For the past three years, I’ve posted a list of five things that every PM should be thankful for (you can see the other installments here: 2014, 2015, 2016). It started as a bit of a lark, something to fit in with the holiday, but each year’s list has been more popular than the last, so it’s become something of an annual tradition here at the Clever PM. Just as in prior years, consider this an unranked list of five things to be thankful for — not an exclusive list, certainly, but without these things our jobs would be incredibly more difficult than they already are. If you have other things you’re thankful for, feel free to note them in the comments!
While the career path for many Product Managers naturally leads them down the path of becoming an entrepreneur, many of us wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for someone else who was willing to risk their time, money, energy, and personal life to seek out and build a successful business. The CEOs of today are by and large the entrepreneurs of yesterday, and every PM should be thankful for the risks that they took to bring the products that we manage to life. Even if they make our jobs difficult at times, it’s almost always in the interest of wanting to have the best and most successful product in the market — which is hardly something we can be too terribly upset about, even if it randomizes us at times.
The longer I’m involved in Product Management and the broader I spread my interests and involvement, the more I see that our profession is built largely upon networks with others — whether those are customers, market experts, or even other Product Managers, we could not be nearly as successful as we are without the ability to build strong, trusted networks. Having recently taken a role as the Vice-Chair of the Product Management Community here in Seattle, I feel a strong drive to increase my own personal network but also to help facilitate others in doing the same. The more people we know and engage with on a regular basis, the broader our experience and knowledge, which is something that only helps us to be better all-around.
3. Back-Office Staff
There are so very many people involved in keeping a business running, many of whom only operate behind the scenes. Your accounting folks, your logistics folks, the admin assistants — all of these people are an essential component to the day-to-day operations of the business. Without them, the entire house of cards falls over incredibly quickly. Every single Product Manager out there should be thankful for the people working in the backrooms every single day to keep the trains running on time.
4. Our Previous Employers
This one sounds a little odd, but only on the surface. Each of us has at least one or two previous employers who helped us to learn, understand, and hone some set of the skills that we us every day as Product Managers. Even if the experience wasn’t great, there’s something that we brought from that — even if it’s knowing how not to do something! The past is very easy to forget, especially if it was unpleasant, but it’s the past that has made us who and what we are today. So throw a little bit of thankfulness back into the past, to the people and companies you’ve worked with and moved on from, for all the sharpening they provided you to bring you to where you are today.
5. Friends & Family
If the past has honed our skills and pushed us into the Product Managers that we are, it’s our friends and family who ground us in the real world. Their love and support helps us to spend those long hours when it’s needed, and keep us from over-exerting ourselves when it’s not necessary. Their presence in our lives reminds us that we don’t just work for ourselves, our product, or our companies — instead, we work to make things better for real people in the real world. Take some time this holiday season to thank those who provide you with the emotional support that allows you to excel in everything that you do.