The TALK

Late career product management is stressful. People want to know why you are still doing it. Something must be wrong to not want to advance.

As the Dude has mentioned more than once, he is tired. His time in product management is approaching two and a half decades. In this time, he has hopped between companies, and industries, all in search of a better opportunity.

He has risen to a people leader (both as a manager and as a "director"), absorbed new, poorly defined responsibilities, delivered solid results, he interfaces well with leaders, peers, and those who are below him in the org chart. He is well liked by current and prior colleagues.

But, as last week, the Dude gained his 4th new manager in less than two and a half years, yesterday was the "talk". You know, the "what are your career goals? What is next for you?" Yada yada yada.

15, 10, maybe even 5 years ago, the Dude might have had some aspirations, some delusions of changing the world. Some desire to lead others into pitched battle on the fields littered with failed products and teams. Or, at least be able to pretend that he had hopes, dreams and visions.

But now, as he approaches the ripe age of 57, he fully realizes that he is at his pinnacle. As he looks at his W2 for 2021, he realizes that this is probably the best year of earning that he can ever expect (and to be honest, he was shocked at what the total adjusted income was. Shocked, he tells you) he realizes that he is in it until he can retire. There is no more fight. No more aspirations. No big pay out.

Once, a lifetime ago, the Dude participated in a leadership retreat, as the only non-director level participant, and in the pre-interview with the industrial psychologist, the psych told the Dude that there were probably no more that two opportunities top grasp the brass ring on this merry-go-round of a career. If that is what you want, be certain to grasp it.

Those opportunities have come and gone. The Dude is an empty shell, doing his job, delivering value (significant value he adds) but not inspired to reach for the stars.

Yesterday, he told his new boss this. Not in so many words, but basically that he is as happy as he can be, that while there is a metric tonne of shit in the system, he doesn't mind working within it, and helping as he can to de-clutter the chaos. That he has maybe 8 years left in him, and he has been around long enough to know that the grass isn't greener if he makes a change.

Now, the Dude needs to wait to see if that placated his boss. If not, he is practicing for a new career.

"Paper or Plastic?"

"Would you like fries with that?"

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