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Story: Experience with UX Product Manager

This happened on the second year of my career.

My tech lead had to move out of the city so in his physical absence, our UX designer who worked under our product manager became the manager of the UI team. He was a good friendly guy who always smiles at you even though sometimes you can see that it wasn't genuine. My previous experience with him was little to none. He was the guy who makes the design before the designer could make the design. Pretty mouthful of a sentence, but his job was pretty weird.

The UX manager coming onboard was seamless. It was almost as if he wasn't there. In truth, there was not much to manage. He only had me and my now-remote lead. Both of us had already worked out a silently agreed on workflow, so we didn't really need anything from him.

From the way I am describing, you guys could probably tell that I did not clearly know what he was doing. This is because he wasn't a designer in the fullest sense. He was not a manager since we barely need managing. He definitely wasn't a product manager too since there is a person above him already doing that. So he was unfortunately put in the tiny space between everything, which made it weird for him to do anything as well.

This story began at an end of development cycle when I would be focused on tidying things up and getting ready for QA and code freeze later. He came over on Monday and told me that he got a feedback on the new feature shipping out this sprint. So he would like to see some changes for that. I said okay and went back to doing what I was doing. I had several bugs, some that have been pushed back from previous sprints, some were pretty important to get out, and some that were minor. Since his requested changes weren't that crazy, naturally I just put the ticket somewhere on my long to-do list.

A day later he Skype messaged me about the feature. I replied that I have to be working on other things first. This repeated two more times in the week and he got progressively more passive-aggressive. Looking back, I don't know why I didn't just hop onto it so he can stop bothering me. My best is that whatever he wanted really was not anything drastic.

Long comes Friday and I asked him to go into a meeting with me. I talked to him about this repeated passive aggressive behavior. What an absolute arrogant at 23 to confronting a 30+ years old manager like it's nothing. Boy, would I have done so much differently now.

I started the conversation saying, in the most professional way a socially-awkward guy can muster, that his prioritization and messaging really bothered me. To me, toward the end of a development phase, I have to focus on pushing as many tickets out in the order of seriousness as possible. What he wanted was minor in comparison, that was why I kept pushing it later.

It turned out he had a conversation with the CEO and promised the feature to be modified on that Monday. This is the whole reason why he was so persistent about this. What a lightening bolt to me! Had I known this ahead of time I would have prioritized much differently.

On the next Monday, I asked him to go into a meeting again. This time I wanted to make amends since there were clear misunderstandings and I probably wasn't at my best behavior beforehand. We had some polite exchanges and we also talked about expectations about how the sprint should go, such as that I expected at the end of the development cycle I wanted to limited pushing new things out, so that QA phase can be smoother. He, on the other hand, did not see his request could be problematic since there were still time left.

Looking back the first thing that came into mind is I really miss those structured sprints. It is so much better knowing what is expected in a sprint rather than having random pivot every other week like we have now. Really appreciate my former tech lead who kept everything organized and smooth.

I also am in awe at 23 years old me calling in my manager for a conversation about his behavior. Totally wild. However in my defense he was super passive. Even telling me that the CEO was involved had to be drilled out.

In his defense. He should not have been in that position in the first place. The lack of clear identity in the company really made things difficult for him. Looking at his LinkedIn, it seems like he had a tough time finding a job after leaving the company and became stable the past few years. Good for him!

I hope this story resonate with someone and feel free to talk about your experiences too!

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