More than a decade of grousing about product management

Problem Space – Where Product Management Lives

Product management jobs increasingly require computer science degrees, but product managers should focus on user needs, not just technology.

As the Dude wrote in his last post, a quick blurb about looking for a new product manager highlighted the trend towards demanding candidates for product managers to have a computer science (CS) degree, and experience in software development.

This came up as the Dude was looking for open job req’s that were in his space to look for what is attracting quality candidates. And even some pretty wide ranging positions with tenuous links to high tech, the Dude is seeing some weird shit.

In specific, he is seeing explicit, and hard requirements for candidates to have a Computer Science degree, or a CS graduate degree. And, commonly, the jobs are looking more like a blend between coding and product management (or at least there are some strong hints that they expect their product manager to be able to roll up her sleeves and dive in at crunch time.)

When the Dude first saw a job description with this much hard computer science/software development background as a pre req for a product management role, it was back when the modern, app-based products were getting started, and the concepts of CI/CD, micro services, and “web scale” was just emerging. Back then, if he squinted just right, he could see that this emerging technology might need such a focused product manager.

But now? No, the technology is robust, the tool chain is solid, and it is no longer the tech that is the product, but the services that you provide.

And if your product manager is armpit deep in managing the back end, contributing to the tech discussion, they aren’t doing their most valuable efforts, defining what services should make up the product.

Who does the Dude blame for this? First and foremost, he blames programs like the Google APM (Associated Product Manager) program. It focuses on attracting newish developer talent to cross train them in product management. This is unleashing a lot of young (not bad in itself), inexperienced, and empathy lacking product managers. In short, you take someone who is steeped in “solution” space, and then try to get them to think about problems. But the problems they “see” are likely related to the technology. Not to the user’s needs.

The Dude is convinced that customer empathy, and the ability to work in “problem” space is key to long term success. Sure, a product manager like those above in “solution” space get lucky, or perhaps they are paired with a strong product marketing person, and their chemistry is amazing, and drives hit after hit.

But that is far from a universal outcome.

The Dude is screaming for the kids to get off his yard…

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A crusty veteran from the product management trenches. Plenty of salty language, references to cannabis, and a connoisseur of White Russian cocktails

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Written by pmdude