Being new in product management

Every day new product managers are recruited, but not so much is written about what it is like being new in this profession. To make up for that, we talked to Christine Luc who is building digital products at a medium-sized skincare company. Before this she was in a few early stage start ups, but still relatively new to the job as product manager.

Who wants to be a product manager?
People grow up dreaming about becoming doctors or lawyers, but why would any one want to become a product manager? We asked Christine why she decided to become a product manager:
“My background is in marketing. When you are in marketing you work with what you have today. You can’t change the product or anything about it. When you are in a marketing role you listen to complaints and it is hard not being able to help the customer more. You can’t change the product and go to the root cause. This was my motivation to move to product management”

But moving into this new position is not without challenges. According to Luc the most difficult thing in the role as product manager is to keep everyone in sync with what is happening. “my earlier stance was that there should be complete transparency with all stakeholders, but the problem is that there is no time dimension to that wish”. It takes some time to communicate and things may change. It could be that the PM knows that a problem is going to be resolved soon, so then it may be better not to share the problem with everyone, since it could provoke confusion and panic. On the other hand it is important to keep everyone on the same page and not let rumors appear in the organization. It is important that there are no inconsistencies in what different parts of the organization thinks or knows. That problem is bigger in larger enterprises than small start ups where everyone knows each other. It is of central importance to get the right information to the right people at the right time.

Being a product manager, we asked Christine what it was about the job that kept her coming back to work every morning. The challenge to see the gradual progress of the product and being part of something that has an impact on the company and the morale of coworkers is central: “internal stakeholders are encouraged when they know that they are part of something wonderful”

Who should go into product management?
According to Luc product management may not be for anyone though. If you don’t like talking to customers, like the status quo and tend to be good at pointing out problems, you may be more happy in another product role like, say, tech lead or test engineer. If on the other hand you are an optimist, a change enabler and you love talking to many different people, product management may be just the thing for you.