The Great Divide

It's been 9 months since I last called myself a product manager. Having faced my qualms with the profession as a whole, the transition to a more technical role felt like a natural choice. Keeping true to startup culture, that 'role' has proven not to be a role at all, but rather a collection of roles, from engineering, to software architecture, to systems administration, depending on which coworker you ask. If it sounds strange that a manager with a background in product could so quickly and violently fall into the most unapologetically technical aspects of software development, I’ve found first-hand that it is.

For what felt like the first time in weeks, I had just managed to pull myself away from a computer screen. I was becoming consciously aware that my isolation was threatening my own humanity... for a brief evening, 'team building' after hours became my highest priority.

Ideas Are Cheap

An early wake up call in my product career was the stark reality of who makes product decisions within companies. Foolishly I believed that the strategy involved with launching a successful product starts and ends with product managers. Needless to say, 20-something year old me learned a few things about how companies operate very quickly.

Strategy is unequivocally the fun part of product management, but what most executives will never admit is that it is also the easy part. When something is fun, easy, and promises glory, there is absolutely no shortage of people willing to claw and grab at the opportunity to make a name for themselves. Young ambitious product managers will quickly find that their aspirations to steer a company will be reduced to a sandbox of things nobody else cares to bother with.

I originally found this to be a soul crushing reality, but things are not

Do PMs Need To Be Technical?

Product management messaging boards are typically filled with timeless clichés, most of which are questions from aspiring product managers. Of the usual inquiries young PMs have, there is one in particular which I find to be misrepresented: "Do I need a technical background to be a good PM?"

When looking to the large tech companies in Silicon Valley, many people entering the realm of product find the requirements daunting: "BS in Computer Science or equivalent required." This is when most undoubtedly turn to the internet for answers, usually to be consoled by PMs currently in the field. The response is more or less always the same. Consensus amongst employed PMs is nearly always that a technical background is not required, and that one's own curiosity and people skills are all it takes. As I typically do, I'd like to take the path less traveled on this one.

In order to

The Arrogance Epidemic

Behind each of our unsavory characteristics lies a personal backstory. Our shortcomings are most certainly the direct result of a life event, perhaps long forgotten. We are to some extent victims of circumstance, but if there is ever a time to make an exception to this rule, I would argue that it be in the case of arrogance.

The internalization of superiority has been silently sifting deep into both business and society- a phenomenon which seems to be going unnoticed. Clear indicators of this shift in mindset are riddled throughout popular culture and politics, but perhaps most obvious in social media: to the discerning eye it is easy to see how the 1950s western mantra of 'everything is fine' has transformed into a self-worship exclaiming 'everything is great, all thanks to me.' To understand why this mindset can be harmful, consider the following:

Arrogance is self-inflicted ignorance intended to

Culture Over Rules

Technology startups are often dominated by Caucasian males preaching the importance of culture. This irony should be lost on no one... in the boom of entrepreneurship and investing, the intangible concept of togetherness became an undeniable metric for success. As VCs have continued to emphasize the importance of employee happiness, it's been clear that we've undergone a fundamental shift away from the suit-and-tie offices which once dominated American professionalism.

The importance of company culture has no lack of advocates. Those in traditional work environments may associate tech culture with ball pits and ping pong tables, but the significance of company culture goes far beyond short-term relief and happiness. Companies such as Airbnb openly preach prioritizing culture, and in doing so these pioneers recognize core beliefs as a primary prerequisite for success.

In the context of the workplace, culture should be considered a counter-argument to strict rule enforcement. While both culture