No one has a childhood dream of becoming a Product Manager. It is something that comes to you over a period of time as you discover various aspects of product development.
Just like any other software professional, I too was a programmer once. Being part of the IT industry was the thing in those days. For some it was their passion, but for some it was the cool thing to do. My reasons were that I really enjoyed programming, because the thrill of solving a problem, of bringing to life something which was just a concept, was very rewarding. But I also felt that only programming was not something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I had other strengths like connecting with people, understanding their motivations, how did one even identify the problem to solve for etc. And I was a rockstar at execution.
With these thoughts in mind and with continuously trying to find other avenues in software development, I found my attention drawn towards a group of professionals called the Product Managers. And what I saw made me want to learn from them. Today, I am happy to say, I belong to that group and I absolutely love this role.
Why? Well here are the 5 things that I love about this role-
I get to create and build things from scratch
This is one of the most exciting things about being a product manager. Just like an architect helps build roads and buildings, I help in creating digital products from the beginning. A product manager is one of the key people involved from the beginning. So I get to hear ideas, brainstorm with other industry leaders and build something that can potentially be life-altering for people.
I have experienced it so many times while building products in Healthcare, EdTech, and so many other fields. The adrenaline rush of bringing new experiences to life is hard to describe and can only be experienced.
It allows me to explore and learn new things
As a Product manager, the need to answer key questions of — ‘What to build’, ‘How to build’ , ‘For Whom to build’ and ‘With Whom to build’ — opens up a whole different universe for learning. As famously quoted by Martin Eriksson that product management is the intersection between the functions of business, technology and user experience, so one needs to have an understanding in all these three diverse fields. This, quite literally, makes the world your oyster.
So to become proficient in my role, I have learnt new technologies, domains, the nuances of UX principles and various mental models. I have learnt some aspects of marketing, positioning and support. In short, I have learnt a lot about each aspect of the product’s life cycle, going beyond just technology. So there is never a dull moment and I am always on my toes acquiring a new skill.
There are days when I reach out for work with the excitement of feeling invincible. And then there are days when there is absolute panic and chaos. But the truth is, I have enjoyed every moment and savored every challenge. Sometimes with a success story and sometimes with a failure — all of which brings an immense amount of learning.
There is a scope for experimentation and learning from mistakes
By virtue of the fact that a product is created to do something ‘new’, I often find myself chartering unknown waters. And when new challenges appear, possibility is you’ll not know how to deal with them. The result could be to hit a dead end or fail in the attempt.
One way or the other you either learn from the mistake or experiment more in the proces. I know what you’re thinking- but stakeholders and organizations won’t give you the scope for error.
But here’s the thing about making mistakes- it leaves the room for improvement. Failure and experimentation are the only way to know what’s right and what’s not.
And I do not say that you should make mistakes unapologetically, without giving it any thought. Make mistakes and learn from them. Do not repeat them. Just don’t drown yourself in the guilt pond.
Life beyond the coding
I like coding. I enjoyed learning different languages and platform and to understand the nuances of platform integration. But after a while, it becomes more of the same thing. I couldn’t see myself doing that forever and ever.
I enjoy more diversity. I like to have my finger in many pies, to know how things come together. So being a product manager, with a technical background, I help developers understand the functionalities from the perspective of their business value. I also help to ensure that the technical implementation is as close to the business language as possible.
At the same time, I communicate to stakeholders what the developers mean and translate back the business ideas to them. I can work to understand the end users, how they will use the product, what they like etc. In short, there is so much to do and so many hats to don that managing a product never has a dull moment.
The excitement of seeing the idea come to life
When you’ve spent months toiling hard on the product, when you have paid attention to every small thing and then when you take all of that to your audience- that feeling is indescribable. You are nervous, excited, anxious, but mostly, happy. Happy that your team’s hard work is finally going to be out in the world. Happy that what you created will be of use to its end users. Everyone who has been part of it would experience these emotions, but as a product manager, you feel them more keenly because you have been there from the beginning till end. And you are at the center of it.
Of course, there will be some issues and problems specially if it’s the first release. But when you see things take off, it’s like looking at your baby learning to walk. She’ll fall, only to get up again.
So if you have been considering to make a shift, but were unsure of what was ‘out there for you’, I hope this post has shed some light and created a warm fuzzy feeling that is good enough for you to take the plunge. If that happens, then my work here is done. Happy producting.