manage expectations all around (you’ll never make everyone happy)
Tech skills - especially if you’re working on ML driven software. Analytics ability is also included here
Domain knowledge (e.g., capital markets if that’s where you want to work)
Throughput to push through a lot of hours
Great communication skills - influencing is key!
Design skills- you may not need to actually do design but you should be able to evaluate design well
Comfort with ambiguity and with having no formal power: If you can’t act on sparse data and without formal authority this isn’t for you.
As a side note, I personally think anyone over the age of 35 will find it hard to break into PM given hours needed and the humility required at the junior levels (we often have to take a lot of shit from everybody - our engineers, our clients, our bosses, etc.)
Most underrated problems with product management role -
It differs from company to company, team to team so you may like it at one place and vice versa at others.
While soft and hard skills are great, it’s still a relatively weaker portfolio along with design in majority of companies, the political angle of power struggle across groups can make it worse.
In an ideal world since no one is reporting to you they aren’t actually working in your direct influence. “Influence without authority” is often thrown out of the door by upper management, hippos, engineering heads.
Most tech leaders still don’t really give enough “respect” to product management and design, they don’t fear it either the way they fear “quality, security complaince groups”, so in companies where product is heavily driven by engineering you are there along with design because " higher management wanted to follow an agile framework ".
B2C is anyday a better place for PM’s as USER is far more important than the Customer, B2B numerous times customer also decides for user ( which is not the way it should be.).
As PM since the paycheck is great, there is a tendency to ask for more than what the role should deliver (read : ill defined role ), hardly anyone can find a balance between outward and inward product management.
I am here because i feel i have some natural skills which can make me excel in pm role but as i move from company to company i feel it’s important to stick “where it works for you” with people, culture, policy , tech , domain etc. Otherwise it’s just a pressure cooker which leads to burnout sooner than later .