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Product Manager?

I am thinking of applying for a product manager position. I've been a dev for a couple of years, and I've been involved with many aspects of product development, including: gathering requirements (meaning talking to would-be users and taking notes), writing req. spec, design spec, doing the actual implementation of course, writing user guide and even some training. One thing that'd be lacking in my experience is project (including people) management. I guess it depends, but does a product manager cover project/people management too? Do you think I have a realistic chance in landing the job or should I wait for a couple more years?
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I say go for what you want.  You may want to take a couple of project management and human management courses first, but they are very easy compared to CS courses.
Earl Grey
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Answer is 'Depends'.

Generally I've found a product managers is a sales/marketing style person who owns the business side of a product.  They don't get involved in coding it or in project managing the development of it. 

What they do do is work out what the product will do - how does it compare to competitors products.  Are there markets you can expand into?  Do you spend money on a better GUI, or on extra functionality?  That type of stuff.  And they're the ones who have to explain to shareholders/CEOs why version 2.0 isn't going to be released in time for Christmas.

Of course, get 5 product managers in 5 different companies, and you'll get 5 widely varying descriptions of their jobs.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Having a development background can be a real boon to those product managers who, at the same time, are good product managers.

The definition of product manager changes from company to company.  Some make genuine strategic decisions - this is architecture at a bigger, higher abstraction - and some are railed into making tactical choices by either the customer or a too-opinionated technical team and are not really managing much at all.  And some make the genuine strategic decisions only badly and that hurts most of all.
Architecture Astronaut
Thursday, June 19, 2008
I've been a product manager and program manager in 5 different companies (including Microsoft and Google).  I agree with Bartman, that each company treats it differently.
For some places the PM role is about design, for others it's about schedule and project, and in other cases it's more about setting the strategy for the product.  Usually it's a mix of everything - good PMs are jacks of all trades.

In the software world, a product manager has to be pretty technical - usually should be a former developer.  You need to be filter the marketing/ sales/ business/ executive stuff for the engineering team, as well as be the engineering representative to everyone else.

Mostly it's not about managing people, though.  Product Managers have to influence lots of people - engineers, marketing, legal, senior managers, etc. That means they usually don't have engineers who report to them directly. Though they'll often set the goals and timelines for an engineering team.
Andrew McG Send private email
Thursday, June 19, 2008
I agree with Bartman - I've worked as a product manager at different companies - the function was completely different.  I interviewed a number of product managers to find out (amongst other things) how they got into product management and what they did before Product management – many came from an engineering/development background – take a look be going to

Let me know, by leaving a comment on my blog if it was helpfull.

All the best Derek
Derek Morrison Send private email
Thursday, June 19, 2008
A few years ago, I worked for a company where the primary job description for Product Managers was to "write features".

It was mayhem.

No one at the company was responsible for "rejecting dumb features", and very few people thought about how to "adding capabilities by generalizing existing features and avoiding new features".

After three or four years of this, the product was a total Frankenstein monster: an amalgam of mismatched features, stitched together into a snarling beast.

Features with similar concepts often nevertheless had separate implementations. Features that ought to have been unified into a single workflow were usually totally disconnected. The GUI was a wasteland of buttons and checkboxes and tree structures, unashamedly revealing the database structure, as though the users cared about how the app was implemented.

Being at that company really taught me a lot about the tasks, priorities, and general state of mind that make for a great product manager.
BenjiSmith Send private email
Thursday, June 19, 2008
"No one at the company was responsible for "rejecting dumb features","


Thursday, June 19, 2008
The unanswered question here is how much money do product managers make compared to programmers (aka "software engineers").
Grumpy .NET programmer
Friday, June 27, 2008

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