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Engineers Make Terrible Product Managers

Added on by Chris Saad.

Now that I've made you angry. Here's what I actually mean.

Even the best product thinking engineer should not be placed in the position to be both a product manager AND an engineer on the same product/project.

Product management is often about saying NO. It's about long term, big picture thinking. It's about the what, when and IF something should be done. It's about stakeholder discussions, consensus building, visual design, marketing, customers, business considerations and more. It's about picking which hill to take, bringing the right team together and motivating them to get it done (to use a military metaphor).

Engineering, on the other hand, is mostly about saying YES. It's about getting the job done. Solving problems. Figuring out HOW something WILL be done. It's about being deep in the details of the code and trying to find your 'zone' to make magic (a zone that is easily interrupted by meetings!). It's about being the person the product manager can depend on to actually run up the hill and plant the flag while they're off picking the next battle field (to continue the military metaphor).

These are totally different head-spaces and roles. Often they work well together. Sometimes there's a healthy tension with one side pushing the other to "do more" or "get more focused" or "be more specific" etc (in both directions).

Someone with an engineering background might actually be an excellent product manager when placed in that role (and they often are!) but asking ANYONE to do both roles is often asking too much.

Originally Posted On Facebook

The Goal Is To Win The "Best Business Award"

Added on by Chris Saad.

The goal is not to win the “best technology” award. The goal is to win the “best business” award.

More often than not, a more effective sales and marketing operation with a simpler/easier to use product will beat the most comprehensive/powerful technology.

If you’re struggling to build your business around technology that most people don’t understand or can’t digest then consider going back to a blank piece of paper and building something very simple that is easy to understand and adopt. Even if that thing is not necessarily new or novel. Then expand from there.

Let’s call this the “gateway drug strategy”

Originally Posted On Facebook

Product Is About Nuance Across Multiple Dimensions

Added on by Chris Saad.

Product is about nuance across multiple dimensions - context, intent, markets, personalities and more. 

As someone who started out as an engineer, I’ve made the mistake of forgetting this over and over in my career. 

As a (good) Engineer, you want to generalize things as much as possible. You want to look for common patterns and implement as few entities and workflows as possible.

An asset is an asset, right?

Wrong. 

As a Product Manager you need to understand the difference between Persona A and B, Use Case A and B, Intent A and B etc. they can and should be very, very different. 

Word choice, framing, UX metaphors etc should all radically change even while the underlying entities might remain the same. 

The goal is not maximum system elegance/rationalization but, rather, maximum user understanding/alignment with their existing mental models and needs.

Originally Posted On Facebook

Platforms: Show Me The Money!

Added on by Chris Saad.

Show me the money!

Devs (especially top 50 apps from FB to Eventbrite) care about new users, re-engagement and money.

Unless your platform is solving fundamental technical challenge like SMS, Voice/Video etc (i.e. you're offering "nice to have" features) you need to demonstrate - in as concrete terms as possible - how you are going to drive new users, more sessions or more money for the developer.

Originally Posted on Facebook