Top 3 learnings transitioning from Developer to Designer to Product Manager

Nabil Kazi
5 min readOct 25, 2023

A little something about my journey: It’s been more than 8 years since I started as a web developer. Over the period, I was fortunate enough to get opportunities to work on different projects & tech stack. From web development, I then went into the mobile world of Android & iOS. Curiosity then led me to the art of UI designing, where I crafted apps that are still being used in both B2B and B2C sectors across India. It was in Product Management, however, that I truly discovered my calling.

Keeping all the fluff short and diving right into the learnings —

I won’t be sharing all the generic ideas about Product management. Knowing your customers, doing research, crafting PRDs, etc etc. These are PM general knowledge and are available across the internet. Let’s distill my journey’s essence into three pivotal learnings which I had not expected being from the pure tech background.

Product Management is more of People Management

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 on Unsplash

Nature of the Role:
Developers and designers are naturally “doers”, constantly diving deep into problems and solutions. Transitioning to Product Management, however, redefines your role to an “enabler”. Your expertise now extends beyond just doing to leading, guiding, and yes, managing.

Empathy and Leadership:
It’s essential to understand diverse personality types. Tailor your leadership style for each individual, and above all, prioritise empathy. Connecting with your team on a personal level can turn challenges into shared winnings.

Art of Delegation:
As we are experienced “doers”, it might often tempt us to tackle problems firsthand, it’s vital to delegate. Learn about delegation. This is very-very necessary.

That said, sometimes direct involvement is required. For instance, if you find yourself needing daily SQL database exports, instead of constantly interrupting your team, why not set up tools like Metabase? It’s about working smarter, not harder.

Bridge Between Domains:
As a Product Manager, you act as the linchpin, seamlessly connecting teams and stakeholders, ensuring effective communication, and harmonising visions.

Recommended Book: “The Making of a New Manager” by Julie.

Product Management is more of Operations Management

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on Unsplash

Process and Efficiency:
Product Management isn’t just about the product — it’s also about how you get there. Streamlining processes within teams and identifying optimal tools for internal and external systems becomes part and parcel of your role.

Simple examples around processes from my playbook:
We had a process where data team used to share used to share public-transport data with development teams. The dev team then used to preload the same in the app before every release. So I had setup a hand-off system in Notion where data teams can upload their files in the master and mark the status flag as “To Add””. Android and iOS teams would get notified. They’ll download the file and update the flag to “Added”.

Same hand-off structure for established for Analytics and Marketing teams. They can keep adding new Analytic Events and Ad units on the shared Notion system. App teams can come in adhoc, view the pending ones, add the same in app and update the status.

Processes like this reduces a lot of ambiguous communication and confusion leading to a greater efficiency.

You are the glue between different teams working in tandem. Your task is to reduce the friction between teams and set up processes to run the show in async.

Automation is Your Friend:
Do you find a pattern of repetitive tasks being done by the team? Do some research, come up with a automation solution and implement it! Improving efficiency of team makes more room for the important stuff.

Pro tip: Get your hands on simple no-code automation tools like Zapier, Make, Pipedream

Product Management is more of Execution

Image by WOKANDAPIX from Pixabay

Execution — The Heartbeat of Product Management. As a product manager, your number 1 item would always be to get things done and make them live to the audience.

The Execution Imperative:
Beyond the planning and strategising lies the critical phase of execution. As a Product Manager, your most significant marker of success is moving the needle — bringing your visions to life.

Collaboration:
Sitting with the design team to curate the user journey and flow as per the requirements. Sitting with the development team to guide them in the user flow and assist them in whatever technical challenges they may face. If you have the skillset for the same, help by doing. If not, arrange the help.

Utilising Tools:
Leverage no-code tools when suitable. They can often speed up processes and empower teams to maintain momentum.

Basically, anything and everything to get things out in the world.

Parting Thoughts: Building my own tools

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

My journey through different tech domains to Product Management was sprinkled with unique challenges. Some had pre-existing solutions, while others prompted me to innovate. Here are a few such challenges and the tools I developed to address them:

1st Problem: Too much time wasted in sharing app feedback via WhatsApp & other messaging apps. Taking screenshots and writing lengthy issue descriptions was tedious.

Solved Using: BugSmashReview and add feedbacks as if you are simply using the app. Tap-Tap-Share-Done!

2nd Problem: Wanted a simple dynamic release notes page for each release of Mobile app. Notion was the best candidate but it does not allow embedding notion public pages into mobile app’s WebView.

Solved Using: GetNotionEmbedPaste the Notion’s public link and get your embeddable link for free.

3rd Problem: This one’s not much of a problem, but more of a personal choice. I loved the approach of Linear tool for Product Management but found it a bit heavy on the wallet.

Solved using: LinearInNotionImplemented the best of Linear within Notion at a friendlier cost.

My journey from coding to crafting designs, and finally steering product visions, has been exhilarating. Through this article, I hope to offer some insights and learnings to those navigating similar career paths. Safe travels!

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Nabil Kazi

Product Manager. Notion Systems Builder. Founder Community @TheProductfolks .