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Context switching, what you should know when working with engineers, and why product management isn't all that bad really

One Knight in Product newsletter
One Knight in Product newsletter
This is your regular reminder that, for all the wonderful developers out there, there’s a vocal minority that loudly decries the value of product management. The intersection of these developers and the ones that complain about context switching whenever asked to join one meeting is… a circle.
Jason Knight
Happy Monday to all the PMs doing their best. I believe in you 😎
New podcast episodes
I’ve actually got two One Knight in Product episodes to share in this newsletter since I just released today’s episode.
Firstly, I spoke to Martina Lauchengco, author of the new book “LOVED”. Martina is a product marketing partner at SVPG and Costanoa Ventures, and wants to do for product marketing what “Inspired” did for product managers. It’s a great book and a wonderful interview, so check out the episode if you want to know more about what good product marketing looks like!
I also released an interview with Russ Laraway, former US Marine, latterly Big Tech people leader and now author of “When They Win, You Win”. Russ believes that managers are struggling to get better because they have so much conflicting information, and set out to provide a measurable framework to help managers get better. Check out the episode here!
Fun fact and bonus episode! Russ set up Radical Candor LLC with Kim Scott. Coincidentally, I spoke to Kim last year about her book Just Work, with which she hopes to defeat bias, prejudice and bullying in the workplace.
"What I wish I'd known about working with engineers"
You don’t need an introduction to Shreyas Doshi, who has been Tweeting product wisdom for a while now and built quite the following. He recently posted an open thread about working with engineers which had some great responses.
Shreyas Doshi
I started my career as an engineer, have been a product manager & PM leader for many years since, have usually figured out ways to work well with almost any eng team, and I wish I had learned what’s in the replies in this thread at earlier points in my career. Worth checking out:
I’m pretty sure there’s a reverse question we could probably ask here which would get some equally illuminating results! BTW here was my response:
Jason Knight
@shreyas As a former engineering leader & now product leader:

✔️ Engineering is more than just typing
✔️ You need to consider tech debt & help sell it to stakeholders
✔️ Devs can have really good ideas too
✔️ Reliably estimating anything is fantasy
✔️ Devs are partners not subordinates!
Everyone wants to be in the room till they see inside
I was chatting to someone recently about the near mythical “room” that decisions get made in. This is a common complaint from middle managers, who often don’t like being given stuff pre-agreed and just told “make this so!”
And, in this world of empowered cross-functional teams, we might think that’s fair enough. I mean, surely, if we’re not in “the room” then we’re just victims of the HIPPO effect and our voice is for nothing. Well… maybe! But we also have to call out that “the room” is to some extent a myth, and sometimes even very senior managers don’t have a voice in every decision. We also have to call out that being in “the room” might well be an unpleasant experience if you’re either unsuited to being in there yet (be honest with yourself!) or if the rest of the people in it are always arguing with each other.
Jason Knight
The four stages of product manager development:

Junior PM: I wonder what happens in the room where decisions get made?

Mid PM: I want to be in the room where decisions get made.

Senior PM: I deserve to be in that room!

VP Product: I'm in the room and I don't like it
To cut a long story short, it’s good to have ambition and to want to be involved as far upstream as possible. If you’re explicitly getting kept out of “the room” with no justification, it’s probably worth considering your options. But, at the same time, don’t be too precious or egocentric. And, also, try to work out how to influence “the room” from without (you have more power than you think!)
But Product Management isn't that bad really, hey!
My good friend Stephanie Leue (yes, I interviewed her once too) wrote a Tweet recently where she stood up for product management, which often gets cast in a bad light by actual product managers (primarily stressed-out product managers!).
Stephanie Leue
Can we please complain less about how hard product management is? Every job has both positive and negative aspects, as well as difficult and enjoyable times. Finally, it's just a job. Generally well-paid, with far more flexibility than other jobs and a steep learning curve.
It’s fair to say that product management can be awesome. In the right company, it’s a high-leverage position and you have a truly awesome chance to make a difference to thousands or millions of people. But it’s also fair to say the product management in the other type of company can be hard, demoralising and you can feel alone.
Personally, I 100% agree that we should focus more on the positive aspects of product management. But I’m also not averse to a bit of gallows humour, being the cynic that I am! I’m also pretty sure that being as open and honest as possible about some of the common difficulties can, in its own way, be inspirational… at least in the sense that it lets people know what is normal, and what is not.
Over and out and onwards to Tenerife
That’s all folks! Hopefully this was helpful or at least diverting for a couple of minutes.
I’m on holiday with the family next week, so I’ll be back in a fortnight. Hopefully, I’ll have some Canary Island-themed business advice to share 🇮🇨
Oh yeah, if you like what I do and fancy buying me a coffee, you can do that here!
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