The most common question folks ask me is some variation of “How do I become a Product Manager” & “How did I land up a Product gig”. I usually tell folks I am an Accidental Product Manager and there are times I wish when I was not as clueless as I was. There is a whole dynamic of leading products & influencing different teams to build right things at the right time that gets missed out most of the times. Here are the (in hindsight obvious) things I have picked up along the way, some the hard way and some the easy way out about being a Product Manager.
Product Managers are lowest common denominators: While it’s not easy to accept it, there is no other way around this. When Products, Features and Outcomes don’t happen it’s easy to blame someone or the other. The PM is usually responsible to keep the slate clean and make sure that most of these things don’t usually happen.
Do whatever it takes to make it work: I have hired & fired folks, done Sales, some Product Marketing, some design here and there. When no one is ready to do something that moves the ball, you go out there and either get them to do it or you make it happen. Either solve problems with Persuasion, Passion & Persistence or go bust!
Be Comfortable with Jack of all trades: While you are expected to interface with Biz, Design, Engineering, Marketing and Operations teams. You will soon realize that you don’t know a lot of things that they do. I used to be intimidated by all this till my boss told me that PM is at the epicenter of everything. Also if you know more than your peers in some domains you are setting a low bar for hiring. If all the peers you deal with know more than you in their domain, keep going!
Your job is not to come up with ideas: The biggest misconception I had was that I had to be that guy to come up with all the solutions/ideas for the problems. TL:DR? I tried to do it and developed half-assed solutions. When you start thinking about the Problem and why do they need to be dealt with. You realize that ideas can come from any corner of the room. Be a curator of ideas and make sure you choose the best idea/solution in the room.
Experiment with anything and everything: Use data to drive assumptions and dig deeper. They will help drive the experiments and influence your Product Roadmaps and PRDs. It’s easy to do a lot of things but usually hard problems become easy when you use Data and Intuition to solve them.
Don’t operate and build things in vacuum: Get out of your office building and get as close as you (legally) can to your users. Understand everything: What, Why and How of their usage. Do a mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis to understand your customers. You can’t build anything that makes sense unless you know who you are building it for. Also don’t take up Products aimed at people you don’t like building stuff for period.
Go own whatever you are doing and be proud about it! :)