Artifacts of a Product Manager
Photography Was a Passion of Mine Long Before I Became a Product Manager
After just a single elective photography course in college, I became hooked. The class format was simple enough — first, we received our assignment with some basic instruction from the professor, next we took to the streets with our overpriced film to capture our shots, and we then selected our top 3 to 5 film negatives (remember those?) that we wanted to develop onto photo paper.
That magic occurred in the darkroom — a barely lit cave directly adjacent to our more formal classroom. It was filled with dangerous chemicals, *early 2000’s emo rock, and intensely frustrating iteration — all to create something a little more tangible. My head was spinning. I loved it.
Once we completed the development process, it was time for our instructor to kindly deconstruct exactly how and why our photos sucked, but “don’t worry” she explained — if we enjoyed photography and kept working at it, we were almost guaranteed to get better.
She was an expert photographer, and I proved her correct
My footing was sure before the ground shook.
After graduation, I worked at 2 technology startups that could not have been more different from one another. The first spun off from an established R&D firm and made it easier to search for audio online (speech to text). The second was an online personals website that made it easier to hook up. Although both were very different (with equally quirky cultures that I enjoyed) both provided a great primer on the day to day hands on work required to market and sell products and services to a group of people who can benefit from its use.
After 5 years; I built up enough experience and knowledge to become semi-dangerous. My footing was on solid ground — and my future path was becoming a little clearer as I understood more clearly what I wanted to do, and what I didn’t want to do. I was in full stride and gainfully employed. I wore a Halloween costume to work for the first time ever. I was going on international business trips (yes, international)
And then the economic crisis of 2008 occurred and people were frightened. The people who ran companies were also frightened — and many (including my own) responded the best way they knew how. Layoffs.
I created digital shipping tools after I was an office boy.
A few years later, I graduated from a corporate-sponsored MBA program and dove head first into my first official role as a Product Manager with FedEx. My excitement and curiosity were matched with challenge and ambiguity — but more importantly, with the praise and kudos from my team and management on the victories and progress made along the way.
After a few years I came up for air to reflect — experts were asking me for my opinion, no two days were the same, and I was helping people in my own humble way — making online shipping easier and more efficient, in particular — for those silently head down in the largest and ugliest cube around — getting all the most essential and despised tasks/chores of the day — like preparing labels for shipments. You may have heard of them as they have many different titles:
- administrative assistant
- regular assistant
- personal assistant
- executive assistance
- <insert your own> assistant
- person sitting next to the person in charge
- office boy
And trust me, after providing that service (even for a single year at one of those startups) my appreciation for these task managers grew. All from our shared experience, holding down the cube.
To be continued…