The Medium School of Product Management

…curing me of ‘impostor syndrome’

I’ve always found it hard to define what it is I do for a living. It has always seemed pretty amorphous and I’ve just sort of muddled along (for sixteen years!) doing the best I could in the circumstances but always unsure where I fit in with the wider web community where I plied my trade.

In recent years I had come to think of myself as a ‘Product Manager’ of some sort. This was instinctive as much as anything. When the Government Digital Service started its long march of conquest it was the Product Manager roles that seemed to chime best with my experience.

The reality though was I didn’t have any real understanding of what it actually meant to be a Product Manager. I read various blogs and books and went to at least one hugely underwhelming conference on the topic and bit by bit built myself a framework to help me understand what it was I should be doing but I still lacked confidence in my knowledge and while I may have thought of myself as a Product Manager I certainly didn’t speak of myself as one.

In the last year though I feel like I have really started to get my head around the subject and Medium has had a lot to do with that.

For reasons that I cannot begin to fathom Medium has spurred all manner of Product Managers to share their experiences, understanding and inspirations for the benefit of their peers (and me.)

Two posts in particular have had a huge influence on me.

50 Articles and Books that will Make you a Great Product Manager — sent me down a month long rabbit hole of reading and learning that gave me a better grounding in the topic than any training course could ever have achieved. There are so many useful pointers at the other end of these hyperlinks that it is virtually a Masters level syllabus on a page. Invaluable.

So you want to manage a product? — Is the post that finally convinced me that I wasn’t an impostor and at least one other person saw the role in the same way I did (and given the popularity of the post probably more than the two of us!).

This is/not list something that I like to think validates a big portion of my career;

What product management is;

Being the heart, mind, and voice of the user
Facilitating cross-functional teamwork
Making product trade-offs
Meeting an end-goal with fixed time and resources
Leading people along a product journey
Being positive and practical
Making tough calls with little information

What product management is not;

Being the most important voice
Being the only idea-generator
Being a designer
Being a programmer
Managing QA
Optimizing websites
Writing marketing collateral

If those two articles are the most memorable they have been far from alone.

A Product Manager’s Job and Product Manager You Are…a janitor, essentially are both brilliant reads written by experienced Product Managers who have worked at places like Twitter and Google so they have some insight in to working on popular products ☺

There are many, many other articles worth seeking out but these are the ones I come back to time and again.

What everything I have read agrees on is that the Product Manager must be relentlessly focused on the user and their needs. This clearly chimes with the GDS mantra of user first and I was pleased to read this week my team referred to as sharply user focused” so maybe I’m learning something.

I was unsure about the worth of Medium when it first launched — what would it add to all the existing blogging platforms? If nothing else it has become a reference library for me and for this reason alone it proves its worth. Thanks!

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