How To Work With Product Managers

2 min read

Product Managers focus on the what and why. They care deeply about the who and when. Engineers focus on the how.

Experienced Engineers do not need to ask the Product Manager how, in the same way you don’t want your mechanic, doctor, [INSERT_OTHER_PROFESSIONALS] to ask you how. In some ways, the Product Manager is your first and even primary client.

Professional best serve they clients by saying things like, “There’s Options A, B, and C. I recommend Option A for reasons 1, 2, and 3. I will start working on it unless you have any objections.” When approached like this, people feel confident that this person knows what they’re doing or they’ll fix it if they screw up.

Also along the lines of professionalism, no matter what, get it done or immediately explain why. You wouldn’t like to take your car to a mechanic for basic repairs and then they don’t touch it for 4 days, or worst, they ghost you. Acting like you won’t notice… Of course you’ll notice! And you’ll be pissed!

I’ve been taking the same car to the same mechanic for 10 years. Regular oil changes. Regular winter/summer tire swap. Twice for expensive repairs. I’m not worried about them ripping me off or wasting my time. I trust them to get it done or immediately explain why. They’ve been consistent or I would have replaced them.

One time they called me 30 minutes after I left and said, “Hey Greg, really sorry but we’re not 100% sure that we tightened all the wheels perfectly this time. Do mind bringing it back in so we can double check?”. Ownership.

Taking this level of ownership builds trust. I know I can give you a ticket or an epic and start working on something else without having to manage what I just gave you. This gives me more room to work on multiple things without worrying that something important is going to fail simply because I was not watching it like a boiling pot on a stove.

Recently I feel more like a Product Manager (or any other stakeholder). I expect experienced engineers I work with to make decisions and back up those decisions with evidence. I’m too busy to be in the weeds about which authentication scheme to pick or which functions should go in which files. You tell me and back it up.

Written on November 21, 2022

The opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect any individual or organization from my past or present.


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