My family owns a theater and movies have always been part of my life. As I grew older I started becoming fascinated by a process of movie making. And I was completely taken by the role of the “director”. As a film critic, I have always analyzed/criticized/praised/enjoyed director’s creativity the most. I follow director’s careers as opposed to actors.
Life happened. As career started taking turns in software industry, my movie habits stayed as it is. And I started realizing an uncanny resemblance between roles of (Software) Product manager and movie/TV-Series-Director.
Wikipedia states the responsibilities f0r Film-director as .. “entails organizing the film crew in such a way as to achieve his or her vision of the film. This requires skills of group leadership, as well as the ability to maintain a singular focus even in the stressful, fast-paced environment of a film set. Moreover, it is necessary to have an artistic eye to frame shots and to give precise feedback to cast and crew, thus, excellent communication skills are a must.”
Product managers responsibilities wouldn’t be any more different. Instead of a film-crew it is a crew in software company. But rest of the description fits perfectly.
As software is launched just once and then updated thereafter, I would say TV series director (mostly for the series which runs all 12 months; soap-operas) would be more appropriate comparison. TV serial directors’ job would be like leading agile team for software development. Director has to think about overall vision for the season. They have to plan for the next episode and complete the shooting within a matter of a week. After each week, all TRP ratings flow in and good/bad/ugly feedback of is analyzed. This feedback is constantly incorporated to make next episode interesting. More likable characters get more air-time, not likable characters are disappeared, every episode ends with glimpse of scenes from next episode, most episodes are ending with twists and turns to keep users guessing/interested, and so forth. Director is responsible for all these changes and prioritization.
Product managers setting is similar as well. She plans for major releases. Have roadmap updated for each minor release. Take feedback from market about good/bad/ugly features. Analyze usage and adoption rates. Align the roadmap for more value-added features, lower the priorities on less used features, have constant presentations of upcoming release, always keep users interested (and get subscription renewed) by providing glimpse of future. Product manager is responsible for all the changes and prioritization.
Both realize the vision overseeing artistic and technical elements of film/TV-series/software-production. Both have to understand the market well. Both have to worry about timelines, release schedule, contradicting ideals/visions within the team, budgets, and aligning the team towards singular/identical vision. Both have to be good at conflict resolution. And finally both are the most pivotal roles in their settings. These roles are not for faint hearted. Both roles exemplify vision, leadership, understanding all aspects of the production and realization of end goal. Ultimately team-(wo)man.