27 Clues You’re a Product Manager

Hunter. Gatherer. Shoe cobbler. Blacksmith. Now those were some predictable, easy-to-understand jobs. And if you’re a product manager, I am sure you get the confused look from people trying to figure out what you exactly do.

Product management. One of the least-defined jobs in history. Some days, you ask yourself: What in the world am I? A team coach? Psychologist? Cat herder? Professional expectation-setter? Interpreter for conversations between marketing and development?

Nope. Consequently, if you’re having thoughts like that at work, there’s no question about it: You’re a product manager. Finally, here are a couple of dozen other clues. You’ll recognize some, we’re sure of it.

27 Clues You’re A Product Manager


1. When you saw this blog’s headline, you wondered if we used weighted scoring or the Kano model to narrow our list to 27.

2. You regularly remind yourself that those feelings are just “imposter syndrome.” (And you’re right.)

3. You appreciate the irony of watching an actual waterfall move so quickly.

4. When your team invites you to lunch, you ask them to join you for a cost-benefit analysis of the time away from work.

5. You’ve said, “But will it solve a real market problem?” so many times that you’re ready to record it, send the audio file to your whole company, and use it as your voicemail greeting.

6. When a colleague asks you about your weekend, you always pause to process the question so you don’t accidentally blurt out: “Sorry, no room on the roadmap.”

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7. You’re seriously thinking about conducting a prioritization exercise to find the best prioritization framework.

8. You’ve spotted the irony in helping your team with sprint planning while managing your executives’ expectations by reminding them that product success is more like a marathon.

9. You’ve gotten so skilled at gaining consensus for your product direction that you’re baffled no one has tapped you to run for political office.

10. You review every new piece of data on user signups, revenue, and other key metrics with a mixture of excitement and no, scratch that. It’s pure excitement!

11. You believe there’s no such thing as a product stack that’s grown too tall.

12. You’ve gotten so familiar with your personas that they visit you in your dreams.

13. You’ve asked yourself more than once, “Why am I doing this in Excel?!” (Although when you ask the question, it probably includes profanity.)

14. When a user writes a glowing review of your product online, you hurry to celebrate the win. Soon enough, you’ll remember that the praise is “anecdotal” and not actual data.

15. You plan your family vacations in product-roadmap format. (And, we hope, not in spreadsheets).

16. You know what the “P” in Annie Dunham’s book IMPACT stands for. (You don’t? And you call yourself a product manager?)

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17. When you started in this field, you opened your product backlog with the enthusiasm of a child opening a gift. Now, you peek at it like it’s a utility bill or a summons for jury duty.

18. When someone from your sales team calls, you’re 60% sure that your response is going to be: “We can’t do custom code, no matter how big the prospect.”

19. Every time you think of your younger, new-to-product-management self, you laugh at how you felt you were “CEO of my product line.”

20. At least once, at a bank or restaurant or supermarket or shopping mall, you’ve taken out a piece of paper and sketched a better user experience.

21. You view your life not as a sequence of weeks and months but as epics and themes.

22. When a colleague in marketing tells you your product’s latest release is incredible, you hold back the urge to ask, “Where’s your evidence?”

23. Few things in life put a giant smile on your face than a canceled meeting.

24. Some of your most ferocious internal battles have revolved around this debate: What’s the harm in adding one more question to the user survey?

25. You’ve been misidentified as a project manager, program manager, product developer, product owner, product marketing manager, etc.

26. You’ve taken Jim Semick’s book, The Essentialist Product Manager, to the beach/park/coffee shop/diner. (You haven’t? And you call yourself a product manager?)

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27. Lastly, despite all the challenges, you know you’ve got the most fabulous job in the world. You get to make things that improve people’s lives. And you’re proud to tell people, “I’m a product manager.” (Even though most of them have no idea what that means.)

As a product manager, many of these clues might have you thinking well, “I just might be a product manager.” In your product career,  you may encounter one or even a dozen of these “clues.” The above “27 clues you’re a product manager” may not quite yet be relatable for those newer to the field. Finally, product professionals who have made the leap from product manager to product to product leader, these clues are probably all too familiar.