The Disappointing Tension Between (some) Developers and (some) Product Managers
We’re usually all in the same boat, so why can’t we sail in it together?
I got my first computer, a ZX Spectrum 48K+, when I was 10. I had been desperate to get a computer since I’d seen my uncle’s ZX81 at about the age of 6. The best thing with computers in those days was that you were thrown straight in the deep end; no fancy GUIs here, you had a blinking cursor and could start programming straight away. I was instantly hooked.
I started my working life in a call centre. Yes, actually making calls. I eventually worked my way into the IT support team there and spent the next 20 years or so in a variety of technical roles, including data analyst, front-end developer, back-end developer, full stack developer all the way through to leading technical teams before moving to full time product management and product leadership (yes, I’m pretty old).
I’m sharing this not because I’m trying to show off, but because I want to be absolutely clear about one thing. I love software development, and I love software developers (ok, two things). I’ve worked with, and continue to work with, some truly wonderful developers. Developers are the lifeblood of any well-functioning product company and can truly help us achieve the most amazing things.
But we should also call out that some developers can act like absolute tools 😅
I’ll emphasise that 98% of developers I’ve ever dealt with are brilliant and wonderful to work with. But there’s a vocal minority who are contrarian to the point of belligerence. In the context of this piece I’m talking about one particular aspect of that; the developers who loudly criticise product managers, as well as shout down the very concept of product management as a practice.
This was called into sharp focus when a product manager posted a video on TikTok, talking about her product management role whilst in a swimming pool on a company retreat. What started out as a light-hearted take on product management turned this woman into a hate figure amongst some. There were a variety of comments that could fill multiple newsletters, but I’m going to stick to the line of attack that “Product management is so easy…