PM = Be A Shit Umbrella for Everyone

I had to fill my Q2 performance review this week, and I got stumbled in a question that asked me to assess my leadership/adaptation skill. I found it was difficult to answer that part. Still, after thinking about it for a day, I ended up writing, “I think I am a (proud) shit umbrella for everyone.”

Shit umbrella illustration from Roadmunk

I first heard about the term “shit umbrella” in a webinar session from a Google PM, Israel Shalom. My first response after knowing the word was, “OMG, there is a term for what I think I am experiencing now. It is a relief to realize that what I was on is also the plight of other PMs. Knowing that makes me feel like I am doing my job right since other PMs feel the same. It is such a validation, you know? (since sometimes I cannot confidently say I know well what I am doing → read: warning from my first post). Some other people might say that it is an excuse to make me feel better, make me think I do something great and necessary, but yeah, this is what I think (will admit it).

These days my work just really got me so overwhelmed. I have to become a shield in Captain America hands to stand for justice (in my context: facing everyone who is always complaining about everything) :(

Poor shield :(

In the meeting with developers after a restructuration due to COVID 19:

During the weekly meeting to evaluate issues from the operational team:

While having a session with my designers who decide to have Interaction Designer and User Experience Researcher roles separated, but the job desc is (maybe) so similar; therefore, there is misunderstanding even between them.

Those are my typical day conversation over many meetings. I am really sick of it. Sometimes I feel like, fuck it. I must absorb all the negativities and become the one who is sane in the world full of ego-driven people. Huft, do you ever think about my feeling?

Till, today, I read an article from Roadmunk that states:

A translator?

I dig more and read another article by Julie Zhuo, former Facebook PM.

When I read it, it makes me feel like, “Holy crap! I am the one who is negative all this time. Everyone just tries their best to stand for something right from their point of view. I must realize that it is not malice from them. Besides that, if I think about it again, I am also an ego-driven person, but luckily I can manage it. Hmm, I think I need to change my point of view. I know this is not an easy job (given that in my current condition, and frankly said I am not the positive thinking guy). But I think I need to try. I mean what if the things I do is (hopefully) actually really great. Maybe I can shift my consciousness to become a proud shit umbrella. This is a learning process. Maybe, after all of these, I will become a more decent PM, or perhaps more decent human being (finger crossed).

Yeah, I take my breath, and I talk to myself, “You are doing good.”

I will say the same to my fellow PMs anywhere whoever feels like that. “C’mon pal, you are doing great!”

See, this time once again, internalization hits me. As I said before, I believe my job as a PM is about internalization (read: know how to do better and try to live it).

Let’s work hard again until hopefully, we do not need an umbrella anymore, since all the communication is streamlined, product understanding in universal, and everyone grabs their part in terms of product ownership. Maybe we should create more space which throws away hesitation to said something right upfront. Talk about this later. See you.

Product manager | Data enthusiast