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Why become a Product Manager
The bright side of Product Management
Every now and then, we have to go into a regular retrospective mode. I started this newsletter with the intention of helping people understand the intricate role of a Product Manager. Over time, I've delved into various aspects, discussing the challenges faced by Product Managers, the essential tools, and the reasons why this role is undeniably demanding. With this post, I wanted to answer the question “why someone should be a Product Manager” and focus on the positive side of it.
So, why do more and more individuals aspire to become Product Managers? What are the gratifying aspects of this role that outweigh the inherent challenges we've previously discussed?
Discovering the Bright Moments of Being a Product Manager
The joy I get every time I work with a nice team and a company can be summarized in the following areas:
You meet interesting people: One of the most enriching facets of being a Product Manager is the opportunity to interact with an array of intriguing professionals. Engaging with designers and engineers opens doors to a world of brilliance. Their intellect, creativity, and passion for their craft can make collaborating with them an intellectually stimulating endeavor.
You develop leadership traits: The role of a Product Manager provides a fertile ground for nurturing leadership skills. It's a chance to assume a leadership role, influence team members toward achieving positive outcomes, and bask in the pride of the team's accomplishments. Particularly if you've encountered ineffective management early in your career, the experience of empowering your team can be deeply gratifying. Contrary to the notion that leaders are born, the path to leadership as a Product Manager involves mastering effective communication amidst information overload, quantifying impact, disseminating insights within the team, and striking the right balance between guidance and autonomy.
You learn new things about business and management: The dynamic role of a Product Manager extends its reach across various dimensions of a business. As you interface with different functions and navigate through the unique structures of each organization, every company becomes an opportunity for learning. With each new company, it's akin to embarking on a mini-MBA journey.
You develop a holistic, service mindset: As architects of experiences, you craft not just interfaces but bonds, not just features but narratives (or we should do so). When you start working like this, you will start challenging many aspects of the services and the products you interact with in your life, making more informed decisions, or seeking holistic experiences that ease your life.
You never get bored: I have never heard a PdM complaining about doing nothing. I have heard some being thankful that there is stability and less intensive periods, but you will notice that if this is prolonged, a Product Manager will soon seek a new challenge, within or outside the company.
You are an entrepreneur with a safety net: Product Managers operate as a unique breed of low-risk entrepreneurs. The role provides the latitude to explore markets, anticipate industry trends, and venture into uncharted territories—minus the extreme personal risks typically associated with entrepreneurship. If you've been an entrepreneur with past endeavors that didn't pan out as expected, the role of a Product Manager offers a fresh avenue to construct and innovate, all within a structured and safer environment.
You can be a visioner: The principle of a product is that it needs to deliver something that scales, increasing the revenue faster than the cost, finding a market that scales, and going fast towards there. You can’t do that if you don’t have a long vision, even if you are successful early on someone else with a bolder vision and a plan will find the resources to outpace you. If you like to see the big picture when others seek to complete a task.
The dark side of positiveness
As the veil of positivity unveils, it becomes evident that even the brightest moments harbor their shadows—the gray areas that add depth to the canvas of being a Product Manager.
The Duality of Compensation: Many people who want to climb into the corporate ladder, see Product Management, which doesn’t need studies, as a good alternative to build a stronger career. By managing substantial budgets, Product Managers frequently enjoy well-deserved financial rewards correlated with their product performance. Yet, this prosperity breeds competition, opening the door to collaboration with individuals who prioritize personal gain with short-term wins (agency problem) over shared objectives. As you ascend to a Product Leadership position, the challenge evolves to discern these motives, ensuring a filter against toxicity seeping into the team's culture.
The Weight of Influence: The fact that you affect decisions, creates a sense of power for many people. You may notice people crashing if they get too much power or many responsibilities, without previous experience. You may meet people that have a big ego and want to command. Or you may meet people that follow the numbers because they are afraid of using their product sense and defend their vision and decisions. Power comes with responsibility, and PdMs are well affected by it.
The instability of the role: Yes, it’s fascinating to learn constantly, to try to adapt to the market, to expand, to study competition and trends, and to think about how the future can be. But there is mental tiredness as well. Many PdMs tend to have burnout in their career, and only if they get more senior they can try to balance and control it. I believe the best approach is getting sabbaticals every 4-5 years, but it needs good planning and financial management.
Hence, these are the reasons that make me keep dealing with Product Management and Leadership, even in moments of doubt or my personal mental lows. No one is perfect, no one is constantly effective, and no PdM is the single reason for the success or failure of a Product. We have to enjoy and understand the craft we are within. I hope I gave a positive aspect of our craft.