Why are you here, product managers

I was digging through some of my old notes.   Nothing specific to the operations of the company, but personal notes.  Previously, I was the first person hired in a startup after the founders decided they wanted to make a ‘real go at this’.  In those first months, there were a few engineers, product and sales folks hired.

An area of interest I’ve had is the collaboration between engineers in a product development function and the folks in a product management function.   This relationship is collaborative and contentious at the same time.  I find that funny, since in a company that’s creating a new product, the goal of everyone is that of creating the best product for their customers.  Think about a technology startup.  People are doing one of two things: selling or coding.  The issue with that statement is, who’s telling the coders what to code, and telling the sales folks what to sell?

Product What?!

A startup technology company needs product managers.  Their title may be VP Product Management, it may be CEO, it may be CTO, it may be Customer.  Someone is going to play the role of PRODUCT MANAGER.

Engineers need a target to code to.  While it would be fantastic to write code for the sake of writing code, someone has to pay for it.  It we don’t get paid, we don’t eat. If we don’t eat, well,….  we can’t code.

Product Managers

There are a few items that need to stand out as your responsibility.   You need to have the vision. Constantly be in touch with your potential customers as well as the executive committee of your company.  My job is to write software, create development practices and to define how applications will work with other software.  You need to make sure to have a solid list of components for our appliance or platform. Work with our vendors to make sure they are shipping the appropriate hardware.  Guarantee them our sales volume so they have the stock of components on hand before we really need it.

Define the story.  Paint the picture of the future and the purpose of the product.  From your product engineers stand point, this is the way you can influence them the most.  Cast the vision.  Let them see what you and your customers see.  Why is it important that we’re working our tails off for this product?  Why does it REALLY matter?  Technology can solve real world problems.  It can save lives, it can save identities, it can protect secrets.  Tell your engineering team the value they’re adding.   Influence them by telling them how important it is what they’re doing.

Final Point

The point of this article is to help product managers work with engineers.  I have an insanely strong respect for product folks and absolutely realize their importance and value.  I’m not normal.  There are a lot of engineers, in startups and established companies that don’t understand.   They need to be educated.  The easiest way to educate them is to provide them value.   Product folks, the best thing you can do is to show them why it’s important they’re building what they’re building.

Cross posted at:  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/product-managers-your-engineers-cant-stand-you-chris-fauerbach

Short URL: http://bit.ly/28ZmZqR