Thursday, March 18, 2004

Chris_Pratley's WebLog: Starting out as a Program Manager

Chris_Pratley's WebLog: Starting out as a Program Manager "I have written about program management in general before, but I find the first year the most interesting. The usual pattern goes something like this:
1. Start off with excitement and enthusiasm for the new job. Your manager tells you something about taking initiative, being "proactive" and "owning" projects. You say "yeah, of course, gotcha!".
2. About 4 weeks into the job, you start to feel strange. People keep asking you to decide things you don’t know anything about, as if you’re some kind of expert. You find yourself going to your peers for help more often than you feel comfortable with. You start to wonder if you can actually do this. You start to tank. Depending on your personality, you withdraw into your office to try to figure everything out by yourself without bothering anyone, or you start asking a broader range of people how to do things as soon as you hit an obstacle, to try to "spread the pain" and get results quickly.
3. By month two, you're convinced you are the dumbest person on the team by far. Everyone seems so capable, and they can do anything. Your manager says something like "remember, you’re 10% of the team that designs an N Billion dollar product - isn't that exciting? That means you have to step up and really "own things"". But you know that in fact you are an imposter - Microsoft has misjudged badly in hiring you and you are going to fail.
4. By month four, you have lived through a torture of feeling incompetent and a dead weight on your team. It’s especially bad because you were #1 in your graduating class, and everyone always looked to you as the smart one.
5. By month six, you have a great moment. Once, in a meeting, you actually knew something that no one else on your team knew. This is the first glimmer. You cling to this, and hope there are more.
6. By month 12, you have developed your network of contacts that pass information to you, you are a subject matter expert on your area, and people on the team are relying on you because you know lots of things they don't know. You have made it."

(This role is also known as "product manager" at IBM and other companies)
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