Creating Simplicity in a World that Worships Complexity: Why I Love Product Management (and Product Managers)
I grew up in an immigrant family. We didn’t have cable TV, seasonal decor, or the latest fashions. Their example of ignoring fads and prioritizing what was important to them empowered me to finish grad school while working full-time, move every year or two for work, and become a part-time nomad when the pandemic died down. Yet, the more I reconnected with my minimalist roots, the less I felt I fit in in tech.
Geek culture is all about unnecessary complexity, from Magic the Gathering (a chess alternative with a much more time consuming learning curve; yes, I said it!) to making everything a (usually custom built) website (as opposed to a blog, Notion page, or Google Doc.) I never felt hardcore enough as a software engineer because I felt more free using Medium than Bootstrap. I felt more empowered getting things done fast than having things exactly my way. I found tech culture utopian in its vision but annoying and exclusionary in its implementation.
Support numbers and emails have largely disappeared and support pages are following suit. Products with UXs that would make sense only to users of their predecessors are scrapping tutorials. Such trends create a divide between those who feel a product is built for them and those who don’t, those who enjoy making sense of complexity and those who feel hindered by it, those retained and those lost, often forever.
In an On Deck talk, Shishir Mehrotra, CEO of Coda, described how he makes it a point to lower the floor and raise the ceiling in his platform, so it can do something for everyone. He continued to mention the high ceiling’s appeal to CEOs and the low floor’s appeal to product managers. I felt seen, validated in my decision to keep hustling for the product manager job that everyone and their partner seems to want.
Product management is the first job I’ve come across where I enjoy both the craft and the culture. I don’t feel like I have to pretend to be driven by a single motivation or philosophy. After spending the last two years in product management circles, I’ve learned to view my intersectionality as a source of insight rather than loneliness, my unanswered questions as cause for curiosity rather than insecurity, and my future as a road to walk rather than a train to catch.
We unblock each other’s existential crises, overcome the guilt of saying no to family and friends, and help each other prioritize our goals in a world that constantly tells us we’re behind. We explore the world, share notes, and find little ways to improve things around us, rather than fantasizing about swooping in and saving the day. We live complicated lives simply. We create simplicity in a world that worships complexity.
Call to action: How can you simplify your life?