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.
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).
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.
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.
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.