In This Article

In This Article

In (and Out) of the Office with a Product Manager

We recently sat down with Nick Jemetta, a product management expert who contributed to the coursework material for the King’s Product Management Career Accelerator, to find out more about his day-to-day, both in and out of the office, to help paint a more holistic picture of what it’s like working in Product.

Nick has specialised in product management for the last 11 years.

His business, Stories Matter, enables teams and people to thrive by facilitating product-driven agility, wellbeing-first cultures and human leadership. It’s disruptive yet pragmatic – combining coaching, training, speaking and consulting – to create impact and generate value.

A day in the life of a Product expert

When asked about what a day in his life looks like, he said, “I don’t think there can ever be a ‘typical’ day for a business owner/dad/product manager. That’s the beauty of the worlds I work in and the roles I perform – every day is different, exciting and full of potential,” says Nick.

He did, however, share a snapshot of the routine he’s trying to cultivate:

☀️ Morning

  • Coffee first. I try to only have one per day.
  • I’m a morning person, so I try to get some exercise about 3 days a week.
  • Meditation and mindfulness, although I’m very inconsistent with this.
  • Before doing any work, I write my intentions, so I’m clear about where my energy will go and why/for what impact.
  • I turn on ‘Do not Disturb’ mode on my phone to facilitate deep work.

? Afternoon

  • I structure my work activities based on energy levels.
  • I try to go for a walk.
  • When my children come home from school, I focus on being present.
  • Throughout the day, I create physical separation from my phone – for example, there are no phones at family meal times.

? Night

  • I try not to burn the midnight oil unless it’s essential.
  • I consciously think about how I spend my time and what time I’ll go to bed to ensure I always sleep enough.

Interested in finding out more, we asked him to share some insights about his career journey, how he thinks about work/life balance and his advice on how to communicate effectively as a product manager.

Q&A with Nick

As a child, what did you want to be ‘when you grew up’?

I had no dream job until I fell in love with food. I made the decision to study Home Economics and had ambitions to be a chef. I was the only boy in my school studying the subject, so I was a target for the bullies.

It was a difficult time, but I didn’t let their ignorance stop me from completing my studies. In the end, it was my lack of ability that stopped me from pursuing a career in food. Burning one of the items in my final exam didn’t bode well!

Do you completely log off from work over weekends?

Since running my own business, work is one piece of my broader ‘life’ puzzle. That gives me the flexibility to move pieces around as necessary so whilst I prefer not to work on the weekends, I think less about what day it is and more about the balance I’m trying to create and the outcomes I want to achieve.

What are the main challenges product managers face on a daily basis?

Product managers have to balance and optimise for an almost unfair number of competing priorities. Recognising that they are only one person in a bigger team is crucial for managing the overwhelm.

There’s a constant risk of being drowned in ‘busy work’, which takes product managers away from the essence of their job – creating value for customers to create value for the business. Being very clear on the organisational goals and connecting the work of the team to these goals is a good sense check to mitigate this.

Many product managers can feel like order takers or backlog managers, which can be incredibly disheartening. These situations are often caused by a lack of strong product leadership and/or the absence of a compelling product vision underpinned by a clear product strategy. Getting these aspects right will start to shift conversations from building features to creating value.

Do product managers need to have a specific communication style? How do you best communicate with your team?

Effective product managers are like chameleons – they are adaptable. Communication, influencing and negotiation are three of the core ‘human skills’ for high-impact PMs. They need to be aware of their styles and adapt those styles to different situations and when working with different people.

Some general principles that served me well as a PM:

  • Over-communicate. Keep everyone updated on what you’re working on and why. Be clear about challenges and mitigations and don’t be shy to ask for help (just do it early and often).
  • Influence with context, not control. Unless you’re the manager of other product managers, you won’t have line management responsibility for the people you work with. But you’ll be completely reliant on them to achieve your goals. Focus on context and collaboration to drive alignment.
  • Show some humility and vulnerability. Product management can feel lonely and overwhelming. But remember, it’s a team sport. Share how you’re feeling with your team because a problem shared is a problem halved.

If you could go back in time and change one moment in your career, what would it be?

My first product job was a hybrid project/product role. I was given responsibility for building a strategic capability that would enable new customer experiences and open new revenue streams.

I was excited and anxious to have so much responsibility on my shoulders. I bore the burden of this responsibility too heavily, falling into the trap of believing success/failure was entirely down to me. I struggled to manage upwards and didn’t communicate early enough that I needed support.

The personal impact was substantial, and I nearly burned out.

I would go back to the moment I first felt completely overwhelmed, and I would have stopped. I would have communicated the challenges, communicated the impacts – customer, business and personal – and I would have insisted on the right level of support (resources, time, money, leadership engagement).

What would you say to someone who is keen to achieve a better work/life balance by moving into this career? Is this the role?

As I reflect on my own journey and look at how the industry is evolving, I believe product managers can have a fulfilling career and well-balanced life. To achieve this balance:

1) Individuals must take their well-being seriously, including setting clear boundaries.

2) Individuals must also accept that work will ebb and flow, which makes an ongoing commitment to well-being essential.

3) Organisational cultures and leadership structures need to evolve, creating the conditions for sustainable value creation instead of growth at any cost.

4) Line managers need to learn how to coach through context instead of managing through control.

For any aspiring product managers reading this, you can control points 1 and 2. For points 3 and 4, do your homework and ask the right questions of prospective employers.

Launch your own career as a product manager

You can now register to be part of the next cohort of the King’s Product Management Career Accelerator. Download a brochure here and then book a call with one of our friendly Enrolment Advisors to discuss your interest further.

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