The Dude is waxing philosophically this afternoon. A company that he has been engaging with over a position since late 2007 is finally ready to make an offer. They called today to ask what it would take, and I told them my current salary/bonus and said they would have to do “enough” better than that. Go sharpen the pencils.
But this leads to a conundrum. All of the companies that The Dude has worked at have had serious issues. Product Management is often the fulcrum of the pain. If you have trouble delivering engineering projects, Product Management scrambles to help ease that. If you have serious marketing deficiencies, Product Management often provides the technical and business sense to make Marketing work. If the senior leadership team fights like schoolgirls over the captain of the football team, Product Management gets to play peace-maker. The Dude could go on.
This company REALLY REALLY needs someone like the Dude. They have struggled sailing rudderless for far too long. And they really really can afford the Dude. But, does the Dude want to uproot his family, move to a city he really has no love for, and sweep up the trash?
This got the Dude in reflectin’ mode. He has been in Product Management for 17 years now (feels like 40). He has attained the role of Director, although, he is still far too involved with the tactical firefighting. It is difficult to see what is next on the horizon. If the next 20 years until retirement is more of the same, the Dude might as well drive off the rim of the Grand Canyon.
Go consultant. Lots of product managers go this route. A few successes, and they hang a shingle and go tell other people how to solve their problems, or lend a short term hand. Can be lucrative. But The Dude can’t help but wonder how long until this market is saturated. It seems like he gets nothing but pings from people offering their brand of help to his woes (trust me, I am sure I have seen all the situations you have, and can solve or wade through on my own.)
Gun for the GM or VP of a division. No doubt that Product Management is an excellent crucible for forming a versatile, battle hardened executive. But you are trading one high stress, high visibility role for another. You will be in the meat grinder 24/7/365. Not really an improvement on the travails of Product Management, should you be looking for a different sort of stress level.
Jump into a startup. This is tricky. Most/many startups don’t really need/want product management, or have a pretty strange view of the function. Things are fluid, and bring too much rigor too early can cripple chances of success. At the Dude’s age, if he were a startup kinda guy, he would have done that a long time ago.
Complete career change. Shift your latitude. Find something else that you enjoy doing, and go for it. Open a restaurant? If you are an avid skier, how about a ski instructor. Exhibition Chef? The problem with this is that often, like jumping to a startup, there is delayed financial success. Unless you have a huge bank account, it can be hard to justify to the family.
Drink lots of White Russians and roll in the bowling league. ‘nuff said.
It is depressing to think that at middle age, that there is really not much more to look forward to until retirement (if that ever happens).
Sorry for the melancholy writing. The Dude is, once again, questioning his sanity for returning to the role of Product Manager over and over.
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