DevelopmentProcessProduct ManagementSaeedSales

If we're so smart…

Brain 2I’m getting really annoyed with the characterizations some of the Product Management blogs are making about other groups in technology companies. Enough with the missives about Sales Monkeys or arrogant engineers. Seriously, like this is news that they think or work differently than Product Managers?

If we were all Vulcans and acted logically, then yes, these things would be news, but you know what? Those “Sales Monkeys” are making at least 2X the money you are Mr./Ms. Product Manager. And, in all likelihood, those Engineers hold way more cards than you do with the CEO.

If you’re getting annoyed by what’s going on in your company, then you have two choices — help fix it, or move on. There are a couple of other choices actually, such as do nothing, or complain about it on your blog, but to be honest, if that’s what you do, then you’re not as great a product manager as you think you are.

If you’ve read this far, you might be thinking that I’m being rather harsh or somewhat nasty. Perhaps I am a bit, but lately I’ve been hearing a lot of whining in the Product Management community and it’s finally gotten under my skin.

I was a technical writer a long time ago. I did it for a number of years and liked it initially. Then I went to some of Society for Technical Communication conferences, met a lot of other tech writers, subscribed to an early tech writer listserv — yes this was a long time ago — and I realized that while I liked certain aspects of technical writing, I didn’t like a lot of technical writers.

They were a really whiny bunch. Half the messages posted on that listserv were about how some writer somewhere didn’t get the respect they felt they deserved from the developers they worked with or something similar along those lines. I remember thinking, if your job is so awful, then get another job!

I recently spoke at the Software Marketing Perspectives conference in Boston. It’s the first time I attended the event. While somewhat smaller than I had expected — perhaps 150 or so attendees — what I found most troublesome was the amount of complaining I heard about sales people, engineers or other functional groups in companies. Unlike my short career as a tech writer, I’m not looking to leave Product Management anytime soon — unless someone wants me to be CEO of their company!

But really, let’s get over our issues and realize that our job is to work with and across groups, including Sr. Management and facilitate positive change in our companies. Don’t agree with me? That’s fine. Tell me why I’m wrong? I’d really like to hear from you.


  1. The Cranky Product Manager

    First, the Cranky Product Manager says “hear ye” to everything Paul said.

    Second, the name of the CPM’s blog is “The CRANKY Product Manager”, not the “I-Love-Everyone-And-Everything Product Manager.” It’s a humor blog, taken from a fictional, yet based in reality, perspective. There is more humor in conflict than in harmony. Thus, expect the CPM to continue to bitch and moan more than love and praise.

    Also, keep in mind that the CPM is the fictional alter ego of a mild-mannered, real-world product management professional who does indeed attempt to fix thing, and actually does have excellent relationships with developers.

  2. Paul Young

    Thanks Saeed – no offense taken! Part of being a PM is you have to be take strong positions and be a forceful communicator so I applaud you for taking us (collectively) to task.

  3. saeed


    Thanks for the comment. I wasn’t picking on you or your blog, so no offense intended. In fact, I read your blog and like it. It’s in our Blog Roll. I was just using those two postings (yours and CrankyPM’s) as examples of some of the complaining I’ve been hearing in the PM community.

    I agree, it’s OK to vent, which is certainly what I was doing in my post, but I guess the parallels in the PM community with my previous experience as a technical writer were a bit to close to each other.

    So, thanks for the comment, and keep up the fight!


  4. Paul Young

    Short Answer: Saeed, you’re wrong. 🙂

    Long Answer: Saeed, there is a difference between whining and an occasional healthy vent. If you perused the rest of the site, and even that particular post, it is all about how to work with other groups by understanding their motivations.

    So, while no, it may not be “news” that these groups act differently than Product Management, I do believe that it is important to discuss the implications of those differences. These statements you’re hearing are not just PM’s proselytizing the cult of the complainer. They’re frustrations because the PM wants to move the company FASTER and other functional groups resist due to their motivation not being aligned with the company (Sales people want to slam and bam w/o building relationships, Developers wanting to work a feature b/c it is “cool” not b/c it solves a problem).

    So while the sales person may make more money (I’m fine w/ that, my payoff comes at the end w/ stock), and the Developer may have more influence (…for now, most startups begin as engineering driven companies – the CEO brings in Product Management when they realize that they’ve gone as far as they can on cool tech alone…), Product Management is where the success or failure of the company will begin.

    Last, you presented the options of: fix it, move on, or complain about it on your blog. It’s wrong to present those as exclusive choices. I address these problems every day in my role, and still blog about them.

    Something that every PM will experience is there happy fun collaborative time and there is kick ass and take names time. The latter creates friction in the machine. Friction creates heat, and heat must be vented or the PM will burn out. You can do it over a beer or a blog, either is fine. So long as you don’t let it define you, it’s healthy.

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