Living on Loans to Living on Paychecks - A Product Manager’s Diary #2

by | May 6, 2019 | General Information, Life | 2 comments

I’m curious to know the emotional turmoil that autobiographers feel while they re-live their life on paper. Do they ever wonder if readers can spot all the lines where they let go of reality for a second to enter a world of what-ifs? I think they do. Because I do, every time I write an article in this series. Re-living the past month on paper, authentically, has been the hardest so far for me. 

Something about life at work

The Salesforce office is aesthetically pleasing. Borrowing the concept of an open office yet respecting the privacy of a collective group, the desks are pushed against the four glass walls. Pictures of uncaring smiles of people adorn the wall (including mine!) while a shamrock and turquoise hue carpet hugs the floor.

To get to my desk, I have to walk past multiple rows of computers that have multi-colored code lines running against a black background. The engineers stand on standing boards all day long ferociously typing into their keyboards. I admire that. That makes me think, ‘am I adding equal value as a Product Manager?’

This is not the first time, or will be the last, I think about this. After speaking to other PMs, I heard similar sentiment. However, the past month alleviated my fears by a considerable margin. I’m working on two major projects and a couple minor ones. I get the rare privilege to use my days thinking about next steps as well as what the end goal after six months should be. I also reach out to a bunch of people on a regular basis, hoping one of them can give me what I’m looking for (larger the company, greater the overhead). This process of coming up with next steps, finding the right people to help me, gathering valuable data and going back to my team with it to brainstorm made me understand how PMs add value. 

*Sorry for the poor quality image, but this was so accurate

As Gayle McDowell writes in Cracking the PM Interview, a team can very well function without a PM. A team cannot function without engineers. But what separates a good team from an excellent teamis decided by the PM. And what separates a good PM from an invaluable one is decided from the success of the team. If you want to read some good articles on product management, check out Ken Norton’s blog, he is a Senior Partner at Google Ventures. 

Something about life outside work

I will be honest, I had to force myself to write this. I have been devoting a lot of time to network with journalists and worrying about fitting my interests around theirs that I barely met my writing goal the past month. Everyday, I am faced with the same challenge: how should I distribute my time to read, write, think, network and interact with people? Not to mention the non-trivial chores that are needed for survival. 

I am obsessed with shades of green

I reach the same conclusion everyday — no conclusion. In hindsight, I agree with that. If it was a simple rule-based outcome, wouldn’t everyone be masters of their schedule? Don’t beat yourself up too much when you spend an evening watching the TV instead of going to the gym or finishing that novel. Schedules work only if there’s some breathing time built into it, as I learnt it the hard way. 

I also noticed that since I started working, I spend many evenings thinking, and worrying, about life’s purpose. I have this scary thought of putting down everything that’s on my plate and wandering to a location where I know nobody and nobody knows me. Not permanently. Not for a day either. Only for the dozen moments when the boulder that I made up myself — filled with expectations, questions, trivial responsibilities, non-trivial failures — seems to hover precariously above. 

I know existential questions haunt us all, and trying to answer them guides you into a rabbit hole. The best cure I found, at least for now, is to keep reading books and searching for opportunities instead of waiting for them to come knock. For other writers out there, here are a few resources that might help you in your journey: Workshops to attend, Twitter pages you can follow for finding freelance opportunities and submitting manuscripts, and competitions out there.

It also helps when you keep building a strong network. Through a good friend of mine, I got introduced to the Google Podcast Creator program and went through four weeks of pouring over podcast ideas and scouring through my social media to find potential teammates. I finally ended up finding the perfect people for an idea that links immigration to education — hopefully we get selected so I can talk more about it soon. 

Something about life

This has been the first time in almost six years that I’m making friends from scratch. Dale Carnegie and scores of other authors wrote books on making friends not only because they were an expert at it, but because there was a dire need which I understand now. 

As you grow old, your baggage gets bigger and bigger. You know too much. You’ve seen too much. The successes pass by like a stream of water, but the failures? A lodged log. When you approach someone and start a conversation, everything you say seems to be adaptive, not natural. Everything they say seems calculated, not spontaneous. 

There is a deafening loneliness that blankets you at very odd times — when you’re watching a movie and there is a pause that lingers for a few seconds, when you stop at a traffic light to look at the elderly woman standing next to you, when you set your alarm right before you blanket yourself every night. Even though you meet people every week, new people, your heart aches for familiarity. You crave for silence while you sit next to your friend — not the kind that pumps your heart faster, but the kind that prompts you to talk about your childhood. 

Hard not to smile at this sight

It’s not just you. You see other people who go through the same struggle. You want to reach out, touch their hand and say it’s okay, it will pass. But how can you give something that you don’t have yourself? You want to reach out and say it’s okay, but is it?

I can only hope. Then again, I’m optimistic. And you should be too.

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Image Sources (some): Google Images

If you would like to get in touch to talk more, please reach out to me on LinkedIn. Alternatively, you can also email your queries to [email protected] Here’s my Instagram and Facebook page if you’d like to follow my (life) stories. Thank you so much for reading till here 🙂 Happy learning!