You are not a Product Manager

Jakub Brabec
3 min readJul 23, 2023


Photo by Brad Helmink on Unsplash

If you don’t spend half of your time with your customers, reading the latest market research, talking to sales, implementation, or customer success, and convincing marketing to drive adoption of your product, you are not a Product Manager. Sorry to hear that, but that’s the truth.

The PM role has transformed in many companies into solution design, delivery management, and support — all of which can be replaced by a product designer, AI, or tech lead. And they will be replaced.

If your main agenda is to tell designers and tech leads how to do their jobs and then stick to their ass until it’s done, you are not a PM. If you mainly run standups, sprint planning, and refinement, you are not a PM. You are a product designer, solution architect, or a scrum master. Not a PM.

“I don’t have a vision, I’m doing as I’m told.” “I cannot do product discovery because I don’t have time.” “We don’t have a research team.” I hear these excuses very often. Then don’t be a PM; go to corporate where you’ll get a great salary and do a Product Owner or Product Designer role.

Stop looking for excuses. There is no such thing as “I have to get approval to do product discovery.” Just start doing it. Spend 60 minutes per week building relationships with salespeople or customer success and ask them to let you join their calls with prospects or customers. Ask marketing for some market insights and inquire about the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Understand how your product gets into the market.

Start building your own opinion. It doesn’t come suddenly — it takes months and years to build. But from the moment you first talk to a customer or read market research, you can apply your new micro-knowledge. Prioritize and scope solutions a bit better, piece by piece. You don’t need approval to do your job better.

Spend more time with your designer and tech lead, so you know for sure they understand what this is about, and let them design and deliver the solution. Show them your trust and let them learn. Designers have great salaries as well; they are not paid to constantly reshuffle the design system :-)

Don’t waste time trying to find the best tool — there is no one. Start by doing the actual job -> talk to clients, prospects, read market research -> start writing your assumptions and summary, which will help you clear the mind and do a better job next time.

Follow these simple rules:

  1. Block time on your calendar to do research and customer reviews — it might be half of the day.
  2. With each customer call, block an extra 30 minutes for yourself to follow up on actions.
  3. Stop wasting time reinventing the wheel — let designer to use existing patterns for obvious tasks.
  4. Show your trust in design & tech lead and prepare them that you’ll not do babysitting anymore — you don’t need to be on every meeting, and grooming can be done without you.
  5. Make friends within the commercial team and ask them to listen or attend sales pitch and annual customer review calls.
  6. 30 minutes 1:1 with a client is enough when you know what the outcome of the call should be.
  7. Read market insights and ask marketing guys to explain them.
  8. Don’t waste your time looking for the best tool — you don’t know how to use it yet. Use a notepad or Notion instead.
  9. Write a lot. Prepare assumptions and questions in advance, write down a summary. Share it with your team to spark the conversation. Use it to suggest a unique solution.
  10. Start drawing a private product vision — it will help you build confidence.

Once you go through several points, new questions will pop up. Deal with them and continue. Now you are on the path to becoming a great product manager.

Questions? Linkedin thread :)