Are you the product manager you really want to be?

A visual framework to evaluate your current job responsibilities to help you become more strategic about your next career move

I was a PM in a 300-people online-gaming company, a Head of Product in a 5000-people competitor of Google, and I co-founded a 5-people game-dev startup,. Each role had different challenges, and yet, I was never so unhappy with my job than I became when I joined Amazon as a Senior PM. I loved the product, I loved the domain, I loved working in downtown Seattle, I loved the intellectual challenge, but something fundamental was broken. I had zero energy left every day coming home at 5pm; the only thing I was able do was watching inspirational movies on Netflix.

Being a framework-loving person, I analyzed what kept me energized at my previous roles. I found a huge discrepancy between the scope of what I loved to do and what I was doing there, at Amazon. I adjusted my approach when looking for my new role, and now I am happy again at Google.

Here, I share the framework I created and the results I’ve got. Take a look and see it it works for you.

Spoiler: If you fill out the form in the end of this article, I’ll generate the same results for you.

PM Daisy framework: breadth and involvement

I explored two dimensions:

  1. First, I outlined all workstreams I was ever responsible for. For example, creating and owning product artifacts, designing user experience, running data analytics, owning P&L, building partner relationships, doing customer or market research, etc.
  2. Then, I identified how much involvement and control I had over each of those workstreams. I either was doing it myself, or I was having a dedicated team or team members whose scope I defined. Sometimes, I was acting as a customer of an external to my product team and had to hope they would have bandwidth for me.

I then visualized my roles from the past by putting those dimensions together in a Daisy-like graph form, and compared roles among each other. I clearly saw what was what was going on with me at Amazon.

Dimension 1: each paddle represents a workstream (e.g. UX, Research, UX, etc.) — all explained later
Dimension 2: coloring shows the level of my personal involvement in each area

Some hypothetical examples to better understand the meaning of PM Daisy:

Applying the framework to my story

  • On the left: I was building one of the company portfolio products in the area that was the main expertise for the company (games). My day-to-day job was focused mainly on the product development. All external-facing and business-oriented processes, like partnerships, marketing, and revenue management, were taken care of by relevant departments.
  • On the right: Co-founding an independent game development studio required me to to do everything myself (even submitting production code).
  • On the left: I was a Head of Product, responsible for P&L, managing a directly reporting to me cross-functional team, and having a wide network of external resources. I was also wearing a PM hat, doing all PM-related tasks myself. It was the happiest time in my career.
  • On the right: at Amazon, I became an Individual Contributor again. I went to great detail of depth for several workstreams, but I lost the breadth of responsibilities and the horizon view.

The source of my pain has been identified. I didn’t do my homework well enough to really understand what that role would be like for me.

To clarify, I see nothing wrong with neither being an IC, nor with working for Amazon. I know a lot of awesome people who would feel the opposite if they were at my place. Amazon is a great company, it has many interesting and challenging areas to work on. Some people also love being individual contributors, they love going deep, and they don’t love managing multiple connections, being responsible for something they don’t quite care about. That just was not for me.

Here is how my current job at Google looks like:

I adjusted requirements to my next job, extensively interviewed potential future teams before choosing one to join, and here is how my job looks now:

I’m almost there, see? My next career step would be to get back my business and people management paddles back.

Does it apply to other people?

I also surveyed eight friends who worked in different companies as PMs. Here how their daisies looked like:

The more paddles they had colored, the more areas they oversaw. The lighter each paddle was, the less control they had over those resources.

Let’s take a look at the daisy in the lower right corner (#8). You can see the breadth of what that person oversees and that she also does a lot by herself. I bet she has a lot of fun and not a lot of spare time.

The person in the top left corner (#1), on the opposite, focuses mostly on doing research, defining features, and leading engineering execution. I would guess that product roadmap and go-to-market strategy are defined and managed by others.

The person in the right top corner (#4) seems to work on a very research– and data–heavy product, oversees a lot, and doesn’t look like having access to a lot of resources. Meanwhile, the owner of the daisy #7 looks like he has a lot of resources and does only what’s absolutely necessary for a PM: identifies and drives business opportunity and what product response

We could spend hours debating about what those daisies really represent, but the truth is that only their owners know that. Only they could tell us whether the results of this exercise had matched the picture of the product manager role they wanted to have.

Conclusion:

Not all PM positions are equal. Roles that share the same title — Product Manager — might actually mean completely different sets of responsibilities.

Job descriptions are not the source of truth. It’s almost impossible to identify how a future job would look like based on the job description alone or after one conversation with a recruiter.

Do your homework. Talking to the future team and asking very specific questions would help learn what is expected (and what’s not) from a PM at that specific position, what resources are available, and who owns them.

How does all of that apply to you?

If you feel happy and energized by your work, clearly see your future path, do not feel like you are doing something you would rather not be doing, and not missing anything you would love to do — I’m really happy for you!

If you have doubts and think something is wrong with the scope of your responsibilities — let’s do this:

  1. Get your PM Daisy: fill out the form, and I’ll send you a graphical representation of your job responsibilities. You can even choose the color!
  2. Look at it and see how close it is to your ideal one (to decide which one is your ideal one also might be a challenge, I admit.)
  3. Make your next career move more informed.
  4. Send me feedback on the framework, share it with other people, and CLAP below if you found it valuable.

Disclaimers

  • There might be many other issues with your job that make you unhappy — a culture, commute, your manager, lack of benefits, etc. The PM Daisy framework only helps find misalignment between your current responsibilities and the work that you really want to do.
  • The workstreams I chose are the most common ones that would apply to majority of PM roles. Agree, it’s not an exhaustive list. For example, I also worked with legal and privacy teams, localization and content teams, QA, accessibility, customer support, sales, operations, you name it. At the end of the day, the purpose of the framework is to help compare multiple positions across the most important categories, which, I believe, this framework does well.

Appendix: workstreams explained

  • Customer Research (e.g. performing focus groups, interviews, UX studies, surveys, industry reports)
  • Product Artifacts (e.g. writing and owning PRDs, user stories, product vision/strategy/roadmap)
  • Engineering (e.g. designing architecture, coding prototypes, submitting production code)
  • User Experience (e.g. creating user flows, prototypes, mocks, designs, graphics)
  • Data Analytics (e.g. building growth models, analyzing performance KPIs, logs)
  • Project/Program Mgmt (e.g. tracking tasks, setting processes, managing resources)
  • Marketing (e.g. doing brand or go-to-market strategy, creative briefing, creating and managing campaigns)
  • Partnerships & Sales (e.g. business development, CRM)
  • Business & Finance (e.g. responsible for financial performance, P&L)
  • People Ops (e.g. managing direct reports, recruiting, developing, promoting, or maybe even firing people)

Get your PM Daisy: fill out the form, and I’ll send you a graphical representation of your job responsibilities.

Send me feedback on the framework, share it with other people, and CLAP below if you found it valuable. Thanks!