Would you work for a business with a poor PM culture?

I’m conducting a light interview with a payments startup that is transitioning from the hardware to the software market. Some points from the interview are listed below.

  • Internal UX absent

  • Not engineering focused

  • Waterfall

  • Research was conducted by outside contractors.

Their only resources must be money and the chance to learn about payments and “fintech.”

Although business is sluggish and department heads are leaving left and right, I like my current startup. There is at least a two-year runway, but the compensation and benefits are poor. On the other side, management has adopted several good product practices during the past year and is open to feedback. Execution is the only issue if all the stakeholders continue to quit, and there is a possibility that I could lose teammates as the domino effect continues.


Avoid if at all possible. Unless you want to be the catalyst for change that transforms culture, which typically calls for significant seniority and experience.

Some tech firms are setting the pace and operating the vehicles. Some people are astride horses. Some people are slogging through the muck. Given their methods of operation, I’m concerned that this business might represent the latter choice.

It’s okay if you can alter the culture or if all you can do is discover why it’s a poor way to operate for a while. However, if you stay there for too long, learning to walk while other people are driving cars could teach you the incorrect abilities.

But that’s just my opinion. You already know all the details; I’m only responding to the impression you gave me and my interpretation of it.


Personally, I’d say no. There are other positions in the market for you to apply to; it’s not either/or. Never try to persuade yourself to work for a company; instead, keep looking until you find one you think you’d like to work for.


Numerous companies are in need of talented product managers. Give yourself six months to find your next job while continuing your active search.

The last thing you want to do is join an organization where you won’t be able to advance and add achievements to your resume. Your career development will depend on those early victories.


The short answer is no, you shouldn’t try this.

Arabic proverb that roughly translates to “you can’t straighten up a dog’s tail” exists. It simply means that some things in life are either beyond your control or not worth changing.

Even if you were able to convince them of the absolute necessity of UX, even if you created a plan and presented it to management to improve the PM culture, and even in the unlikely event that you were able to persuade them to avoid waterfalling, it is extremely unlikely that you would see a ROI in less than two or three years.

There are much too many fish in the sea, as @FlaviaBergstein stated. There are startups in the financial industry and other tech fields that are well-prepared.

If you absolutely adore the product and are prepared to work there for at least five years, then I would only give it some thought.


In a similar circumstance, I joined a fintech some time back. I accepted the job for a variety of reasons, including the position’s superior compensation and benefits, relative flexibility in working hours and location (I recently delivered a kid), and relative convenience. However, the product culture is awful, it’s very top-down, and a few senior staff members have to sign off on everything. There are only two development teams implementing client needs in a sprint framework; there are no product areas.

You might be shocked to learn that I actually enjoy attempting to make things different. I believe I’m making progress by implementing true agile principles, discovery processes, product area separation with strategic objectives, and other approaches because the company is still small enough to allow for it. It’s not simple, but it presents a different challenge from my previous work. Having said that, the business is still small enough for me to make a difference, therefore it will be harder to change if you move to a larger organization.


I’m also in a similar situation. Since I’m in a late stage of my career, finding work-life balance, working with nice people, and taking on intriguing tasks are much more important to me than honing my project management skills. I work for a division that has a modest product and development team. I was able to implement new tools, improved backlog transparency, value evaluations, and a preliminary attempt at prioritization (key when there are several competing stakeholders). Now we’re dealing with dividing things into manageable pieces and baselining/measuring outcomes. That kind of job is not for everyone, and I wouldn’t suggest it for the majority. I was hired to be a change agent, and the C-level is supporting me in that endeavor, so it’s a daily battle but also quite satisfying.


My former boss, the head of product in my business unit, abruptly quit her position, and over the course of the following four months, the parent firm deliberately destroyed the wonderful Product culture she had established.

After working in the same industry with both good and awful product cultures, there is no way I would ever work for an organisation that didn’t place product at the centre of everything they did.

I began working at a much smaller company last month that WOULD like to have a strong product culture but doesn’t have one yet. I have full authority to tread on anyone’s toes up to and including the CEO in order to put an end to the engineering-led dysfunction and arrange value delivery. Even if some days are difficult, they are the appropriate struggles.


I believe there have been a lot of excellent points made so far that strongly support the word “no.” When thinking about this, you should also ask yourself whether you would like to be an agent of change in this company and wear that as a badge of honour. This makes an extremely strong resume entry and could be the best topic of conversation in next interviews.

At any point in your career, taking a chance carries some degree of danger. You should approach this as a chance for YOU to eliminate certain inefficiencies and create entirely new operating rails. I’ve taken on a position like this previously, and I find tasks of this nature to be interesting. There is a lot to gain if you believe that you will be given the authority to use some of these levers and exert some control over process improvement, which is something you’d like to do.

All things considered, if you succeed in overcoming a challenge like this, you will probably go through your career with a new level of confidence that is very rewarding and will enable you to not be intimidated when significant challenges arise in the future.


Money is the only attractive thing in this place. It’s problematic since you aren’t the one finding the pain areas, which is a fundamental responsibility of a PM. The waterfall approach, which isn’t actually the best for all projects, is the next step. In my opinion, strictly following the waterfall won’t be beneficial. You can apply to other companies because your existing company is developing as a result of customer feedback. Good fortune.


Make use of it as a launching pad for something better. Go for it, control expectations, and avoid overt innovation if you think you can make a year. It will be difficult to persuade people to change if they are resistant to change. On the other hand, if you’re granted some authority and autonomy, you can influence change in a way that suits you without much resistance.

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The new business you are describing is not one I would join. However, your existing one doesn’t seem good either, so take the long view and, for the time being, chose the lesser of the two evils.