What People Don’t Tell You About Product Management

tl:dr version of

“I’ve flipped from founder (Ridejoy) to product manager (Etsy) to founder again…

Product Management is a great job if you like being involved in all aspects of a product — but it’s not a great job if you want to feel like a CEO.

…There’s a long-standing and insidious myth that product managers act like CEOs of the product or feature.

…being a CEO and being a product manager differ in important ways:

  • CEOs set company strategy. Product managers are mostly trying to make sure their teams are working in line with the strategy set higher up the organization, or if they are working on strategy, are just one voice trying to influence a much bigger conversation.
  • CEOs have the ability to hire and fire. Most product managers usually do not, unless they manage other PMs and then it’s only their direct reports, not the folks in design or engineering.
  • CEOs have the ability to set budget and allocate resources. Most product managers do not, again, unless they are very far up the management chain, and even then, it’s often staffing PMs for projects, rather than hiring a whole additional engineering team to pursue a new line of work.
  • CEOs mostly focus on the big picture. That’s not to say they get in the weeds, on their finances, on a senior hire, on a big product launch, but product managers have a responsibility to sweat a lot of details.”