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Product Managers’ Challenges and Opportunities in the Contemporary Workplace

Product Managers’ Challenges and Opportunities in the Contemporary Workplace

Product management is the process of planning, developing, launching, and managing a product or service by a product manager. It includes the entire lifecycle of a product, from ideation to development to go to market all with the customer at the centre. Product management ensures that organisations maximise their resources as they navigate the market to effectively meet the needs of the consumers. This is what I do for a living, an interesting and challenging job.

Contemporary Project management management methodologies became prominent as a result of the constraints of older methodologies like waterfall. Of course I am a fan of the more modern methodologies like Agile. It has been a long and beautiful journey as a product manager and I am glad I did not try a thousand things out first before I found my passion. I love product management and will always choose it.

I want to share my story on what it has been like for me in this industry and the many lessons I have learned and the principles that have remained unchanged. If you are like me, you would have experienced so much change around here, so much that sometimes you wonder if you still know yourself.

I will tell you what I have faced, I will tell you what I have failed at and then overcome, and as a young veteran (not sure if the last 2 words should ever go together) I’ll tell you about my projections and what I foresee about this industry.

Challenges I have Faced as a Product Manager
1. Organisational Bureaucracy:

This is the very reason why I fell in love with Agile. Agile is a product management methodology that provides for quick and continuous iterations and feedback on deliverables. However, it demands a level of independence for the cross-functional Agile team. With Agile we get to breathe, and more often than not, do great, surpassing the company’s expectations by far. But if you let them not just watch you with their eagle eyes but also control your every step, you will end up below your own expectations and guess what? You will still take the blame. 

Things have gotten a lot better with Agile; giving team members the level of independence and accountability needed to do their best, and my networking, negotiating and people skills have taken a leap, so I get to take some credit for my efforts too.

2. Getting the Team Onboard:

I’ll tell you what, “human beings!”, I love them, but it is not easy working with them. You will be tasked to the maximum. However, no other creature or innovation can beat their creativity. You do know that when your company is still a one man business it is easy to satisfy your customers right? It is, because you possess the vision and sense of purpose. However, it becomes a problem when you are trying to reproduce that same passion, vision and sense of purpose in other people in an attempt to scale your organisation. This is the difficulty founders have in building company culture.

One way to deal with this challenge would be to look out for people who share your vision and hire them as long as there‚Äôs a culture fit, then you can train them in the necessary hard skills. It is much more difficult and expensive to replicate your vision in someone else than to train a person who shares your vision in the needed skills. This is the determiner of employee engagement. 

Can you imagine what you would go through having to work with people all day? (because I really can get nothing done alone; I’d be a conductor with no orchestra.) However, learning about emotional intelligence and ensuring that deliverables are understood clearly by the parties involved has made me a better communicator overall. It helps to be really excited and passionate about the product myself. But it helps even more, when there’s a prospect, when there’s hope, when I know that this idea is dope and will sell. But again, I couldn’t know all this until I bumped my head so many times and eventually overcame the next challenge.

3. Inadequate Marketing Skills:

To tell the truth, I didn’t realise that though I wasn’t a product marketer I needed knowledge or at least someone with a marketing experience or background close-by at ALL times. I’ll tell you what, it took some marketing skills at times to get stakeholders’ buy-in because things are becoming increasingly customer-centric in this market. The need to get out of my product and literally live my life with the customers is immense, but until I made more than a few mistakes I didn’t learn my lesson. The product you are creating is being created for the market not for you. Having someone who understands the market and knows how to position your product in the best way to get the highest return is not an option, it is mandatory. And how wonderful would the result be when the product management skills in you meets the product marketing skills still in you.

So, in my case I took a product marketing class with HeelsandTech. I am not planning to switch roles from  product management to product marketing, but the myriad of knowledge gained have been instrumental to most of my success stories.

Now, Let’s talk about the opportunities I see in product management

Opportunities for Product Managers in the Modern Workplace
1. An Opportunity to Become a Product Owner:

I am one of those product managers that have gone beyond just managing products to owning a product. You see, as a product manager you get to see babies born, grow to adulthood and sometimes get old and die, some do outlive you though. But in the process, sometimes you take in too, and what an experience it is to get to nurse your own product and watch it grow. Because product managers solve problems all the time and soon get used to seeing possibilities everywhere, you are not far from creating your own product someday.

But being a product owner is quite different from being a product manager since you may have the added stress of providing the resources. However, your career as a product owner connects you to the human resources that you need to set up the best team for your product and eventually have a life changing product out in the market.

2. Building Networks:

I’ll tell you what I have seen. I don’t know any other job role that connects you to as many people as product management does. You don’t just get to see the higher ups, you work with the others too. It is quite a beauty. I have connections with top CEOs, but I also know more than a few engineers still in the early days of their career. I have also been able to mentor more than a few people or foster some network that moves people’s careers forward, and when someone that knows someone that knows me needs my skill, you know what happens; so I am never short of jobs. No, I get to pick what inspires me.

Networking provides benefits equivalent to having the knowledge and experience of a 50 years old while you are yet 20. It provides opportunities for immense growth through referrals and mentorship. Cross-functional teams give you opportunities to work with people who are where you would want to be someday, helping you forge relationships that will only move you higher. 

This is a massive opportunity in product management. An opportunity to help others grow and become their best 

3. Building Leadership Skills:

Unlike some job roles, product management compels you to develop some skills that are necessary for effective leadership. They include; negotiating skills, communication skills, research skills, problem solving skills, time management, delegation, critical thinking, analytical skills etc. This is why product managers easily make good product owners, thus great CEOs.

Looking for the best path to take in becoming your own boss, product management will equip you with everything you need and more.

4. Agility:

Agile is a system that is very popular among product managers. Product management encourages adaptability, flexibility and lifelong learning. These are the very skills needed to thrive in any endeavour on earth. I personally feel that product management is the best internship anyone could get in their career. 

In conclusion, remember that with digital transformation still being the top business goal of many organisations, your job is quite secure and the opportunities are ever increasing. This niche is only expected to grow, and if you know the least thing about tech, you should know that it’s not going anywhere anytime soon either.

Challenges that exist as a result of organisational bureaucracy and working with people will always be present (at least for the foreseeable future). However, the opportunities that abound like networking, developing leadership skills and the qualifications to become a product owner will only ever increase.

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