Saturday, November 26, 2016

Changing Roles...again

So much for that new years resolution to post more -- its coming up on a year since my last post. About two months ago I moved from Product Management back into Engineering. In September, I left the HPE Stackato product management team  and took a senior engineering management position at Zonar Systems, a Seattle based vehicle telematics company.

The last two years were hard, but the lessons  I learned were ultimately worth the struggle, because I learned so much.

I learned to execute better, from being very specific about what I wanted out of every meeting, to always driving discussions to closure, even if it is across several meetings and emails.

I learned how important it is as a Product Owner to define the arc of a backlog - the way product themes are implemented via epics, stories, and ultimately tasks -- and how important it is to keep the backlog well defined.

I learned how inspirational leaders can unleash the best out of a team, and how non inspirational leaders can demotivate the same team.

I also learned a lot about myself. I did have some misgivings about the role, and as time went on those misgivings were shown to be true. Unfortunately I ignored those initial instincts, and by the time I started listening to them, the compromises I had made to stay in the role were significant, and I didn't know if I had compromised so much that I was 'trapped' in the role.

The one thing I really missed was thinking about the 'How'. As a Product Manager,  I loved thinking about the Why and the What, but in order to be effective as a Product Manager I had to delegate the How completely.

When I realized that being a Product Manager was not for me,  I sat back and made a list of what I wanted to do next, and after some searching, found that position at Zonar.

I've been very happy digging into the new job. Ironically, it's the things that I learned as a product manager that have been the most critical to my success in the first two months. That's great, because there was a period of time where I was really questioning the move to product management and whether it was a mistake. At this point it looks like the best possible move to have made.

I would like to say that I was that smart and forward looking, and intentional about my career path. The truth was that I was never thinking that far ahead. What I really did was follow my curiosity, which is what I've always done. I started in software  because I was interested in writing the logic behind the applications I used.  The job choices I made as a software engineer were motivated by the chance to learn new technologies and skills to solve harder and more interesting problems. That's been the story of my career and my life, and so far it has panned out well. 


  1. Great insights to your flip into, then pivot out of, being a Product Manager. I especially love that you used your own career as an experiment to create a hypothesis (i.e. that you'll enjoy a different kind of work) and to harvest some "validated learning" as you ran that experiment. This was great science, and a good way to do intentional learning.

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