Let’s start with a story – Manya is a girl grown up in a conservative family setup, surrounded by elder and younger siblings. Her parents are hardworking-Mother a homemaker and father disciplinarian Engineer. The environment Manya was growing up taught her one thing – observe, learn and persevere. There is no shortcut to life and attracting bounties. Rely on your hard work, common sense and keep nourishing it with real life experiences. Be closer to your roots and evolve a new experience from that which enriches everyone’s life

You must be wondering what’s the context of telling this story?  Manya is a Product Manager who employs first principles to get a sense of the problem she is working on, draws real life experiences and challenges and works upward to apply her creative self to solution- which may still not be complete but is ever evolving. In this process she has to learn, unlearn many new concepts, shoot down noises, rely sometimes on data, and mostly use common sense. 

I have been listening to lots of podcast, webinars, tweets, stories explaining the experiences of product management -what, why, how, who etc. etc. and was wondering if Product Management as a role/function is that monster or mountain to climb that it is being made out of? Why is no other role like- Design, Development, Sales, Marketing receiving this chaotic attention and definition which product management is receiving. I understand that product management is hardly a 10yr old baby and still figuring out its rightful place in the world the way Manya was exploring while growing up days. It has been a tough journey for early Product Managers to explain to whoever cares to listen what Product Management is and what Product Managers do. I guess that’s the reason for this chaos as we have been spreading thin to explain, to justify what Superman(Product managers) can, should and will be able to do :D. 

Many individuals, companies have build businesses on the top of this chaos attempting to structure this role by selling short/long term courses teaching Product management with no clear boundaries where it starts and stops. This has pained me a lot and made me feel invalidated, outdated, putting me in a race of this cat and mouse where no one wins. These paid media have made Product management role to be this shiny object which every professional wants to transition to but when they do get finally into it realise – Oh man is this what it was all about?? Its lots of dirty work, no clear role definition(expectation changes from organization to organization), picking up anything and everything that no one is ready to do and just making it happen – with no real credit. 

First principle helps in all this journey- be it to understand framework, technology, business. Whether you do this with 5 why framework (kids are natural in their inquisitiveness of questioning “Why” to understand why adults are saying something or asking them to do) or by challenging assumptions, looking for evidence, considering alternative perspective, or examining the caveat of doing something. I urge you all aspiring PMs to focus on this one thing and the rest will follow suit. There is no end to this horizontal and vertical knowledge that you may have to learn, unlearn, but what remains constant is the First Principle of life. Ending with this quote which sets the tone for your journey onwards.

“To understand is to know what to do.”

— Wittgenstein