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Hi Product Managers, Are You Creating Products That *You* Love?

Otherwise, I have a feeling that the job of product management is likely to be a bullshit job.

Meaning, no matter how experienced/senior you are and how much salary a company pays to you, the job is easily replaceable and even meaningless unless there is a strong reason why "you" have to be a product manager for this particular product.

In that sense, I believe having a personal connection between you and the product itself is equally (or even more) important to any other soft skills e.g., communication and project execution.

What I learned from my first PM experience

It's been more than a year since I changed my role from software engineer to product manager (PM), but, to be honest, I still cannot envision my career growth as a PM; it depends on a company, product, industry, and people if I choose a PM role in my next career, whereas I can clearly imagine an infinite career path as a software engineer.

Why? It's because of my definition of "good product managers"—I do consider having strong ownership & passion is the most crucial (and minimum) qualification to be a PM. Hence, it depends, whether I can be a PM for a specific company/product; if I were a PM for random products I cannot empathize, I wouldn't feel any positive meaning of the job.

To be more precise, qualifications to be a good PM can be three-fold, and PM's strong ownership and personal passion can be the foundation of working with a great team and delivering the right product to the right customers.


Execution practices for building product that *customers* love

Let's start with something trivial. We see many online articles and books that describe what a good/bad PM is:

Well, things written in there are definitely important such as:

  • Understanding customers well;
  • Making a good assumption;
  • Validating product market fit;
  • Having a solid persona;
  • Ensuring technical, financial, and legal feasibility;
  • Capturing a competitive landscape.

Having said that, it should be noticed that these are all about practical execution techniques for delivering the products "customers" love. How about you? Why do "you" build this product?

Execution relies on communication

In practice, efficient and effective product development requires PMs to extensively communicate with many internal and external people.

As a metaphor, someone said the job of product management is like a quarterback of american football, who acts as a leader of the offense while actively calling the play in the huddle and frequently touching the ball on offensive play.

That is, PM needs to balance different opinions from multiple stakeholders and find out an optimal place to "pass the ball". In this regard, we should realize communication won't succeed without trust & confidence. What if quarterbacks get lost during the play, or they're not trusted by the others?

Actively driving a decision-making process is one of the most important responsibilities PM has to take. Here, you, as a PM, must be the person to establish everyone's trust and confidence so they can follow your decision.

Personal motivation allows you to accomplish the difficult job

Product management isn't easy, and the job can be stressful and frustrating because of the big responsibility described above.

Consequently, without having strong ownership and passion, it is very difficult to overcome any unforeseen challenges and get the job done. If PM didn't confident about a problem/solution and wasn't trusted by the peers, it'd be impossible for a team to deliver a product that customers love.

So, are you building products "you" would love? What brings you to the role?

  • Are you believing a product you're creating & the vision the company has?
  • Would you have a strong motivation on underlying {problem, technology, people, ...} of your product?
  • Why should "you" be the PM for this specific product?

Bottom line

A key takeaway from my experience is that knowing how to build products that "customers" love won't be enough. More importantly, building a product that "you" love should be the minimum qualification to be a PM, and the fact ultimately enables the product to be loved by customers.

  1. As long as you're a strong believer in the product, it motivates you to have strong confidence in what you're doing.
  2. Accordingly, the attitude naturally stimulates others to establish a trust relationship with each other.
  3. Finally, the relationship makes communication a lot easier, and your practical skillset as a PM will eventually be valued here.

If you're not willing to proactively and comprehensively take the responsibility, other people can do a specific job better than you e.g., project manager, business analyst, user researcher. That's a potential reason why PM can be a bullshit job, in my personal opinion, and an organization won't necessarily have to have a PM toward success.



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  See also

Next "Dot" in Journey: Curiosity-Driven Job Change in Canada (Aug 2021)
What I Think About When I Talk About ML Product
Why a Data Science Engineer Becomes a Product Manager


  Author: Takuya Kitazawa

Takuya Kitazawa is a product developer, minimalistic traveler, ultralight hiker & runner, and craft beer enthusiast. Throughout my career, I have practically worked as a full-stack software engineer, OSS developer, technical evangelist, sales engineer, data scientist, machine learning engineer, and product manager.

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Opinions are my own and do not represent the views of organizations I am/was belonging to.

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