PM I mentor: I spend so much time chasing people. It feels like I am the only one taking ownership. I have to convince people about my decisions every day. Being a PM sucks.
Me: Tu code likh raha hai? Them: No
Me: Design? Them:No
Me: Marketing? Them:No
Me: Then this is your job.
^ I have had a variation of this conversation with multiple PMs I mentor.
What I mentioned above is the difference between playing the role of a PM on Twitter vs actually being a PM. Being a PM sucks. It is a thankless job.
Most people think they will enjoy moving to Product. They will cook up amazing strategy documents. Spew out smart one-liners in meetings like “Distribution matters far more than product bruah”.
But the actual role involves turning abstract problem statements coming from execs or customers into concrete product milestones and then chasing stakeholders into making them a reality.
It is being awake at 1AM working on a draft Slack message informing management that you have to delay a release again because there is no QA bandwidth.
Everyone knows there is no QA bandwidth. No one cares. You are the chosen one. So you have to share the bad news.
It is not an IC role where you just do your job and finish your day at 7 PM. You can’t just cook up cool PRDs sitting in the corner and head home on time. It is not a manager role where you just talk high level and execution is left to your minions. You are working as an IC, while pseudo managing a dozen members in your team who don’t report to you and can just tell you to fuck off.
The bad PMs assume they are the CEO; can just instruct others and things will be done. The good ones know you have the work the hardest.
- Designer not there? Work on the edge cases yourself.
- Is QA bandwidth low? Write acceptance criteria alone.
- Dev does not want to update Asana/Jira? Own the project management completely.
- Cross-team collaborator did not respond to your Asana comment? Then DM them. Did not respond again? Then DM again. Still no response? Set up a call.
You don’t get brownie points for cribbing. Also, no one cares.
The project went well? Probably no one will remember. The project got delayed? It was your fault. Set up a retrospective and figure out action items.
Sucks? Welcome to PM’ing.
Read the book Extreme Ownership.
I wrote a post on why we need to look at the sucky 90% of a job than the 10% fun.
Reading Stratechery is fun. Staying up till midnight figuring out a dozen ways a feature might break on production is not.
Hence you will see a lot of people spending their time reading strategy blogposts while declining a 6 PM meeting to close a blocker.
Playing the PM or Designer is far easy than being one.
Why be a PM if it sucks so much? PMing is fun if you love:
- abstract problem statements than being pigeonholed into doing very structured work.
- taking more ownership.
- working with ICs on architecture decisions, user flows, testing process, marketing etc.
- No one will stop you from picking up work from the plates of other ICs if they are busy. You can be a generalist. It can be fun.
- Day 1: Work with Research and BI on identifying the WHY behind a project.
- Day 2: Align stakeholders on milestones and scope (WHAT).
- Day 3: Work with Design on mocks.
- Day 4: Brainstorm with devs on the HOW: discuss various implementation strategies.
- No other role will let you do all of these. Unless you are the CEO. But but but remember, you are not the CEO. Just remember that Day 5 to Day of Release involves you running after people to get the feature live on production.
So read less blogs. Spend more time on collaborating with people on getting shit done. And take ownership.