When I was an individual contributor, there was us (the programmers) and them (the managers).
I never thought about the difference between program managers, project managers, portfolio managers, product managers (I don’t think I had heard that term back then), line managers, matrix managers, and another dozen types of managers. They were all just “people who didn’t write code.” I won’t say anything about how we thought about people who didn’t write code.
On LinkedIn, Nik Patel posted an excellent infographic about the difference between Project Managers and Product Managers.
I wonder whether it would have helped me to understand that there were these very different jobs with similar-sounding names. Perhaps I could have more frequently given them what they needed, asked them for help, or even had a different career path.
Before I saw this infographic, I never really thought about it carefully. But instantly, I can think of a dozen startups that could benefit from advice/guidance from product managers. In contrast, five minutes earlier, I would never have thought that they could profit from advice from “managers.”
During World War II, my stepfather was doing crucial research for the army. Their personnel request forms had four types of buglers but only a single category for all kinds of physical scientists that covered organic chemists, inorganic chemists, physicists, material scientists, and another half dozen distinct fields.
I wonder how many types of managers they had.