PM role vs Developer role:

It has been more than two years since I became a PM after being an engineer all my career. Some thoughts comparing the two roles to help you make the decision in your career.

First of all, why did I switch?

Previously I built Carrom, which Oyster acquired in 2020. It only made sense to make this switch since I had a lot of insights into this relatively young industry. I thought being a PM would let me do higher leverage things.

I probably wouldn’t have done the same if it was a completely different industry. I think I’m an average PM without much conventional knowledge. So take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Focus times

When coding, you have to deal with fewer people, giving you more control over time. You can get big blocks of focus time for yourself.
As a PM, you spend a lot of time talking to users and stakeholders. You have a little less flexibility compared to a dev role.

Paul Graham has an excellent essay on the maker’s and manager’s schedules. Most of the time, a PM must work on the manager’s schedule (even when you are not managing people).

Influencing people

As a dev, you don’t need to influence people much. When you do, you are managing them in most cases, and persuasion is easier. A PM must convince many people from different teams you don’t manage. Building relationship is essential. Your reputation within the company can go a long way.

Communication

As an engineer, you can get away with average communication (although good communication skills help a lot). As a PM, most of your job is communication in written or spoken form. Excellent communication skills are necessary.

Nature of outcomes

As a dev, you know the precise outcome when writing a piece of code. It either works, or it doesn’t. As a PM, you are at times working towards abstract goals. You need to ship something and wait for a while to get the verdict. You need to get comfortable not having binary outcomes.

Taking vacation

It is easier to take an extended vacation as a dev, come back and resume work without much additional stress. Since a PM works with many people, this becomes a bit harder. You might miss important information if there is a lack of good documentation. Catching up with the things you missed and need to know is much more challenging.

Why do you want to become a PM?

There is a lot of buzz around the role, which I don’t understand. All jobs are hard when you start doing them – the grass is always greener on the other side. Have your reason to find joy in whatever you do. For me, it was my interest in the industry.

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