Does being a parent make you a better product manager and vice versa? Titus Chereches thinks so, and here he explains why.
My wife Adnana and I are blessed with two lovely children: Ravi, who is three, and Lucas, who is six months old. Our days and nights are full and we try to cherish this time in our lives, embracing the joys and challenges. I am also a product manager at app builder platform Passion.io and am fortunate to work with an exceptional team of self-driven, talented and passionate individuals.
I think raising children and product management share some striking similarities. I believe being a parent makes me a better product manager, and the reverse is also true. In this post I’d like to explore the parallels between these two roles and how they have enriched my life. So let’s dive in!
Understand your stakeholders
One of the first things you do as a product manager is identify and understand your stakeholders. I deal with many stakeholders, both internal (squad members, people from CS, Marketing, Sales, Management and so on) and external (our customers, people who launch their own apps). Each one is unique, having different needs and expectations. I cannot get everyone in the same room or meeting and follow an “all for one and one for all” approach. To establish rapport and foster effective communication, I must invest time in getting to know each stakeholder individually.
Each member of our family of four has distinct needs and desires, and I think it’s important to understand everyone’s requirements and work towards fulfilling them. Our younger child has totally different needs from our elder so I create personalized experiences for each of them. Whether it’s engaging in a game of peek-a-boo with our little one or playing football and wrestling with our elder child, I aim to provide age-specific activities that cater to their unique interests.
As a product manager, I’ve come to understand that empathy serves as the foundation of stakeholder management. Through my experiences, I like to think that I’ve developed a profound level of empathy that influences every aspect of my work. From interacting with colleagues to conceptualizing the product and anticipating user behavior, empathy plays a pivotal role. I strive to view situations from multiple perspectives and put myself in the shoes of stakeholders to better understand their needs and expectations. This approach not only enhances communication and collaboration but also leads to more successful outcomes for all involved.
Have you ever found yourself seated beside a wailing child and felt exasperated by the parents’ apparent lack of control? Well, when I’ve found myself in that situation as a parent, my perspective has shifted. I empathize with the parents, realizing the challenges of keeping a child calm in a foreign, unfamiliar, even claustrophobic environment.
Like anyone else I occasionally struggle to empathize with my kids. Sometimes I just want to get the job done. However, I find that when I make an effort to understand their emotions, perspectives and needs, it helps them to feel valued, respected, and heard.
Plan and prioritize
We’ve recently had a family trip in Tenerife. We find that travel is becoming less straightforward, because there are more variables to take into consideration:
- Can we align our flight time with the children’s sleep schedule?
- What snacks should we take? What books/toys?
- How do we get from the airport to the accommodation?
- How do we sleep? Do we have a baby cot?
- Will the room be dark enough for sleep?
Differentiating between the importance and urgency of tasks is equally vital. For instance, do we prioritize changing a diaper over cleaning up a mess caused by a dropped plate? Is it more important to maintain a tidy home or to spend quality time with loved ones? The ability to distinguish between the two can prove challenging for many.
Effective planning and prioritization are fundamental skills for a product manager, which are integrated into their daily routine. From creating the roadmap and planning sprints, to establishing OKRs, the role involves considering numerous variables. Juggling timelines, workloads, feature requests, customer issues, resource management, and other crucial factors requires a nuanced understanding of prioritization and an instinctive sense of urgency, which becomes increasingly crucial as teams expand.
Raising children can test your patience. Cultivating patience and trusting the process is an essential aspect of parenting. Whether it’s waiting for a toddler to take their first steps, transitioning out of diapers, or tending to a restless baby in the middle of the night, a parent must remain patient and appreciate the season as it passes. With time, everything will fall into place.
Similarly, managing a product may require a product manager to adopt a waiting-game mentality. Even in times of urgency, there may be moments when a product manager must step back, trust their team, and allow other stakeholders to handle the situation. Trusting the system is key to success – as Bob Marley reminds us, “Every little thing’s gonna be all right”.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Do I raise the bar every day? As a husband? As a dad? As a product manager?
- What are my biggest anxieties and how can I tackle them?
In general, I like to be one step ahead. Before we became parents, we read all sorts of books about parenting, hoping that we’ll be properly equipped to face this new chapter in our lives. While no book can fully prepare you for raising children, those we did read gave us a foundational understanding of what to expect and offered valuable guiding principles.
Children evolve constantly and present new challenges along the way. Just when you think they have it all under control, a toddler throws their first tantrum. There is ample room for growth, and falling behind is not an option. Our loved ones deserve the best version of ourselves.
This principle also holds true in the professional realm, where continuous learning and self-improvement are essential to stay relevant in a fast-paced, changing industry. To drive the point home, allow me to share a quote that resonates with me:
Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself – John Dewey
By embracing a lifelong learning mindset, we can continually expand our knowledge and skills, and achieve greater success and fulfillment in our careers and family life.
Be curious. Ask “Why”
My three-year-old is an expert at this. Here’s a typical conversation between us:
- Me: “Ravi, please do X”.
- Ravi: “Why?”
- Me: “Because it’s important.”
- Ravi: “Why is it important?”
- Me: “Because… [explaining why it’s important for him or for us as a family]”
- Ravi, as innocent as he could sound: “But why?”
… this goes on until I sometimes give up, but you get the point.
As a product manager, it’s crucial for me consistently to ask “Why?”. It’s not enough to settle for surface-level answers or jump to conclusions. Instead, I must dig deeper and uncover the core of the problem we’re trying to solve. I continually ask myself, “Why is this important for our customers, or for our company?”. By doing so, I can ensure that we are genuinely addressing the root of the issue rather than merely addressing symptoms.
Marriage and raising children require teamwork, and I am incredibly grateful to have such an amazing wife by my side. We have each other’s backs and can count on one another during difficult times.
There’s a Bible quote that I like, that reflects the importance of working together:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
As a product manager, success is measured by the outcome of the team’s efforts. Being a lone wolf is a BIG no no. You need to foster a collaborative environment, you need accountable people whom you can rely on, people who always have your back.
At Passion, the tech team is split into squads, and each one focuses on different areas of the business. If one member of the team is struggling or not performing at their best, it can have a ripple effect on the whole squad. That’s why it’s important for us as a squad to constantly level up our skills and knowledge, and work together as a cohesive unit. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize and applaud the hard work and dedication of the people in the squad I lead – Alfa squad: Renata, Lenka, Attilio, Xiao, and Farhad. It’s an honor to work with such an outstanding group of individuals.
Your turn now
Do you see parallels between your work and parenthood? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.