I took an Intro to Product Management course about 2 weeks ago, and, as part of the required exercise for the course, I am to pen a blog post about my journey into Product Management. This might end up being a long, winding, essay. Brew some tea.
I have, in the last few months, been fiercely contemplative about the future of my work. I suppose I have always maintained a kind of persistent contemplation about what I do and how much it matters in the world. It quickly became my goal, when I was a boy, to study and train to be an engineer. The other options – Astronaut, CIA Operative, Genetic Engineer, etc – didn’t seem plausible back then, as they never got listed in the JAMB brochure. It didn’t take very long to opt for Electrical & Electronics Engineering.
I work as a writer in technology now. Nearly a decade after my engineering degree and not more than a year of industry work logged in since, I have been on a tangential path, doing work in fields where my degree isn’t a prerequisite. Traditional engineering and I fell out of love in 2014. Since then, I have worked as a Content Marketing and Growth professional in 3 tech companies and immersed myself in the developer ecosystem on the continent.
My interest in Product Management came from a most unlikely place: Kanye’s The Breakfast Club interview from 2013. Kanye had just released the Yeezus album and he had performed at a concert the night before the interview. Charlamagne The God’s relentless jabs at him for putting out an album he considered subpar didn’t seem to faze Ye beyond the trademark passive-aggressive grin. He seemed more inclined to talk about his then-nascent clothing and shoe brands. In an interview replete with full-blown egomania and a stern rebuke of corporations, Kanye announced at some point that he is the “Tupac of Products”. He was transitioning from being a rap superstar to being a product design superstar, too. It’s weird the things that move me. I didn’t even really listen to rap music until a few years ago. I first saw that interview in 2015 when someone tweeted it onto my timeline.
I saw it again 2 months ago.
The Technology Products team at Andela Nigeria sits on my floor, right across the aisle from my team’s table. I’d spoken to Desiree Craig, a PM on the team a few times about my interest in the field, and she was ever so eager to offer me the support I needed to kickstart the journey whenever I was ready. I finally decided I was ready last week and asked her to send me a blueprint of sorts on how to start. She sent me the link to this Udemy course on Intro to PM two weeks ago, which I promptly took and completed. My friend Omorogbe Usuomon, on learning that I had taken an interest in being a PM sent me this fine PM resource put together by the folks over at Team Infinity. It is like a Product Marketing handbook of sorts and really helps in clarifying some of the foundational concepts.
Why The Fuss With Products
First off, this feels, to me, like my typical move to do something that diminishes the degree of separation between me and actual software development. Like how procrastinating on something important that you aren’t quite ready to take on always leads you to work on something else on your priority list that isn’t that thing. As long as I do not actually have to code, like. But I can see it really isn’t when I think about it a little bit.
My work has always been about products, as a matter of fact. I have been involved in the ideation, conceptualization, and marketing of several technology products and services. I just haven’t managed these products. The Udemy course made me realize that the processes and concepts of product management – at least the foundational ones – are rather familiar. Because if you’ve been involved at a relatively senior role tech startups, you’ll realize that they are, by design, essentially run as products.
In my mind, the only tech product that I have managed is forLoop Weekly. Well, I suppose you could call it a service, but it’s as good as products get. It is a consistent, efficient service that serves a purpose for the thousands of users using it. Having built something successful like that which will continue to be relevant without me directly involved, I am setting my sights on the next big thing. Or small but relevant thing.
I’ve been told I have just the right skill set to focus on Product Management, seeing as my content experience will come in handy with things like research, user stories, and case studies, etc. I have also been hunkering down on Microcopy and UX Writing over the last one year, and it seems everything fits in together somewhat.
All of this feels new and old at the same time. The new concepts have a veneer of familiarity about them, which I imagine will wear off by the time I get to the deep end. Maybe I will go on to work on things outside of tech eventually, but all products will be tech products before long anyway. I am eager to see where all of this leads. Over the coming weeks and months, I will be actively studying and seeking out opportunities to temp on Product teams & projects. Maybe I will happen on a fork in the road and go off on a tangent eventually, but I will stay on the road.