The mass shift to remote work has been a double-edged sword for many, including product managers. While the flexibility is unparalleled, we are definitely sacrificing essential learning and skill development.
The Lost Art of Apprenticeship
In trades like plumbing and carpentry, apprenticeship is non-negotiable. Newcomers work alongside seasoned experts to learn the ropes, benefiting from years, if not decades, of accumulated knowledge. It's hands-on, it's gritty, and it’s real-world education. This kind of apprenticeship is what product managers are missing when working remotely.
Why Flight Hours Matter
In aviation, pilots often discuss their total flight hours, a metric that goes beyond mere experience. It’s a testament to their practical skills, situational awareness, and the nuanced understandings that can only be acquired through active practice and mentorship. Likewise, the day-to-day grind alongside experienced product managers equips newcomers with a range of soft and hard skills that Zoom calls can never replicate.
The Limits of Virtual Training
Sure, you can attend webinars, virtual workshops, and online courses. But can these replace the experience of troubleshooting a live issue with a veteran product manager by your side? The answer is a resounding no. When I think about the biggest increases in my own product management capability, the first thing that comes to mind is a list of names of the people I watched a learned from. They had the flying hours and I was able to accelerate my learning by seeing them in action with their experience under their belt.
The Cost of Convenience
The convenience of remote work comes at the expense of intellectual growth and skill enhancement. You might be ticking off tasks, but are you really advancing in your craft?
The move to remote work poses serious questions about the future of skill development in product management. As comfortable as your home office may be, it's worth asking: what invaluable lessons are you missing out on? Stop dialling it in and ask yourself - who should I be working alongside and watching and learning from their every action and reaction and decision?