Playing to your strengths

Your superpower is work that you enjoy doing that doesn’t feel like work to you and that other people struggle to get it done. This is where you can thrive and really separate yourself from the rest.

I noticed there are a few things that come naturally to me that I always enjoyed doing and that I was fortunate to be able to monetize—programming for example. It started out as a hobby and it naturally progressed as a career that brought me so many great opportunities I’m very thankful for.

Programming is my strength and I love doing it, but as I grew older I started to hear more and more that programmers are “just builders” and that I should evolve towards being an architect since those are the ones leading the builders and indicating to them what to do.

This analogy sounded rational and it also matched what I was seeing in the market: programmers get hired in bunches for specific tasks while managers and PMs (Program or Product Managers) were more critical, called the shots, stayed longer, and also made more money than the programmers.

So naturally, I wanted to move upwards in the industry and I started contemplating the idea of acquiring those managerial skills that are so glamorous. I started reading about what a PM does, what knowledge should be acquired to do that job, and how to progress from being a “simple programmer” to being a PM. The only problem was that the more I read about it the more I disliked it.

To me, it sounded like a bunch of meetings, unnecessary presentations, office politics, and a lot of document-writing no one actually cared to read.

I tried going with it anyway, read more about the job and I saw that a background in programming could make a PM better at their job but I couldn’t get over the realization that I would be quitting programming in order to become a great PM.

Contemplating the idea of giving up the skills to create software, all those years of writing code, learning to deploy it, DevOps, Networking, SysAdmin, all those things that out of necessity most programmers learn, was just too much for me.

I didn’t foresee the job of a manager as something I would have enjoyed doing for years. I don’t like being mediocre at the things I do so I planned to be a PM for at least 10 years but having worked with several of them before I just knew I couldn’t do it.

There are two schools of thought about competency levels: improve your weaknesses and play to your strengths. I chose the latter.

I have weaknesses that I need to correct in order to become better at the things I consider to be my strengths. I’m working on those, but for the foreseeable future, I will no longer become average at a lot of things in detriment of being great at a few things.

This post is not a rant against PMs by any means. I think their job is extremely important for the success of a project. I had great experiences working with them and I learned to respect and admire a few that I got the chance to meet outside of strictly work environments. This post is about my personal realization that I would have made a bad PM considering the things I enjoy are not aligned with what they do day-to-day in order to succeed in their jobs.