Who the f*ck is this Product Manager at my startup?
Ok, lets have it. You are a designer or a developer who has a bunch of ideas but there is this another dude who you know is going to sh*t on them as soon as they come out from your mouth. This guy is a Product Manager. So you wonder, what is the job of the product manager? To say yes? To say no? Is that it? I think even I can do that? These thoughts have been making your lives miserable since quite some time. So, lets answer a couple of questions about a Product Manager in terms of scale of a company from the eyes of a person who has never been one officially, but has worked with a quite a few.
Product Manager for Startups (<10)
Product manager is probably the last person that should be hired for a company of under 10 employees. In simple english, Product manager usually coordinates between designers, developers and the management. The initial coordination should be done by the CEO of the company, who is also, expected to be a peoples’ person. Since the company is way too young, the involvement of the CEO in writing out specs and monitoring data is going to decide how successful or fucked the situation is in the upcoming months. It’s his baby after all.
Product Manager for slightly bigger Startups (10<x<40)
Ok, now the things are going a bit out of control and the CEO needs a specific team, and not just him to monitor data. The teams also need a coordinator, since the visual designer versus developer wars have starting to crop up. So, a PM is hired with some 3–5 year experience in managing product in the past.
I typically hate this approach, because you failed your first ten employees who by now have much more context than the newly joined PM who is just days old. A person who lacks context, no matter how much experience he has, will under no circumstance will give you the best possible solution for the current issues intended to be fixed by him. Hence, he needs on-boarding, which may be fast or slow depending on the persons learning curve.
From my experience as a developer, designers with some (not a lot) development experience make excellent PMs. They can scope out projects much better and think a bit more than above the fold or below the fold(here goes a stereotype).
When business goals solely drive user experience, something is terribly wrong. Its ideally a mix of both. It needs compromises from both ends.
So, the job of a product manager is bit more than saying yes or saying no. Their job is to answer why the yes or the no. Their job is to not judge design, their job is to direct experiences.