Why I became a Product Manager
I am a Computer Scientist, a Software Engineer, a Developer, a Coder, a Programmer and a Web Engineer. Call it anything — that is what I do. What I used to do.
I spent the last 7 years in front of a computer. My career had reached a point where I had to make changes if I wanted to grow professionally. It was time to do something else. For the second time in my life, I was at the crossroads.
When I graduated from High School I had to make a decision. What did I want to study next? It was time to choose a career and I had two options in mind: Computer Science or Cooking. On one hand, I loved the internet. Websites connected people from all around the world. You could build something from a little town in the south of Spain and make it available to everyone else on the planet. The internet could make people’s lives better. It was fascinating.
On the other hand, I loved cooking. I loved food as a concept. Everything behind ingredients, how to combine them, how to make them better and, even, the physics behind it all — I loved everything that had to do with cooking. Everyone likes to eat and helping people enjoy their food sounded like a great job to have.
But those days, ‘Computers are the future’ was everything you would hear. I was really good at math and I wasn’t so bad with computers. Moreover, career paths looked much better in this field. In a very rational move, I chose to study Computer Science. And I am glad I did.
Computer Science allowed me to have a rewarding career. I was able to travel around the world, to live in awesome places like Dubai and Seoul and to meet the most amazing people.
Among these people, I met some of the best developers I will probably ever meet. I would say some of them are (or will become) world-class developers. But, even though I’ve learned a lot from them, I soon realized we were different.
For them, it was all about how things are made, about how things work. For me, it was about everything else. I started learning about different things: web analytics, usability, sales, how to do paperwork, how to deal with clients, etc.
While my colleagues were reading The Pragmatic Programmer and Clean Code, I was reading Don’t make me think, Buyology and The Lean Startup.
My colleagues were worried about how to make it faster, more efficient or more scalable; I was more worried about what we were building, about why that department wants that feature or trying to be in the client’s shoes and understand what they really need.
While my colleagues were trying to understand the implementation of that new trendy programming language; I was trying to understand what we could build now that we couldn’t before. They mastered several programming languages; I became good enough in one that allowed me to build almost everything I wanted.
Honestly, sometimes, I felt out of place while being with my own kind.
I spent a few years working as a Web Engineer. I worked as a front-end engineer, back-end engineer, full-stack or API engineer. It was exciting at every step. But, honestly, I wasn’t doing what I wanted. As a software engineer, too often, you are treated as a tool, as someone that will build whatever someone else thinks is right. Your opinions are not heard and your suggestions are usually ignored. That is not what I wanted when I decided to study Computer Science.
I am a Senior Web Engineer. What is next? There are two big paths I could choose: I could continue in tech where the natural growth would lead me to an Architect position or a, more managerial, Team Lead (and maybe later I could grow as a VP of Engineering or CTO). Or I could move to a business related position, towards Product Management: not a fully-tech position where tech knowledge could be very useful.
Again I need to decide between two options: Tech or Business?
The reasons that drove me to pick Computer Science over Cooking haven’t changed. I still want to make people’s lives on the internet better. I want to connect with billions of people. But, this time, I want to worry less about how and worry more about what.
I want my voice to be heard on how a website, an app, or whatever the product, evolves. I want to decide what to build next or, at least, be part of the argument. I want to get involved with user needs and user behaviors. I want to help build the right product for the right people.
This time around, the choice wasn’t that hard —I chose business. I chose to become a Product Manager.
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I will continue writing about Product Management, about how I switched from engineering to PM, about how I landed this position and about how to face challenges when you don’t have much experience. If you are interested please follow me on Twitter, @alvarolab, or Medium, AlvaroLab.