Moving from UX to product – Christian Crumlish on The Product Experience "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs March 03 2022 False career advice, Podcasts, The Product Experience, Ux, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 7699 Product Management 30.796

Moving from UX to product – Christian Crumlish on The Product Experience

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Product people wear lots of hats—but sometimes we want to swap from one role to another. Author, Consultant, Product lead and recovering-UXer Christian Crumlish joined us on the podcast to talk about why someone might want to move from UX to Product Management, what superpowers they bring to the role, and the biggest surprises they might have.

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Featured Links: Follow Christian on LinkedIn and Twitter | Christian’s website | Buy Christian’s book ‘Product Management for UX People’ | Design in Product | CA Gov Covid project

Episode transcript

Lily Smith: 

Hey, Randy, how many UX people does it take to build a product?

Randy Silver: 

I don’t know, Willie, how many UX people does it take to build a product?

Lily Smith: 

Randy, I just asked you that question.

Randy Silver: 

Jesus, I thought you were telling me a joke.

Lily Smith: 

Oh, no, you’re the funny one, remember? But if you don’t know the answer, that’s fine, because we’re talking to him. And he’s written a book on the topic. Well,

Randy Silver: 

not that specifically, more about how a UX person moves into a product role, and the good and the bad sides of making that move. Christian crushes a veteran product and UX person, he’s written a few books on the topic, and he’s currently working with the California government. And literally, if I’m the funny one, we’re in deep trouble.

Lily Smith: 

That is true. We’ve always been in deep trouble. But you should also stick around to the end of the conversation, where we also unveil how many hours it really takes a product manager to do their job, no spoilers. The product experience is brought to you by mind the product.

Randy Silver: 

Every week, we talk to the best product people from around the globe about how we can improve our practice, and build products that people

Lily Smith: 

love. Because it mind the product.com to catch up on past episodes, and to discover an extensive library of great content and videos,

Randy Silver: 

browse for free, or become a mind the product member to unlock premium articles, unseen videos, AMA’s roundtables, discounts to our conferences around the world training opportunities.

Lily Smith: 

My new product also offers free product tank meetups in more than 200 cities. And there’s probably one you.

Randy Silver: 

Christian, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast this week.

Unknown: 

I’m excited to be here. I’ve been looking forward to this. So we

Randy Silver: 

met each other virtually, I think it was we were both doing a talk in Australia where neither of us got to go to Australia, unfortunately. But you mentioned at that point that you’re working on this book. Tell us a tiny bit. Before we get into the book, just give us a little bit of introduction. This isn’t your first book. So who are you? And how did you get into product stuff related stuff in the first place?

Christian Crumlish: 

Sure. I’ll tell you the short version of it because I could fill the whole podcast with to talk about her authentic charisma. Yeah, I My name is Christian Crumlish. I’m a product person with a UX root, let’s say Foundation, my my pillar of product is UX, my home base. And my UX roots go back to before UX was the agreed upon primary term for doing that kind of stuff. So I’ve had all kinds of titles as content strategist at a startup in 2000, in the year 2000, for instance, and Information Architect after that, and all kinds of other things. I was one of the I was the last curator of the Yahoo design pattern library. And over time, actually, when I was in UX design leadership, I started to rub shoulders with product managers more and see the product role as more interesting. And I had mentors and bosses who helped me make the career transition. And in the course of that I kept talking to my UX friends in my regular conferences in my community of practices about, hey, product isn’t actually you know, yes, we’re, we’re, we’re bean counters in suits. But look, I’m, I’m a UX person. And I’m over here doing it. And it’s, it’s actually kind of cool, actually. But it’s also different. And one thing that struck me as a person who had been in information architect was that the information architecture toolkit is really useful for product managers in terms of being able to map out and visualise complex systems and put context around things and synthesise a, you know, there’s a whole bunch of skills that are that good IPAs tend to have that one, even good product managers don’t always have. And if they can partner with somebody or get good at those things that’s useful. And if they come in the door with those skills, that’s, that’s helpful. But there’s a lot more to product management than just being great at UX. And there’s a lot of other things involved as well. So what I found was that people started asking me about the career move or what it was like, or whether they should do it themselves, or they’re maybe being forced into a product, role or activities, and they weren’t sure how they felt about it. But I had a series of impromptu and coaching, mentoring type conversations that led me to form a little community for discussing this topic called Designing product. And it’s mostly about you know, once you have a conversation with a couple of people, you’re like, well, maybe we should get more people in on this. It won’t scale if I just individually coach every person having the same set of questions. And but that’s created a kind of a clubhouse for me and other people who are quite interested in this overlapping area and fertile ground there. And that led to the book, really, I mean, the book was on my mind, but the book came into being with the support of that community with close reading and feedback and suggestions from that group of sort of an Inner Inner group of super interested people.

Randy Silver: 

So the book is called Product Management for UX people with the subtitle from designing to thriving in a product world. But I’m curious, you know, UX is really interesting work. And when I work with a good UX person, they’re worth their weight in gold, they make a massive difference. They’re amazing partners. And it, you know, the most the time they seem pretty happy, you know, they’re working on the fun stuff, and I’m working on the stuff that’s, that’s annoying them. So why would why would a UX person ever want to go into product? What do they think they’re missing?

Christian Crumlish: 

That’s a very interesting question. I think you’re right that I caution people who, who romanticise product management as a kind of super UX job where you get to do UX a lot, and also be in charge of making the decisions. That’s sort of the naive idea of what product management is, from a UX person’s perspective, the person in the room who seems to care about us, but also seems to have more authority for some reason. And and, and, of course, in some ways, it’s not exactly that’s in a lot of ways. So for some people, it does come from that desire to be in the decision making role. For some UX people, they’re already pretty far to the strategic stakeholder managing. Having the important workshop to get the prioritisation sorted, like some people are de facto doing a lot of product like stuff and not a lot of pixel pushing in their, in their UX careers. And product management feels a lot more adjacent to them to some of them. Another thing is that it’s a it’s a variant on a common dilemma for designers in general, which is do I have to become a manager to get ahead in my career? The officially the answer in the tech world nowadays is no, we, we we have an individual contributor track and it goes up to principal or esteemed or whatever you can make up a new one when you need to. And that’s good, that’s a good thing. You know, I do caution people that you can do that. But you can avoid becoming a people manager, but you can’t, you can’t keep getting ahead further further, without being a leader of some kind without giving back to the organisation at the leadership level, then you don’t need that high level an individual contributor if they’re not really delivering leverage, you know, at scale after a while. But having said that, some people do say, well, maybe I should become a design manager. And some people learn like I did, that design, management can still be a creative job. The fear that Why won’t be drawing the screens anymore, it means I’m not creating anymore is the, you know, some people compared it to like becoming the, the conductor of the orchestra or the choreographer, maybe you’re not out there dancing anymore, and you missed the spotlight a little bit, but you’re still doing a very creative job. It just involves deploying groups of people to do a collaborative thing. That’s amazing. And it’s one of those types of roles. So it does appeal to some types.

Lily Smith: 

Do you think in terms of that move from UX into products, that there’s probably some people who are kind of more likely to be pulled in that direction, because of the the environment that they’re in? You know, that there may be a kind of lack of product management skills within that team? And so they’re then kind of forced to fill that role? And is there a time at which I think these are two very different questions that Shiva, is there a time at which, like, it’s a good time to explore the product role, like, if you’re interested in it as a UX person is there? You know, is there a time to go? No, I’m not ready for this yet. On a time to go, Yes, I’m gonna do this. Now.

Christian Crumlish: 

I know that I think those are related questions. Thinking about conversations I’ve had with people in variations on those situations, the it is quite common for people to end up doing what we think of as product management work in avoid because they’re there in a on a team that has somehow intuited or learned some product management, product mindset notions, but hasn’t actually staffed a product manager. So there’s just a sort of unspoken expectation that there’s going to be some agile or build, measure, learn or someone’s going to track a metric, or it could be all kinds of, you know, sort of a grab bag of things. And the UX, certain UX people are already maybe doing some of that time together. Feeling good UX has to be very context aware. So there’s a natural desire to be a little bit nosy about the rest of what’s going on. And Kenny engineers we build this is the business really going to let me do this. So I think some people are adjacent and they do get sucked into it. So engineers do two other roles can end up doing product II stuff and, and they can be ambivalent about it. So I’ve met people in my course of thinking about these topics and presenting and talking about it. I have friends who said they realised they were being turned into a product person and more of a business person than they want it to be. And they they wasn’t intentional. And their intention, their career was to be a designer or to do more UX research or do something more specifically still rooted in the UX side of the table. And just being aware that you’re near the edge of the vortex is important whether you want to go into Now, are there times when it makes sense to explore that? Well, first of all, if you’re giving, if you’re being asked to do something, to fill a void like that, it’s good to hang a lampshade on it and make people aware it’s going on. And maybe if you’re interested, say, I’m going to do this for a while, remember, I’m not unmuted as part of it. But I, I’m interested, and I’m willing to do it for a while, and then you can tentatively as a person in your own career, try it out and see if you’re good at it. And if you like it, not everybody has that opportunity. So I mean, the most, when people know they want to change careers, for instance, it’s almost a commonplace to let people know that easiest way to do that is a job that is willing to let you change your title, as opposed to having the old title at one job. And then a new company taking the first chance of giving you the new title, a mentor, a boss, who knows your ambitions, who lets you try something out. And then based on you’re both assessing whether it’s good, maybe supports you shifting teams is probably the easiest way to make the transition not to say it’s the only way. And so part of that is that idea of saying yeah, I’ll dabble in this for a while, so long as you put boundaries around it, if you don’t necessarily want to be forced to do it. If you’re like, Okay, I tried that. But we all agreed that I wasn’t so great at that, or I didn’t love that. And for me, personally, again, I had mentors and bosses who were very supportive, including somebody who, when I came back from like a six week assignment, helping to product manage launch, for a property that that AOL owned, when I was at AOL, my boss sort of said to me, you, you’re lit up, but like, I’ve never seen you so into your work, like, whatever you were just doing, that’s what you love doing. And to have somebody who can reflect how people can reflect that back or recognise that for you can be, you know, that that’s a, an opportunity to take advantage of I think that you know, to listen to that.

Randy Silver: 

Okay, so you touched on some of the things that might be challenges. And, you know, we’re product people, we, we always focus on the negative, so we have to overcome. Before we do that, let’s let’s do some of the positive stuff. So for a UX person moving into our product role, what are the superpowers that they walk in with? What are the things that they’re over indexed on that they’re, you know, going to find really useful enrol that maybe other people might not be so skilled at?

Christian Crumlish: 

I think a lot of them are these things that have been packaged up often around the ideas of design thinking and stuff like that. So the ability to help visualise things, you know, literally to use the drawing skills for you know, that some subset of UX people have, or diagramming skills, you know, to be that person, you can get up in a meeting that is kind of going in circles and say, Hey, nerdy mind, if I grab a marker and start drawing a picture what I think people are saying, because then they go, No, that’s not what I’m saying, you know, you want to get it right, but just like to be the person who can, who can catalyse that, you know, turn in in a meeting, I think it’s something that certain UX people have have have the ability to do that sketching and visualising and visual communication skill. A lot of the high level, you know, the, when you’re good at UX, you’re you’re you’re synthesising research. And you’re, you know, coming up with basically hypotheses, ideas about solutions to problems that you might use a different terminology than a product manager does. But you’re bringing to the table a whole toolkit for trying out reasons why this data is, why is that number going down? Well, we see it’s going down, let’s not panic, let’s come up with some thoughts about it. And then if so, let’s explore some designs or some approaches that might tell us in a quick experiment, whether we’re right about our hypothesis, and then we can go try to repair the truck. So I think that there, you know, the ability to contextualise problems, literally, information architecture, like I said before, I think is almost like a suit is a superpower if you’ve got it. As a product manager, I constantly feel like I need to make a picture or a stack diagram for myself to just map the thing I’m grappling with in my head, I’m going in circles on and as soon as I make that diagram, everybody goes, I love that diagram, you know, they just start to consume it and want to have it. But I brought that to my product role from my UX and IA background. So there’s a bunch of things like that. And user research is something that product management does in its own way, but not always in a way that says well informed by what the UX research approach has to say about it. And there’s a collaborative opportunity there, for instance,

Lily Smith: 

and if we think about the the typical product management Venn Diagram of user experience, or you know, the voice of the customer versus technical and business, one would assume then that a UX person moving into that product role is going to need more developments and kind of coaching on the technical and the business side of things. So is there anything in particular that you would encourage product people to do moving into that role in order to fill those those gaps in knowledge?

Christian Crumlish: 

Well, I I do agree with the person So the question, although I think that these Venn diagrams, like, you know, tend to collapse a lot of stuff in a way, and I like to joke that every discipline has a Venn diagram, with their discipline in the centre, and everybody else being kind of a peripheral thing. So we should only take it as, you know, we take it, it’s a useful artefact. And we all know it, even though some people label those circles in different ways or put more in there. But there’s that sense that again, the product manager is certainly orchestrating and coordinating across all these different areas and has to have facility and confidence in discussing, say technical limitations or challenges to it not to be too reductive, but, you know, you can’t let an engineer who just defers you, with you on taste tell you something’s impossible, you have to be able to say, No, it’s not, I know, you don’t want to do it. But I can see it’s possible look at this example over here, or look at this quick prototype I made or something like that. So there’s some some need to be, as I say, sort of sophisticated about the the areas that you don’t come in with as part of your grounding. Again, I think a person who’s good at UX, who’s been doing UX in a internet software world for any any recent amount of time, it’s probably got some technical chops, they understand the materials they’re working with, to some degree, they work with engineers, almost certainly, they might be hopefully they haven’t come up in the hole, completely dysfunctional environment where they are isolated from the engineers or don’t, haven’t learned any ability to work with them. So I think you come in with some of those skills already. I think it’s more than a product manager has to sort of herd the cats, you know that the product manager has more responsibility that the work the engineers do is on point and that they have helpful direction, but not micromanagement and that they’re empowered, but that they’re also solving problems. And so there’s a lot more involved in in the work of the engineers, whereas for UX is more like negotiating with engineers or handing off to them, or sometimes co creating with them in a very productive way. But it’s still not the same thing of sort of making sure that they that that things are on track that on some level, or that it’s all coming together in a big picture way. So there’s definitely things that you need to learn, I think, to get more of a handle on that responsibility, that that oversight responsibility of the technical constraints of the project and the technical debt and things like that. More obviously, the business lobe, you know, the the part that that which covers a whole host of things, I mean, it’s often going to market stuff, but it’s also financial stuff. And it can be also just data science, and analytics sometimes get put in there too, because it’s just the wing of the businesses that do that, or who owns bi or whatever, who owns that stuff. As well as sometimes operational things and finance in general and running a company stuff and like the whole rest of the company can sometimes be put under that category as having sales, you know, where does sales fit in here, for instance, and, you know, not to stereotype, but a lot of UX people, didn’t, they, except that they work in a business world, but they don’t view themselves as the business people, you know, they see, they see that as a different job. And there’s a different culture in some ways, there’s certainly a lot of different lingo. It takes more effort, I think, for you, for a person with a UX Foundation, or who’s been living immersed in the UX world, to decode business and to learn, in what ways your business partners are also trying to make great software for customers that want to come back. And that provides a lot of value, you know, it’s just that there’s some work to be done. And going back to those superpowers, probably the one I would hit UX people over the head with, when they feel annoyed about a salesperson who’s got a different style than them or having to talk to people who think much more in terms of the money than anything else. Which is that we’re supposed to be we speaking as a UX person, myself now are supposed to be the empathy people or the you know, the compassion people, we kind of give ourselves that badge because we speak for the voice of the end user where we can we’re the only person in the room saying, what about this poor little user who we’re trying to get their money? Why aren’t we serving them better? And yet, I think sometimes we look overlook the adjacent people we work with, because they’re not an end user. But they’re actually a user of our of our co working services, you know, there, we give them an experience when we try to do UX with them, or do product management with them or whoever, whoever we’re working with. And when we feel annoyed or frustrated or think they’re coming at us wrong. We don’t ask ourselves in the same way we would with a customer like maybe they’re not wrong, maybe in their world, they’re right. And I need to work harder to understand what motivates them and what are they afraid of? And where can I become their ally and solve their problems rather than someone seen as just a new a new obstacle in the way of their agenda?

Randy Silver: 

Okay, so let’s move back a little bit. You’ve got this community of people that you’ve been giving advice to that helped you give feedback on the book and I’m assuming that some of them, at least some of them have moved made the move from UX and

Christian Crumlish: 

we all give advice to each other by the way, yeah, people that are on the different levels. Now. Sure it’s a fantastic community. Yeah.

Randy Silver: 

I’m curious who so when someone else joins the community now or is about to make the move for the first time, I’m guessing people. Sometimes someone will come in and say, Wow, I didn’t expect this to happen. And everyone else. Uh, yeah, yeah, we all went through that. What’s that thing? What’s the thing? That’s Oh, the consistent biggest surprises didn’t work the way they thought it would.

Christian Crumlish: 

That’s funny. I mean, it’s interesting, because I, I don’t know whether we have so many people literally who sort of come in on that cusp. We get a lot of people who are exploring it and a certain number of people who just want to understand it all better to do their jobs better. Certainly, some people thinking about making the move and who do make the move. I think that probably the common flavour is a version of things don’t work quite the way you thought they did. You know, and that that’s the kind of the largest heading and the specifics range from not realising how much their life would consist of meetings now, when, as a design manager, even though they’d had meetings and manage people, they still were doing what they viewed as like creative work, or is it designer? Of course, they were, you know, and then there’s a, there’s been sort of a theme of realising that nobody is managing the engineers or that, you know, that, that there’s a lack of realising the void in coordination that the product manager is on the hook for, but without the actual, you know, the whole need the need to persuade without having necessarily like authority or ultimate authority. And not so much the generic idea. I think, everybody knows that, in general is true, they hear that going in. But then realising just often how slippery it is, you know, starting to be held accountable for things that you realise you don’t necessarily have a handle on how to how to improve them seems to be a common theme of new product managers coming into the role. And I don’t know if that’s just I mean, that might be true for any new product manager, a person who’s been doing UX, I think, has been seeing these things and think they understand how it works. And then once you get behind the wheel, you realise there’s not as many not as much equipment here as I thought.

Randy Silver: 

So Christian, you said, people find out that the role is different than they thought that they’re in more meetings, that they don’t necessarily have the control that there’s more things that they have to cover for that they didn’t think, what about the you said, also earlier that people sometimes think, Oh, I’m going to be able to continue to do all the fun parts of my job, but get to now be in charge and make decisions? What’s the thing that they actually find out that they’re not able to do anymore? That they really wanted to?

Christian Crumlish: 

Yeah, I mean, it’s funny, both houses that contain sort of a fallacy, and one is that you’re going to keep getting to do UX. Now, I mean, and which means like, if you like being in drawing programmes a lot, which is not the only thing you do in UX, obviously, but you know, if you like making diagrams or making screens, you’re probably not going to make screens wireframes anymore, certainly only on a very tiny team, for instance, and if you do, most people won’t appreciate it. Because you shouldn’t be doing that. I think, yeah, realising that you’re now design adjacent, that you might have requests of the designer, and you might be conversant with design, but you have to actually like bend over backwards to make it clear to yourself that you’re not the designer, so you don’t kind of step on the toes. If you’re the product manager. And you say, Well, I was a UX person to just recently you know, so I’m gonna kind of CO UX lead with this with you. That’s not what any UX person wants to hear. You know what I usually say I’m, I used to do UX. I’m retired from UX, you’re the UX person, I have opinions like anybody, I’m a product manager, I have opinions, I’m going to push you if I disagree with you. But I’m not going to get in there with you and try to say, we’re going to do the UX together, you’re in charge of the UX, I might say, please solve this problem. I think we need to solve this problem, but you’re going to solve it. And I think that realising that you’re going to let go of that is probably hard. The other thing, the other half is that you said what, but now you get to make decisions. And of course, the truth is, you don’t necessarily really get to make decisions or you know, let’s say you do get to make decisions, you have to make decisions, you’re on the hook to make lots of decisions, really, but there are a lot of them are tactical, the the really major strategic decisions, I’d say more often you facilitate them and you ensure that they get made rigorously. You follow through and track whether they were made correctly, you know, so you’re very closely involved with decisions, but you’re using you’re not necessarily the the, you know, you’re not the CEO of the product, as people like to say you’re not the final word on stuff. You do have to step in sometimes in the void and when no one’s deciding, so I’m deciding, and people might tend to defer to you on some team so you can end up making all the decisions. But I think a great product manager, like I said, ensures that it’s the right decision gets made and that the decision gets made right. Even on the last topic, I feel like we we should say that we you know, the surprise of becoming a product manager can sound like frustration and disappointment, but I’d say another common theme of people who’ve switched to product management is a sense of like exhilaration and being and like having I mean these complaints are told with a with a smile, because they’re having so much fun being involved in everything and, and seeing and everything. Like I often say that a great product manager is sort of a nosy person who kind of wants to know all the gossip and what’s going on. But I’m sorry, that wasn’t really your question.

Randy Silver: 

No, no, let’s but that was a really good answer. And we have been a bit negative. So Krisha, we’ve been focusing on things, the negative surprises, what are the positives? What is what’s awesome about making the move?

Christian Crumlish: 

I know I was starting to feel that about about that, too, is it’s almost like I’m trying to keep people out, oh, you wouldn’t like product management go away. And the truth is that, you know, a common thing that I’ve noticed that people who’ve made the transition to product management, even when they’re kind of grimacing about frustration, or overwork, or obsession, is, is just a lot of enjoyment, like a lot of like sort of the the sheer fun of being really deeply involved in what’s going on. And even if you don’t have the final say on everything, like being in being read into everything, and being you know, I like to say that a great product manager is someone who’s kind of nosy and want wants to know all the gossip though, the official story and what’s really happening and who knows, who can get something unstuck and what’s really going on with those people. And you know, that desire to be in the room when decisions are made, if you ever had a job, and people went into the conference room, and then they came out later with a plan and you’re like, I want to be in the room when those conversations are happening. Product Management does get you in that room. And and I think for some people, it’s it could really be a joyful

Lily Smith: 

job. That yeah, that literally describes very well how I feel about it is a lot of fun, a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun as well. Yeah. So for those UX people who managed to make the move into product, do you think that that’s a a one way move is that once you get into product, you’re, you know that that’s where you then will end up staying for one reason or another? Or do you think it’s, it’s easy to kind of switch between both UX and product?

Christian Crumlish: 

Yeah, glad you asked that, because I don’t have a lot of data on this. And I have mentioned people who felt like they, they were slipping into product roles and managed to sort of back out of it before making an unintentional career change. But I will say from my own personal point of view, that it’s not that easy to go back, that making the switch at all is hard for some people to understand, it’s not even that easy to make the switch 100%. In other words, there’s still some product roles that aren’t looking for a UX type of product person who will see you as not a perfect fit for for the kind of technical or otherwise business II product manager that they’re looking for. And to anytime someone switches jobs, like career tracks like this, I don’t know if you got d&d players in your audience. But there are certain character traits where you have to cross train, you know, both as a fighter and a religious leader, and it takes a lot longer to progress, because you have to master two things. And there’s a setback when you go study the other thing. And I think there’s a sort of a career equivalent to that, in some ways. What I found is that when I have occasionally been recruited for a design leadership job, I think I now smell to product he for those people. They they’ve got product people, and they, they want to design a design leader. And so I think maybe that’s not a two way door for me. Now, maybe at a different stage in someone’s career. And that may not be so. And I would say that I worked in startups for a long time in the early phase of my product leadership roles where I had, because it was, you know, small, lean environment, I did wear both hats, which is kind of crazy and difficult to manage. I shouldn’t say crazy. But you know, it’s overwhelming, in a lot of ways, and not the right way to do it. But that did allow me to straddle the line for a while and get my job as a designer still.

Lily Smith: 

And what’s your kind of view of the product designer role? Is that something that sort of sits in design, but enables you to straddle that stately? Or is it just basically a UX person, but with a different name?

Christian Crumlish: 

I think it can be it’s an opportunity, you know, sometimes lip service turns into something real semantics, or vehicles, calling something jobs to be done or calling it a product or whatever, it has an effect on how you do the work and how you frame it. And so it is not meaningless if someone said to us to be UX designer, and now you’re a product designer. And if you say what does that mean? And they say, Oh, it’s just the same thing. That’s kind of dumb, but if they say Well, it’s because there’s something called product mindset and we’re now a product organisation and you’re going to be working with product managers and people are going to train you and your we want you to be aware, not just of like the experience, but really the entire product. Tality of the things that are that means I mean that that could be a real difference. What I would say is often I mean, the Facebook use the title for a long time to mean unicorn, you know, a designer who can also code front end stuff. And so product designer actually means different things in different contexts. So if you have to look beyond what’s on the label to understand what the specific job is really saying by that title, but I do think in a utopian way, it’s an opportunity. And I do I have another book, I’ve been writing that long from out because it’s only half written. It’s not revised. But it’s sort of about product people in general, not just product managers. But how can your designers be product designers? How can your engineers be product engineers, because we’re all working on a product together? They’re a product is a product point of view that that can be shared, just like being concerned about the user experience can be something everybody has, at least thoughts and awareness of

Lily Smith: 

I left that yeah, I often say like, we’re all product managers, which is, you know, that’s an exaggeration. But, you know, if everyone on the team has a product mindset, then it really, really helps, especially in the small teams that I’ve worked in it. Yeah, it’s very, very great.

Christian Crumlish: 

And some people are already being product, people without say, having the title or something which, you know, goes back to the idea that there might be, there might be nobody called a product manager, but you may discover one of your engineers, when they were designers is kind of is clearly a product person, and is just intuitively doing that stuff for you. Give them a raise.

Randy Silver: 

Christian, this has been great. I think we’ve got time for one last question. And I’m going to go back to the negative side. But there was one thing you put in the book that that made me sad. And this is something that Willie and I’ve talked a lot about privately. Maybe it’s something we’re both based in the UK, you’re in California, maybe this is a more of a local thing, you know, but you mapped out a typical day of a product manager and it started, I think it started at 430 in the morning, when you wake up and you jot down an idea. And then at 630 You’re doing checking your metrics, and then before you have breakfast and things like that, that just made me sad, is that really the way you see it that it has to be done that way? Can you work a normal hours and have a normal life or easy? It’s something that you have to be that obsessed with to be to be successful?

Christian Crumlish: 

This is a difficult question for me because I’m torn between what my ideals are my aspirational, where I want the world to be and my own personal lived experience. And what I’d say is that, in the broad scheme of things, it can’t be true that the only way to practice product management is through overwork or being a workaholic or not having boundaries or something and having no work life balance, like that cannot be right. And on some level, I’m probably guilty of romanticising or making a sort of, you know a macho thing about Look how long I work and how obsessed I am. Unintentionally, I hope and having said that, it did that stereotype or that sense didn’t come from anywhere, even if my typical day was a little bit of like, worst case scenario or or exaggerated thing I did, I interviewed a lot of people and had even put out a survey form we had a lot of people submit their typical days and a lot of them started before breakfast and ended after dinnertime. And some people didn’t. They said I don’t work after five. And there were people or whatever, you know, after closing times i That’s for my family like there absolutely were different approaches to that. In the defence of that stream of work, and in the way I work in, I’ve been working on remote teams for a long time. There’s often kind of like an ebb and flow. My my work life boundaries are probably a little too porous, but they allow for me to run out to the store and do something or somehow manage my life in the midst of everything else. So I might be smearing these things around a little bit because I’m able to, I think a job the truth is a job where you have to work all the time, you know, before it starts and after it officially ends is one words understaffed or you’re being inefficient, you might be in to a meetings or, or being, you know, continually doing work to prove that you give value as a product manager, but some of that work is maybe not really necessary.

Randy Silver: 

Thank you. I appreciate you giving that some more clarity. And certainly I my experiences you know, I expect that occasionally I will work outside of hours. I think that’s realistic there. So it was crunch time on things. But at the same time if I don’t have the release on the other side, if I don’t make room for things, I’m not going to be very effective for very long anyway.

Christian Crumlish: 

I think it’s bad for the rest of the team to if you if you set it if you even unintentionally imply that people who aren’t working all the time are less committed and you to the point where if I am on Slack too Late at night or something, I might schedule my reply. So it pops in at 9am the next day and not just because I want to get out of my outbox.

Lily Smith: 

It’s interesting, I think it’s a really interesting topic. And one that we’ll probably cover in fall on the podcast at some point is the the working hours of a product manager. But I do, I think there’s kind of two elements to this. And there’s the side, which is, product managers, like you say, are innately generally enjoying their jobs and curious people who are fascinated by what they’re doing and loving it. So actually, when you get up in the morning, and you want to check to your metric, six 630, to see what happened for the full

Christian Crumlish: 

apologise for that. I manage the COVID website for the state of California right now. And it’s 705. Every morning, I look to see how many vaccines were administered yesterday at 745. I look at the case rate and the death rate.

Lily Smith: 

And I and I think that that’s, you know, that fine and should be celebrated and you should enjoy, you know, you should enjoy your work. Where it gets difficult is when there’s an expectation that you have to work those hours in order to do your job. Well. And I think that’s the bit that for me is, is the wrong message to be sending people

Christian Crumlish: 

agree that work is not structured correctly, if it requires like people to be dysfunctional to do it, or for people to be super heroic. I mean, you can’t I mean, that’s the problem of the startup mythology, and they’re probably overtime. I apologise for that. But But yeah, this idea that, you know, teams of superheroes that’s not sustainable, you can’t scale that, you know, you need some kind of process that an ordinary human can do. Yeah.

Lily Smith: 

But we, you know, we’re product managers, so we just are superheroes and slightly dysfunctional.

Christian Crumlish: 

Yeah, we might be making foibles.

Randy Silver: 

Okay, before we push it too far, I’m just gonna say, Christian, thank you very much. It was a really interesting book. It’s a great topic. And yeah, thank you very much.

Christian Crumlish: 

Yeah. Thanks for a great conversation. Great questions.

Lily Smith: 

Thanks, Christian. Haste, me, Lily Smith and

Randy Silver: 

me Randy silver.

Lily Smith: 

Emily Tate is our producer. And Luke Smith is our editor.

Randy Silver: 

Our theme music is from humbard baseband power that’s pa you thanks to Ana killer who runs product tank and MTP engage in Hamburg and please based in the band for willingness to use their music, connect with your local product community via product tank or regular free meetups in over 200 cities worldwide.

Lily Smith: 

If there’s not one Nagy you can consider starting one yourself. To find out more go to mind the product.com forward slash product tank.

Randy Silver: 

Product Tech is a global community of meetups during buy in for product people. We offer expert talks group discussion and a safe environment for product people to come together and share greetings and tips.

 

 

Product people wear lots of hats—but sometimes we want to swap from one role to another. Author, Consultant, Product lead and recovering-UXer Christian Crumlish joined us on the podcast to talk about why someone might want to move from UX to Product Management, what superpowers they bring to the role, and the biggest surprises they might have. Listen to more episodes…
Featured Links: Follow Christian on LinkedIn and Twitter | Christian's website | Buy Christian's book 'Product Management for UX People' | Design in Product | CA Gov Covid project

Episode transcript

Lily Smith:  Hey, Randy, how many UX people does it take to build a product? Randy Silver:  I don't know, Willie, how many UX people does it take to build a product? Lily Smith:  Randy, I just asked you that question. Randy Silver:  Jesus, I thought you were telling me a joke. Lily Smith:  Oh, no, you're the funny one, remember? But if you don't know the answer, that's fine, because we're talking to him. And he's written a book on the topic. Well, Randy Silver:  not that specifically, more about how a UX person moves into a product role, and the good and the bad sides of making that move. Christian crushes a veteran product and UX person, he's written a few books on the topic, and he's currently working with the California government. And literally, if I'm the funny one, we're in deep trouble. Lily Smith:  That is true. We've always been in deep trouble. But you should also stick around to the end of the conversation, where we also unveil how many hours it really takes a product manager to do their job, no spoilers. The product experience is brought to you by mind the product. Randy Silver:  Every week, we talk to the best product people from around the globe about how we can improve our practice, and build products that people Lily Smith:  love. Because it mind the product.com to catch up on past episodes, and to discover an extensive library of great content and videos, Randy Silver:  browse for free, or become a mind the product member to unlock premium articles, unseen videos, AMA's roundtables, discounts to our conferences around the world training opportunities. Lily Smith:  My new product also offers free product tank meetups in more than 200 cities. And there's probably one you. Randy Silver:  Christian, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast this week. Unknown:  I'm excited to be here. I've been looking forward to this. So we Randy Silver:  met each other virtually, I think it was we were both doing a talk in Australia where neither of us got to go to Australia, unfortunately. But you mentioned at that point that you're working on this book. Tell us a tiny bit. Before we get into the book, just give us a little bit of introduction. This isn't your first book. So who are you? And how did you get into product stuff related stuff in the first place? Christian Crumlish:  Sure. I'll tell you the short version of it because I could fill the whole podcast with to talk about her authentic charisma. Yeah, I My name is Christian Crumlish. I'm a product person with a UX root, let's say Foundation, my my pillar of product is UX, my home base. And my UX roots go back to before UX was the agreed upon primary term for doing that kind of stuff. So I've had all kinds of titles as content strategist at a startup in 2000, in the year 2000, for instance, and Information Architect after that, and all kinds of other things. I was one of the I was the last curator of the Yahoo design pattern library. And over time, actually, when I was in UX design leadership, I started to rub shoulders with product managers more and see the product role as more interesting. And I had mentors and bosses who helped me make the career transition. And in the course of that I kept talking to my UX friends in my regular conferences in my community of practices about, hey, product isn't actually you know, yes, we're, we're, we're bean counters in suits. But look, I'm, I'm a UX person. And I'm over here doing it. And it's, it's actually kind of cool, actually. But it's also different. And one thing that struck me as a person who had been in information architect was that the information architecture toolkit is really useful for product managers in terms of being able to map out and visualise complex systems and put context around things and synthesise a, you know, there's a whole bunch of skills that are that good IPAs tend to have that one, even good product managers don't always have. And if they can partner with somebody or get good at those things that's useful. And if they come in the door with those skills, that's, that's helpful. But there's a lot more to product management than just being great at UX. And there's a lot of other things involved as well. So what I found was that people started asking me about the career move or what it was like, or whether they should do it themselves, or they're maybe being forced into a product, role or activities, and they weren't sure how they felt about it. But I had a series of impromptu and coaching, mentoring type conversations that led me to form a little community for discussing this topic called Designing product. And it's mostly about you know, once you have a conversation with a couple of people, you're like, well, maybe we should get more people in on this. It won't scale if I just individually coach every person having the same set of questions. And but that's created a kind of a clubhouse for me and other people who are quite interested in this overlapping area and fertile ground there. And that led to the book, really, I mean, the book was on my mind, but the book came into being with the support of that community with close reading and feedback and suggestions from that group of sort of an Inner Inner group of super interested people. Randy Silver:  So the book is called Product Management for UX people with the subtitle from designing to thriving in a product world. But I'm curious, you know, UX is really interesting work. And when I work with a good UX person, they're worth their weight in gold, they make a massive difference. They're amazing partners. And it, you know, the most the time they seem pretty happy, you know, they're working on the fun stuff, and I'm working on the stuff that's, that's annoying them. So why would why would a UX person ever want to go into product? What do they think they're missing? Christian Crumlish:  That's a very interesting question. I think you're right that I caution people who, who romanticise product management as a kind of super UX job where you get to do UX a lot, and also be in charge of making the decisions. That's sort of the naive idea of what product management is, from a UX person's perspective, the person in the room who seems to care about us, but also seems to have more authority for some reason. And and, and, of course, in some ways, it's not exactly that's in a lot of ways. So for some people, it does come from that desire to be in the decision making role. For some UX people, they're already pretty far to the strategic stakeholder managing. Having the important workshop to get the prioritisation sorted, like some people are de facto doing a lot of product like stuff and not a lot of pixel pushing in their, in their UX careers. And product management feels a lot more adjacent to them to some of them. Another thing is that it's a it's a variant on a common dilemma for designers in general, which is do I have to become a manager to get ahead in my career? The officially the answer in the tech world nowadays is no, we, we we have an individual contributor track and it goes up to principal or esteemed or whatever you can make up a new one when you need to. And that's good, that's a good thing. You know, I do caution people that you can do that. But you can avoid becoming a people manager, but you can't, you can't keep getting ahead further further, without being a leader of some kind without giving back to the organisation at the leadership level, then you don't need that high level an individual contributor if they're not really delivering leverage, you know, at scale after a while. But having said that, some people do say, well, maybe I should become a design manager. And some people learn like I did, that design, management can still be a creative job. The fear that Why won't be drawing the screens anymore, it means I'm not creating anymore is the, you know, some people compared it to like becoming the, the conductor of the orchestra or the choreographer, maybe you're not out there dancing anymore, and you missed the spotlight a little bit, but you're still doing a very creative job. It just involves deploying groups of people to do a collaborative thing. That's amazing. And it's one of those types of roles. So it does appeal to some types. Lily Smith:  Do you think in terms of that move from UX into products, that there's probably some people who are kind of more likely to be pulled in that direction, because of the the environment that they're in? You know, that there may be a kind of lack of product management skills within that team? And so they're then kind of forced to fill that role? And is there a time at which I think these are two very different questions that Shiva, is there a time at which, like, it's a good time to explore the product role, like, if you're interested in it as a UX person is there? You know, is there a time to go? No, I'm not ready for this yet. On a time to go, Yes, I'm gonna do this. Now. Christian Crumlish:  I know that I think those are related questions. Thinking about conversations I've had with people in variations on those situations, the it is quite common for people to end up doing what we think of as product management work in avoid because they're there in a on a team that has somehow intuited or learned some product management, product mindset notions, but hasn't actually staffed a product manager. So there's just a sort of unspoken expectation that there's going to be some agile or build, measure, learn or someone's going to track a metric, or it could be all kinds of, you know, sort of a grab bag of things. And the UX, certain UX people are already maybe doing some of that time together. Feeling good UX has to be very context aware. So there's a natural desire to be a little bit nosy about the rest of what's going on. And Kenny engineers we build this is the business really going to let me do this. So I think some people are adjacent and they do get sucked into it. So engineers do two other roles can end up doing product II stuff and, and they can be ambivalent about it. So I've met people in my course of thinking about these topics and presenting and talking about it. I have friends who said they realised they were being turned into a product person and more of a business person than they want it to be. And they they wasn't intentional. And their intention, their career was to be a designer or to do more UX research or do something more specifically still rooted in the UX side of the table. And just being aware that you're near the edge of the vortex is important whether you want to go into Now, are there times when it makes sense to explore that? Well, first of all, if you're giving, if you're being asked to do something, to fill a void like that, it's good to hang a lampshade on it and make people aware it's going on. And maybe if you're interested, say, I'm going to do this for a while, remember, I'm not unmuted as part of it. But I, I'm interested, and I'm willing to do it for a while, and then you can tentatively as a person in your own career, try it out and see if you're good at it. And if you like it, not everybody has that opportunity. So I mean, the most, when people know they want to change careers, for instance, it's almost a commonplace to let people know that easiest way to do that is a job that is willing to let you change your title, as opposed to having the old title at one job. And then a new company taking the first chance of giving you the new title, a mentor, a boss, who knows your ambitions, who lets you try something out. And then based on you're both assessing whether it's good, maybe supports you shifting teams is probably the easiest way to make the transition not to say it's the only way. And so part of that is that idea of saying yeah, I'll dabble in this for a while, so long as you put boundaries around it, if you don't necessarily want to be forced to do it. If you're like, Okay, I tried that. But we all agreed that I wasn't so great at that, or I didn't love that. And for me, personally, again, I had mentors and bosses who were very supportive, including somebody who, when I came back from like a six week assignment, helping to product manage launch, for a property that that AOL owned, when I was at AOL, my boss sort of said to me, you, you're lit up, but like, I've never seen you so into your work, like, whatever you were just doing, that's what you love doing. And to have somebody who can reflect how people can reflect that back or recognise that for you can be, you know, that that's a, an opportunity to take advantage of I think that you know, to listen to that. Randy Silver:  Okay, so you touched on some of the things that might be challenges. And, you know, we're product people, we, we always focus on the negative, so we have to overcome. Before we do that, let's let's do some of the positive stuff. So for a UX person moving into our product role, what are the superpowers that they walk in with? What are the things that they're over indexed on that they're, you know, going to find really useful enrol that maybe other people might not be so skilled at? Christian Crumlish:  I think a lot of them are these things that have been packaged up often around the ideas of design thinking and stuff like that. So the ability to help visualise things, you know, literally to use the drawing skills for you know, that some subset of UX people have, or diagramming skills, you know, to be that person, you can get up in a meeting that is kind of going in circles and say, Hey, nerdy mind, if I grab a marker and start drawing a picture what I think people are saying, because then they go, No, that's not what I'm saying, you know, you want to get it right, but just like to be the person who can, who can catalyse that, you know, turn in in a meeting, I think it's something that certain UX people have have have the ability to do that sketching and visualising and visual communication skill. A lot of the high level, you know, the, when you're good at UX, you're you're you're synthesising research. And you're, you know, coming up with basically hypotheses, ideas about solutions to problems that you might use a different terminology than a product manager does. But you're bringing to the table a whole toolkit for trying out reasons why this data is, why is that number going down? Well, we see it's going down, let's not panic, let's come up with some thoughts about it. And then if so, let's explore some designs or some approaches that might tell us in a quick experiment, whether we're right about our hypothesis, and then we can go try to repair the truck. So I think that there, you know, the ability to contextualise problems, literally, information architecture, like I said before, I think is almost like a suit is a superpower if you've got it. As a product manager, I constantly feel like I need to make a picture or a stack diagram for myself to just map the thing I'm grappling with in my head, I'm going in circles on and as soon as I make that diagram, everybody goes, I love that diagram, you know, they just start to consume it and want to have it. But I brought that to my product role from my UX and IA background. So there's a bunch of things like that. And user research is something that product management does in its own way, but not always in a way that says well informed by what the UX research approach has to say about it. And there's a collaborative opportunity there, for instance, Lily Smith:  and if we think about the the typical product management Venn Diagram of user experience, or you know, the voice of the customer versus technical and business, one would assume then that a UX person moving into that product role is going to need more developments and kind of coaching on the technical and the business side of things. So is there anything in particular that you would encourage product people to do moving into that role in order to fill those those gaps in knowledge? Christian Crumlish:  Well, I I do agree with the person So the question, although I think that these Venn diagrams, like, you know, tend to collapse a lot of stuff in a way, and I like to joke that every discipline has a Venn diagram, with their discipline in the centre, and everybody else being kind of a peripheral thing. So we should only take it as, you know, we take it, it's a useful artefact. And we all know it, even though some people label those circles in different ways or put more in there. But there's that sense that again, the product manager is certainly orchestrating and coordinating across all these different areas and has to have facility and confidence in discussing, say technical limitations or challenges to it not to be too reductive, but, you know, you can't let an engineer who just defers you, with you on taste tell you something's impossible, you have to be able to say, No, it's not, I know, you don't want to do it. But I can see it's possible look at this example over here, or look at this quick prototype I made or something like that. So there's some some need to be, as I say, sort of sophisticated about the the areas that you don't come in with as part of your grounding. Again, I think a person who's good at UX, who's been doing UX in a internet software world for any any recent amount of time, it's probably got some technical chops, they understand the materials they're working with, to some degree, they work with engineers, almost certainly, they might be hopefully they haven't come up in the hole, completely dysfunctional environment where they are isolated from the engineers or don't, haven't learned any ability to work with them. So I think you come in with some of those skills already. I think it's more than a product manager has to sort of herd the cats, you know that the product manager has more responsibility that the work the engineers do is on point and that they have helpful direction, but not micromanagement and that they're empowered, but that they're also solving problems. And so there's a lot more involved in in the work of the engineers, whereas for UX is more like negotiating with engineers or handing off to them, or sometimes co creating with them in a very productive way. But it's still not the same thing of sort of making sure that they that that things are on track that on some level, or that it's all coming together in a big picture way. So there's definitely things that you need to learn, I think, to get more of a handle on that responsibility, that that oversight responsibility of the technical constraints of the project and the technical debt and things like that. More obviously, the business lobe, you know, the the part that that which covers a whole host of things, I mean, it's often going to market stuff, but it's also financial stuff. And it can be also just data science, and analytics sometimes get put in there too, because it's just the wing of the businesses that do that, or who owns bi or whatever, who owns that stuff. As well as sometimes operational things and finance in general and running a company stuff and like the whole rest of the company can sometimes be put under that category as having sales, you know, where does sales fit in here, for instance, and, you know, not to stereotype, but a lot of UX people, didn't, they, except that they work in a business world, but they don't view themselves as the business people, you know, they see, they see that as a different job. And there's a different culture in some ways, there's certainly a lot of different lingo. It takes more effort, I think, for you, for a person with a UX Foundation, or who's been living immersed in the UX world, to decode business and to learn, in what ways your business partners are also trying to make great software for customers that want to come back. And that provides a lot of value, you know, it's just that there's some work to be done. And going back to those superpowers, probably the one I would hit UX people over the head with, when they feel annoyed about a salesperson who's got a different style than them or having to talk to people who think much more in terms of the money than anything else. Which is that we're supposed to be we speaking as a UX person, myself now are supposed to be the empathy people or the you know, the compassion people, we kind of give ourselves that badge because we speak for the voice of the end user where we can we're the only person in the room saying, what about this poor little user who we're trying to get their money? Why aren't we serving them better? And yet, I think sometimes we look overlook the adjacent people we work with, because they're not an end user. But they're actually a user of our of our co working services, you know, there, we give them an experience when we try to do UX with them, or do product management with them or whoever, whoever we're working with. And when we feel annoyed or frustrated or think they're coming at us wrong. We don't ask ourselves in the same way we would with a customer like maybe they're not wrong, maybe in their world, they're right. And I need to work harder to understand what motivates them and what are they afraid of? And where can I become their ally and solve their problems rather than someone seen as just a new a new obstacle in the way of their agenda? Randy Silver:  Okay, so let's move back a little bit. You've got this community of people that you've been giving advice to that helped you give feedback on the book and I'm assuming that some of them, at least some of them have moved made the move from UX and Christian Crumlish:  we all give advice to each other by the way, yeah, people that are on the different levels. Now. Sure it's a fantastic community. Yeah. Randy Silver:  I'm curious who so when someone else joins the community now or is about to make the move for the first time, I'm guessing people. Sometimes someone will come in and say, Wow, I didn't expect this to happen. And everyone else. Uh, yeah, yeah, we all went through that. What's that thing? What's the thing? That's Oh, the consistent biggest surprises didn't work the way they thought it would. Christian Crumlish:  That's funny. I mean, it's interesting, because I, I don't know whether we have so many people literally who sort of come in on that cusp. We get a lot of people who are exploring it and a certain number of people who just want to understand it all better to do their jobs better. Certainly, some people thinking about making the move and who do make the move. I think that probably the common flavour is a version of things don't work quite the way you thought they did. You know, and that that's the kind of the largest heading and the specifics range from not realising how much their life would consist of meetings now, when, as a design manager, even though they'd had meetings and manage people, they still were doing what they viewed as like creative work, or is it designer? Of course, they were, you know, and then there's a, there's been sort of a theme of realising that nobody is managing the engineers or that, you know, that, that there's a lack of realising the void in coordination that the product manager is on the hook for, but without the actual, you know, the whole need the need to persuade without having necessarily like authority or ultimate authority. And not so much the generic idea. I think, everybody knows that, in general is true, they hear that going in. But then realising just often how slippery it is, you know, starting to be held accountable for things that you realise you don't necessarily have a handle on how to how to improve them seems to be a common theme of new product managers coming into the role. And I don't know if that's just I mean, that might be true for any new product manager, a person who's been doing UX, I think, has been seeing these things and think they understand how it works. And then once you get behind the wheel, you realise there's not as many not as much equipment here as I thought. Randy Silver:  So Christian, you said, people find out that the role is different than they thought that they're in more meetings, that they don't necessarily have the control that there's more things that they have to cover for that they didn't think, what about the you said, also earlier that people sometimes think, Oh, I'm going to be able to continue to do all the fun parts of my job, but get to now be in charge and make decisions? What's the thing that they actually find out that they're not able to do anymore? That they really wanted to? Christian Crumlish:  Yeah, I mean, it's funny, both houses that contain sort of a fallacy, and one is that you're going to keep getting to do UX. Now, I mean, and which means like, if you like being in drawing programmes a lot, which is not the only thing you do in UX, obviously, but you know, if you like making diagrams or making screens, you're probably not going to make screens wireframes anymore, certainly only on a very tiny team, for instance, and if you do, most people won't appreciate it. Because you shouldn't be doing that. I think, yeah, realising that you're now design adjacent, that you might have requests of the designer, and you might be conversant with design, but you have to actually like bend over backwards to make it clear to yourself that you're not the designer, so you don't kind of step on the toes. If you're the product manager. And you say, Well, I was a UX person to just recently you know, so I'm gonna kind of CO UX lead with this with you. That's not what any UX person wants to hear. You know what I usually say I'm, I used to do UX. I'm retired from UX, you're the UX person, I have opinions like anybody, I'm a product manager, I have opinions, I'm going to push you if I disagree with you. But I'm not going to get in there with you and try to say, we're going to do the UX together, you're in charge of the UX, I might say, please solve this problem. I think we need to solve this problem, but you're going to solve it. And I think that realising that you're going to let go of that is probably hard. The other thing, the other half is that you said what, but now you get to make decisions. And of course, the truth is, you don't necessarily really get to make decisions or you know, let's say you do get to make decisions, you have to make decisions, you're on the hook to make lots of decisions, really, but there are a lot of them are tactical, the the really major strategic decisions, I'd say more often you facilitate them and you ensure that they get made rigorously. You follow through and track whether they were made correctly, you know, so you're very closely involved with decisions, but you're using you're not necessarily the the, you know, you're not the CEO of the product, as people like to say you're not the final word on stuff. You do have to step in sometimes in the void and when no one's deciding, so I'm deciding, and people might tend to defer to you on some team so you can end up making all the decisions. But I think a great product manager, like I said, ensures that it's the right decision gets made and that the decision gets made right. Even on the last topic, I feel like we we should say that we you know, the surprise of becoming a product manager can sound like frustration and disappointment, but I'd say another common theme of people who've switched to product management is a sense of like exhilaration and being and like having I mean these complaints are told with a with a smile, because they're having so much fun being involved in everything and, and seeing and everything. Like I often say that a great product manager is sort of a nosy person who kind of wants to know all the gossip and what's going on. But I'm sorry, that wasn't really your question. Randy Silver:  No, no, let's but that was a really good answer. And we have been a bit negative. So Krisha, we've been focusing on things, the negative surprises, what are the positives? What is what's awesome about making the move? Christian Crumlish:  I know I was starting to feel that about about that, too, is it's almost like I'm trying to keep people out, oh, you wouldn't like product management go away. And the truth is that, you know, a common thing that I've noticed that people who've made the transition to product management, even when they're kind of grimacing about frustration, or overwork, or obsession, is, is just a lot of enjoyment, like a lot of like sort of the the sheer fun of being really deeply involved in what's going on. And even if you don't have the final say on everything, like being in being read into everything, and being you know, I like to say that a great product manager is someone who's kind of nosy and want wants to know all the gossip though, the official story and what's really happening and who knows, who can get something unstuck and what's really going on with those people. And you know, that desire to be in the room when decisions are made, if you ever had a job, and people went into the conference room, and then they came out later with a plan and you're like, I want to be in the room when those conversations are happening. Product Management does get you in that room. And and I think for some people, it's it could really be a joyful Lily Smith:  job. That yeah, that literally describes very well how I feel about it is a lot of fun, a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun as well. Yeah. So for those UX people who managed to make the move into product, do you think that that's a a one way move is that once you get into product, you're, you know that that's where you then will end up staying for one reason or another? Or do you think it's, it's easy to kind of switch between both UX and product? Christian Crumlish:  Yeah, glad you asked that, because I don't have a lot of data on this. And I have mentioned people who felt like they, they were slipping into product roles and managed to sort of back out of it before making an unintentional career change. But I will say from my own personal point of view, that it's not that easy to go back, that making the switch at all is hard for some people to understand, it's not even that easy to make the switch 100%. In other words, there's still some product roles that aren't looking for a UX type of product person who will see you as not a perfect fit for for the kind of technical or otherwise business II product manager that they're looking for. And to anytime someone switches jobs, like career tracks like this, I don't know if you got d&d players in your audience. But there are certain character traits where you have to cross train, you know, both as a fighter and a religious leader, and it takes a lot longer to progress, because you have to master two things. And there's a setback when you go study the other thing. And I think there's a sort of a career equivalent to that, in some ways. What I found is that when I have occasionally been recruited for a design leadership job, I think I now smell to product he for those people. They they've got product people, and they, they want to design a design leader. And so I think maybe that's not a two way door for me. Now, maybe at a different stage in someone's career. And that may not be so. And I would say that I worked in startups for a long time in the early phase of my product leadership roles where I had, because it was, you know, small, lean environment, I did wear both hats, which is kind of crazy and difficult to manage. I shouldn't say crazy. But you know, it's overwhelming, in a lot of ways, and not the right way to do it. But that did allow me to straddle the line for a while and get my job as a designer still. Lily Smith:  And what's your kind of view of the product designer role? Is that something that sort of sits in design, but enables you to straddle that stately? Or is it just basically a UX person, but with a different name? Christian Crumlish:  I think it can be it's an opportunity, you know, sometimes lip service turns into something real semantics, or vehicles, calling something jobs to be done or calling it a product or whatever, it has an effect on how you do the work and how you frame it. And so it is not meaningless if someone said to us to be UX designer, and now you're a product designer. And if you say what does that mean? And they say, Oh, it's just the same thing. That's kind of dumb, but if they say Well, it's because there's something called product mindset and we're now a product organisation and you're going to be working with product managers and people are going to train you and your we want you to be aware, not just of like the experience, but really the entire product. Tality of the things that are that means I mean that that could be a real difference. What I would say is often I mean, the Facebook use the title for a long time to mean unicorn, you know, a designer who can also code front end stuff. And so product designer actually means different things in different contexts. So if you have to look beyond what's on the label to understand what the specific job is really saying by that title, but I do think in a utopian way, it's an opportunity. And I do I have another book, I've been writing that long from out because it's only half written. It's not revised. But it's sort of about product people in general, not just product managers. But how can your designers be product designers? How can your engineers be product engineers, because we're all working on a product together? They're a product is a product point of view that that can be shared, just like being concerned about the user experience can be something everybody has, at least thoughts and awareness of Lily Smith:  I left that yeah, I often say like, we're all product managers, which is, you know, that's an exaggeration. But, you know, if everyone on the team has a product mindset, then it really, really helps, especially in the small teams that I've worked in it. Yeah, it's very, very great. Christian Crumlish:  And some people are already being product, people without say, having the title or something which, you know, goes back to the idea that there might be, there might be nobody called a product manager, but you may discover one of your engineers, when they were designers is kind of is clearly a product person, and is just intuitively doing that stuff for you. Give them a raise. Randy Silver:  Christian, this has been great. I think we've got time for one last question. And I'm going to go back to the negative side. But there was one thing you put in the book that that made me sad. And this is something that Willie and I've talked a lot about privately. Maybe it's something we're both based in the UK, you're in California, maybe this is a more of a local thing, you know, but you mapped out a typical day of a product manager and it started, I think it started at 430 in the morning, when you wake up and you jot down an idea. And then at 630 You're doing checking your metrics, and then before you have breakfast and things like that, that just made me sad, is that really the way you see it that it has to be done that way? Can you work a normal hours and have a normal life or easy? It's something that you have to be that obsessed with to be to be successful? Christian Crumlish:  This is a difficult question for me because I'm torn between what my ideals are my aspirational, where I want the world to be and my own personal lived experience. And what I'd say is that, in the broad scheme of things, it can't be true that the only way to practice product management is through overwork or being a workaholic or not having boundaries or something and having no work life balance, like that cannot be right. And on some level, I'm probably guilty of romanticising or making a sort of, you know a macho thing about Look how long I work and how obsessed I am. Unintentionally, I hope and having said that, it did that stereotype or that sense didn't come from anywhere, even if my typical day was a little bit of like, worst case scenario or or exaggerated thing I did, I interviewed a lot of people and had even put out a survey form we had a lot of people submit their typical days and a lot of them started before breakfast and ended after dinnertime. And some people didn't. They said I don't work after five. And there were people or whatever, you know, after closing times i That's for my family like there absolutely were different approaches to that. In the defence of that stream of work, and in the way I work in, I've been working on remote teams for a long time. There's often kind of like an ebb and flow. My my work life boundaries are probably a little too porous, but they allow for me to run out to the store and do something or somehow manage my life in the midst of everything else. So I might be smearing these things around a little bit because I'm able to, I think a job the truth is a job where you have to work all the time, you know, before it starts and after it officially ends is one words understaffed or you're being inefficient, you might be in to a meetings or, or being, you know, continually doing work to prove that you give value as a product manager, but some of that work is maybe not really necessary. Randy Silver:  Thank you. I appreciate you giving that some more clarity. And certainly I my experiences you know, I expect that occasionally I will work outside of hours. I think that's realistic there. So it was crunch time on things. But at the same time if I don't have the release on the other side, if I don't make room for things, I'm not going to be very effective for very long anyway. Christian Crumlish:  I think it's bad for the rest of the team to if you if you set it if you even unintentionally imply that people who aren't working all the time are less committed and you to the point where if I am on Slack too Late at night or something, I might schedule my reply. So it pops in at 9am the next day and not just because I want to get out of my outbox. Lily Smith:  It's interesting, I think it's a really interesting topic. And one that we'll probably cover in fall on the podcast at some point is the the working hours of a product manager. But I do, I think there's kind of two elements to this. And there's the side, which is, product managers, like you say, are innately generally enjoying their jobs and curious people who are fascinated by what they're doing and loving it. So actually, when you get up in the morning, and you want to check to your metric, six 630, to see what happened for the full Christian Crumlish:  apologise for that. I manage the COVID website for the state of California right now. And it's 705. Every morning, I look to see how many vaccines were administered yesterday at 745. I look at the case rate and the death rate. Lily Smith:  And I and I think that that's, you know, that fine and should be celebrated and you should enjoy, you know, you should enjoy your work. Where it gets difficult is when there's an expectation that you have to work those hours in order to do your job. Well. And I think that's the bit that for me is, is the wrong message to be sending people Christian Crumlish:  agree that work is not structured correctly, if it requires like people to be dysfunctional to do it, or for people to be super heroic. I mean, you can't I mean, that's the problem of the startup mythology, and they're probably overtime. I apologise for that. But But yeah, this idea that, you know, teams of superheroes that's not sustainable, you can't scale that, you know, you need some kind of process that an ordinary human can do. Yeah. Lily Smith:  But we, you know, we're product managers, so we just are superheroes and slightly dysfunctional. Christian Crumlish:  Yeah, we might be making foibles. Randy Silver:  Okay, before we push it too far, I'm just gonna say, Christian, thank you very much. It was a really interesting book. It's a great topic. And yeah, thank you very much. Christian Crumlish:  Yeah. Thanks for a great conversation. Great questions. Lily Smith:  Thanks, Christian. Haste, me, Lily Smith and Randy Silver:  me Randy silver. Lily Smith:  Emily Tate is our producer. And Luke Smith is our editor. Randy Silver:  Our theme music is from humbard baseband power that's pa you thanks to Ana killer who runs product tank and MTP engage in Hamburg and please based in the band for willingness to use their music, connect with your local product community via product tank or regular free meetups in over 200 cities worldwide. Lily Smith:  If there's not one Nagy you can consider starting one yourself. To find out more go to mind the product.com forward slash product tank. Randy Silver:  Product Tech is a global community of meetups during buy in for product people. We offer expert talks group discussion and a safe environment for product people to come together and share greetings and tips.