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Open Question: Why did you become a Product Manager?

My previous Open Question asked what you did before you became a Product Manager.

This time I’m interested in hearing WHY you became a Product Manager?

In my case, back in the late 80s and early 90s (yes, I’ve been working in high-tech for a long time) I had worked in a couple of not so successful startups. They failed for a number of reasons, but in one company, the failure was primarily due to being almost completely technology driven and lacking almost any aspect of market focus. Here are a couple of examples:

  1. The VP of Engineering once said (and I’m not making this up): “Customers don’t know what they want. I know what they want.”
  2. The CEO said (in response to a suggestion (by me) to do some market research before deciding what to build): “Who needs market research. By the time you finish the research you could have already built the product.”

There were many more Dilbert moments like these from that company.  One bright spot at that company was a rather short-lived VP of Marketing. She understood Product Management and opened my eyes to how things should be done. Unfortunately she left the company before changes could be made. I decided that Product Management was what I wanted to do next.

I wanted to work in a company where there was a customer and market focus, and where some level of discipline was present when making decisions on what to build. In short, I wanted to work in a company that had more than just a hope and prayer of being successful and I wanted to play a role in that success.

And that’s why I became a Product Manager.

What’s your story? Leave it in the comments below.


  1. Christian Almgren

    Well it goes with how I became one. As I found myself taking on more and more of the responsibilities of a Product Manager I finally found that I found it more rewarding to listen to customers and try to deliver a product that satisfied both existing customers and at the same time remain on the cutting edge so we could bring in new ones.
    One of the reasons I made that shift from developer/architect to product manager is that I really like to solve problems and do it with a long term goal and responsibility. Best way of making sure that we solve the right problem in the right way is to take responsibility for the solution, and best way of doing that is to be the product manager. So thats why I am the product manager today.

    1. Saeed

      I like your point about solving the right problems in the right way. If only that could always be the case. 🙂 Given your time in Product Management I’m sure there must have been occasions where the right problem couldn’t be solved the right way — lack of time, resources, corporate willingness due to cost/benefit etc. What did you do in those cases?

  2. Josh Duncan

    I was a few classes away from finishing my MBA and still trying to figure out what to do with my career. I was leaning towards a marketing and strategy job but with my engineering and technology background I still wanted to build cool products.

    Fortunately, I took a technology marketing class taught by Mohan Sawhney and learned that there was a way to do both – Product Management. The idea of being able to work on product strategy and product marketing was too exciting to pass up.


    1. Saeed

      I think the mix of business and technology is a draw for a a lot of people. And in companies where Product Management has that mix it can be a great role. That’s what it was like in my very first PM job. I didn’t know how great I had it until I left! 🙁

      Unfortunately in too many companies, the focus is on technology and the product, and not so much on business and management.

  3. Geoffrey Anderson

    I was an applications engineer at a smallish company. I spent literally 90% of my time in front of customers, helping them use our systems (confocal and linewidth metrology systems, targeted at the microlithography market – think chip makers and the negatives they use to make the chips). I came back and saw that our development team (three people) had talked to one customer, and designed a whole new system based on this one piece of information with the attitude of “If we build it, they will come”. Well, it sold exactly one unit (to the index customer), and all the other customers weren’t interested in the performance tradeoffs.

    A month later, I got a call from a larger company for a role as a Product Manager, and I never looked back.

    1. Saeed


      Thanks for the story. Unless a customer wants a unique offering — and is willing to pay for it — getting only 1 sale is rather awful. Given it was a small company, did the CEO get the boot because of this fiasco? Also, this story reminds me of an old PM joke: Q: What’s worse than a product with no customers? A product with only 1 customer. 🙂

  4. Linda Merrick

    Ever since learning to code at 16, I wanted to be at the intersection of technology and solving real problems for people. Back then, coding was the only way in. But I kept working my way out to where I could talk to users and customers, and finally someone looked at my resume and said “You’re a product manager!”. And by golly, he was right!

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