Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Always Do Whatever's Next

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted.  I took a new role within my organization within the product management group and it’s been keeping me pretty busy.  My new role and a recent post by another PM, friends don’t let friends become product managers, inspired this post.

A little background. I’ve been a product manager for 15 years and it’s the only job that I’ve wanted within a software company.  Like many folks, my start in product management was accidental and I was picked to be one based on my domain and product knowledge. The opportunities that I’ve taken since my initial job have not been in the same industry. I like to learn new geeky things.   I’ve also been up and down the food chain in the product management world. I’m a weeble – I bounce back :)

I’ve learned that there are many opportunities to grow as a product manager if you’re with the right organization.

You can continue and be a rock star product manager.  With that title be seen as a leader in the organization if you know your market, how to influence people and where to take the product.  If you get bored, you can take responsibility for a different product that has a different set of challenges like lifting a new one off the ground or reinvigorating one that’s more mature or one’s that in a different domain with different users.

My organization has a strategist role and is something I’ve been hearing more and more about lately (but with different titles).  This is typically more visionary and less execution as compared to a product manager.  You’re responsible for being an expert and setting the direction as it relates to one more market problems.  Typically these market problems cut across products.  You’re a big picture person and work with the product managers on execution.  This role gets everyone on the same page, doesn’t require everyone to become a SME and ensures execution of solving the problem correctly across product lines.

Then there is the traditional upward mobility path – director, VP, GM etc.  This is where you get into leading people and setting overall strategic direction.

I recently took the position of director of product management – responsible for leading a team of product/business analysts (not product managers).  I’m unsure if many organizations have this role and it will spark the debate of PM vs. PO. It’s been a new and fun challenge.  I recently met with someone who has a similar role in another company and it was great to get to learn from him since I don’t think there are many of us out there.

It’s been an interesting transition.  Getting out of the PM role and specifically letting go of old role had to be done for me to successful – its not easy but it can be accomplished (recently re-read the First 90 days to get my head straight).

Friends can let friends become Product managers – there are growth opportunities besides the traditional path. Also if there any of you out there that have a similar role to mine, please comment or tweet me – I would love to talk about it with you.