What is a Product Manager?
I've been a product manager for over a year now. I'd like to think I've learned a lot along the way. I want to document that journey to date and into the future.
So, what is a product manager? matbalez wrote a good piece on that very subject. I especially liked this one quote:
"You live and you die based on your ability to convince other people to do what you need them to do for the good of the product."
I have a team and am expected to lead the team but have no direct reports. Nobody answers to me. I'm the one building the battle plan and explaining why this is the war we should be waging but someone else is executing the plan. (Not that building a product is a battle. I find it quite enjoyable but I needed an analogy so go with it.)
One of the first articles I read on being a product manager was Good Product Manager, Bad Product Manager (PDF). It's interesting to go back to reading it now after a year. "Good product managers err on the side of clarity". I thought that my team knew what our priorities were. To make sure, I decided to ask in a meeting, "How do you decide what to work on?" I was surprised that nobody knew what our priorities were. What seems clear to you might not seem clear to anybody else. You can't just tell. You have to ask, too. Likewise, you can't just point people to some internal tool and say that the roadmap is clear.
For a team to stay focused, they need clarity on priorities. At Shopify, I manage a central part of the product and have people from every part of the company and outside the company looking for their problems to be solved. We (and I) need to be incredibly diligent in maintaining our priorities. It has been surprisingly easy to see that derailed by the next person who walks into the office with a question.
To be sure, I don't have it all figured out. I'm still learning how to solve these problems.