So here is a simple topic that may be of some importance to all product managers: What do you put on your business card? Yeah Al that sounds pretty crap to me, Looks like BT aint for me either. This means that business cards still make a difference. What’s in your business card?
At this point in my career, I would have less than 20 different business cards. Every once in a while I’ll see a bunch of them hovering under a drawer and I have to smile because I realize that my own description and what I’m doing has changed over time.
I will never forget the first time I signed up for a business card. That was it, I made a big time. Despite being a lowly software engineer, I was now going to adopt an “adult” way of talking to others about how important I was. Like all large companies, most forms of business cards already existed. However, I was only given a free rein to add a job title under my name. Hmmm, what should I put in? The first time out of the gate I listed the company in the corporate directory for me: “Software Engineer IV” or whatever.
It turned out to be a big mistake. Outside of the people working for my company, no one in the real world knew what Software Engineer IV was! I will get polite smiles and then when it comes time to do the laundry the card will quickly run out in someone’s pocket.
After running some business cards again, I started to get better. By this time, I had moved into the world of product management and so I changed my job title to “Product Manager”. It was much better. I don’t think a lot of people know what a product manager is or is, but they are sure they know what a manager has done and so when they receive my card they slot me as a mid level manager. What and left it.
Promotions came with time and while I was not yet vice president or CIO, I became a senior product manager. Next time I updated the title of the business card to read “Senior Product Manager”. It gives me a little more respect when I hand over the card. Again, I don’t think many people knew what I did. However, they feel that I am now one of the top managers of the middle class.
I was still searching because since people didn’t really know what a product manager does, they were trying to make a pigeon hole in me based on my title. The trick here is that if people don’t know where you fit in the totem pole of responsibility, then they won’t even bother to try. I felt that another evolution was needed. I stopped skipping “products” and so today only “senior manager” is read in my business card.
Although less descriptive, I find this title very useful in trade shows and when meeting vendors. No, they still do not know what I do for the company. However, they can easily understand that a “senior manager” is a person who should be very important. That means they treat me like an important person because they have no reason to.
One final note, along with my obscene title, the first question I get asked is “What do you do?” This is a question about makeup or break. If I identified myself as a product manager, it would rank me a low-level worker bee because no one really knows what a product manager does. More than countless such encounters, I have apologized for my quick response to “I take away the troubles.” In most cases, it creates calm respect and there are no more questions about it.