Monday, April 12, 2010

Many Hats...

A lot of times you hear the term “wear many hats” – It may seem very cliché but it IS true for product managers. In fact it is one of the main reasons why I enjoy my job and continue to find it interesting.

Due to the nature of product management and it’s many “hats”, I think, women have somewhat of an advantage in this career position. And No, it’s not because we have an innate fashion sense over men...

I’m talking about the natural rhythm of being a professional woman. Being flexible enough to flow into and out of roles through our entire adulthood and embrace and enjoy all of these roles in our lives – daughter, wife, mother, scholar, athlete, dancer, colleague or friend. All of these pieces make up the whole of who we are. Just like the pieces of a good product manager.

Through natural practice, we have learned life lessons. For example, if you neglect one piece, not only will it suffer but so will you (or your job) because you become angry or fed up with the part that is hogging all your time. Once that happens, you either get bored or hit a plateau forcing you to then divert more energy to the neglected portion. And thus starts a vicious cycle.

We have also learned that each part is never complete – you constantly have to exercise each of your roles in order to grow, succeed and thrive... and the same is true for product management.

Also, from our fluid practice we can easily compartmentalize the different roles and can even enjoy the switching of hats. We know how to “flick the switch” and truly focus your time and energy efficiently - you know that feeling, when you leave some work behind and are more than happy to hang the “professional hat” on the rack and maybe slip into the “athlete hat” at the gym to decompress or the “wife hat” at home to relax and laugh.

Similarly with product management, in the most general sense, you have to compartmentalize. Development does not want to hear about marketing, finance does not want to hear about engineering, etc. But be careful that you do not shut off the valves completely… it is necessary to effectively communicate the pertinent information to each limb for the particular business purpose.

Now for some fashion advice: What are some of the hats that a product manager must wear?

  • Business Hat
    Effectively report on product business value, potential sales channels and pipeline health
  • Technical/Engineering Hat
    Technically communicate with development.
    Clearly define user requirements weighed against business value and time to market.
  • Marketing Hat
    Clearly translate engineering functionality to business value for marketing messages.
  • Finance Hat
    Revenue reporting, new product sales vs support stream revenue and year to year total product revenue growth

1 comment:

  1. Kari,
    Your position that women have an advantage as product managers because of their ability to occupy multiple roles is weak.
    Please don't misunderstand, it isn't my position that women are more or less capable of being product managers or that success of a product manger isn't dependent on "wearing many hats". My point is that using gender as a differentiators is detrimental to your premise of your parent blog (That women have strengths in product management) because you don't supply any evidence that women are better at wearing multiple hats. Simply reverse your assertion. daughter, wife, mother, scholar, athlete, dancer, colleague or friend. = son, husband, father (with the exception of physiological differences) athlete, dancer, colleague or friend. It holds true for both genders (except childbirth). Asserting that one gender has an advantage over another is sexist. If you're striving for gender equality in your profession its best not to assert superiority of one over the other.