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How Being a New Product Manager Is Like Becoming a Mom

In recent reflection on my experience building and releasing a product, PayScale Team, I realized that there are many parallels between becoming a new mom and starting in the role of a new product manager. And, as someone who is famous for using an analogy for every experience in life to get my point across, I thought I would share my musings on the intersection of the two topics.

Delivering new value

I’ve been an employee at PayScale since June of 2008. I’ve taken on many new roles and have always been very supported by my PayScale family. In January 2014, my husband and I welcomed our son, William, to our family. Our lives have forever been changed as new parents and, while it is often exhausting and emotional, becoming parents is the best decision we have ever made. So, that’s a bit about the personal.

Now, on to the professional. After returning from maternity leave, I took on a new role at PayScale as a Product Manager. I felt I was more than ready for a new challenge, and, as many parents may mention, returning to work after having a child gives your job new meaning. You get this added clarity to your career and you want to focus every moment away from your children where it matters most. For me, I felt my experience and strengths could best be leveraged in a product role where I could deliver value to our customers I care so much about—and I’m glad my boss obliged.

No one can prepare you for this

When I became a new Product Manager, I didn’t have the slightest idea what I was getting myself into. Just like parenting. I worried about not being technical enough for the role, having not ever written a single line of code or even knowing that SQL is not pronounced like the acronym would suggest it is. I felt I would be a fraud to my technical peers—peers that are critical to gaining alliance and trust with in order to be successful. I knew that I could learn, but I was scared. I also worried that my product wouldn’t sell, and ultimately, that I would fail.

As expecting parents, we do the same thing to ourselves. We worry. All. The. Time. We worry about the baby’s health, what if I don’t want to go back to work, what if I never sleep again, I’m not cut out for this, how do I ensure that I do this right. It affects us more than it should. But, somehow you find the strength to continue on. After all, you signed up for this—there really isn’t any going back.

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Shipping your “product”

Nearing the end of pregnancy is a lot like the weeks leading up to shipping your product to market. You are nesting like crazy. People know you are close and constantly ask you when you are due. You’re uncomfortable, nervous and yet you are so ready and excited to get. It. Out. You think, naively, once the baby is here (or the product reaches the market) the hard part is over.

Oh, that wasn’t the hard part?

As any parent will appreciate, the pregnancy part is easy compared to now caring for a human being. New babies need your constant attention, sleep becomes a nice-to-have and you are trying to figure this motherhood thing out. The same is true after your product is officially released. There are constant trainings, meetings with sales teams, presentations to customers, working out the kinks in the product and planning for future enhancements. It is exhausting but, like any proud parent, it’s the best thing.

It’s amazing to watch your babies grow up into little versions of themselves. Some of their characteristics take after you, but, they are their own person and it is fascinating to watch this unfold. To see how they interact with others, how they develop friendships, how they learn and are cared for by so many is a joy. Sure, they have their tantrums, they don’t always do what you ask them to do and there are times where you feel like you’ll never make it through the awful phase.

Let it grow

A product grows and evolves in the same way. With the right planning and guidance, it can develop beyond the initial version and get better and better. And, to see how your product can impact customer business outcomes and promote the vision your company is the ultimate reward. I’m a proud parent of PayScale Team. Just like in raising children, it takes a village of people to make a product successful and I’m lucky to have great support from all realms of PayScale.

This may be where my comparison begins to deviate some. PayScale Team has matured quickly and I’m already so proud of how much it has helped companies navigate the pay increase process. Bear with me while I pull out the pictures of my baby! Take a look at PayScale Team.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you see parallels between your work and new parenthood? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

Karaka Leslie
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