Seven cases where good intent leads to bad outcomes in your Product Management Career

Shobhit Chugh
7 min readMay 16, 2022

I run the Intentional Product Manager.

I am big on setting the right intention 😇.

Sometimes though, good intent still leads to bad outcomes.

Let’s explore the most common cases where people start with the right intention but get bad outcomes.

Postponing your dream job

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Let’s say you want to ultimately work for Facebook or Google, Amazon, or Microsoft, and you say my next role will be with a smaller company. Why? Well, I’ve heard this several times. And the number one reason why people say that is because they feel that they are not ready to play in the big leagues. They think that “Oh, why don’t I go somewhere where I’ll be like, top PM, and I’ll have a lot of chance to learn a lot, I’ll have a lot more impact. “ And then I can go apply at Facebook and Google and say, I have this incredible experience that I want to use.

The intention is excellent. The purpose is to get an environment where I’ll be able to learn a lot. But often, the outcomes are terrible.

This is one of the things that I’ve been very open about. If I had to go back in my career, I would switch things around. I started as a product manager in startups, even managing people there, and then to larger companies (Twitter and Google).

I wish I had done the reverse. Because of the amount of learning, mentorship, and growth you can get quickly at larger companies in terms of essential product management practices. Now, this can happen in smaller companies. But it’s more complex, things are often more chaotic, it’s unpredictable, how good of a support system you will get, your manager might be excellent, and it might just suck. You never know.

While going to a modern company like Google, Microsoft, or Amazon, you’re much more likely to find someone fantastic or at least good who can support you through your initial growth as a product manager.

More often than not, this intention comes from a place of fear. It’s the classic impostor syndrome at work.

Chasing product management certificates

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There is nothing more worthless than a product management certificate.

If you want one, message me, and I’ll take a Canva template and say certified product manager, put your name, and you’re done. Most people are chasing this dream of, hey, look, once I get certified as a product manager, people will think I’m serious about it, and people will feel that I know a lot.

I couldn’t find a single person who was a certified product manager at Google. They hadn’t done any of these certified product owner certifications or stuff from Product School.

In fact, a hiring manager recently said to me, “If I see Certified Scrum Product Owner” on their resume, I know that I don’t want to hire them.

Ultimately, what people want when they want to hire you as a product manager is to know, have you done work relevant to product management.

So rather than wasting your time on certificates, you can do three things.

  1. Go after learning because you want to know, not because you want that certificate.
  2. Build up your skills by getting as close to real-life experience as possible as a product manager. For example, somebody I’m working with just went to their friend who runs a startup and said, “How can I help you in a way that helped me gain at least some experience in Product Management?” And so they worked out something mutually beneficial.
  3. Learn how to position your current experience towards planning a product management role. But when planning your next product management role, I repeatedly found that almost everyone has done some work relevant to product management. They are just not positioning it right.

Getting an MBA

Now, it’s ironic that I write about MBAs negatively, given that I went to Kellogg School of Management for my MBA, and I just came back from my 10-year reunion.

So, where is an MBA worth it, and where is it not? An MBA is a fantastic investment to build connections and change your perspective. So if you want to go after an MBA degree, for those reasons, for your long-term career success, it’s worth it. I could trace a lot of my career, you know, starting my first company, going to McKinsey, going to Google, and then starting intention, product manager, a lot of those traces back to the time spent at Kellogg. So that’s amazing. And I love the people I met there; I think I came out a different person, changed my perspective, and genuinely went and learned. Also, my interviewing skills improved tremendously.

I don’t recommend an MBA when all you want from it is to get your first product role. It might work; the problem is that it requires you to take two years off of work if you do it full time. But a lot of struggle if you do it part-time and or an executive MBA, and then the cost is massive. So ultimately, for most people, you’re looking at, let’s say, an expense between $200,000 to $500,000.

You have to ask yourself, “Is that worth it in the long term in your long-term career?” Because maybe it is worth it, and maybe not. But from a short-term perspective, there are much cheaper and better ways of actually moving to product management for most people.

So an MBA is great if the goal is to gain that change in perspective, change, and knowledge combined with that network. It’s great. But if it’s purely to transition into that product management role, talk to me. There are much better ways of being able to do that.

Now, I would say something else; in addition to that, when people get their MBA, the school they’re going to matters—going to Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg, Stanford, Booth, or Sloan. These schools are game-changers for your career. But if you went and did that same thing, MBA from, you know, tier three school, the value is much lower. So much of it also comes down to brand; going and telling someone I went to Harvard for my MBA means something. And so because they’re self-selective, and now you have won something by proving that you’ve got into Harvard. Getting an MBA, often well-intentioned, does not always lead to good outcomes.

Being “nice” to your manager

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I’ve worked with clients that I coached where they wanted to do the right thing for their manager, and they thought that the right thing was to work like crazy to do everything possible everything that the manager laid out for them.

And in this process, they drove themselves crazy and hid any bad news from their manager. These things lead to frustration, burnout, miscommunications, and a lack of career growth.

The intent is good. But the way you should achieve this is through excellent communication, setting the right expectations, how you are prioritizing, what decisions you are making, and where you need help.

I see it at my company as well. I have ideas all the time. I give my team a lot of frickin ideas.

I don’t expect my team to do everything.

I expect them to catch everything and communicate what their top three items are and what does not fit in the top three.

I need you to have that clarifying conversation with me. Some people call it pushing back; you’re not pushing back; you’re having a clarifying discussion. So the intent of being nice to your manager leads people astray. Because you might burn yourself out, you might not even achieve what you set out to achieve, and then your manager will be ultimately surprised and disappointed.

Believing conventional wisdom

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Many times I hear all these sorts of myths in the marketplace. Tales like “You have to be technical to be a product manager.” “You need to defer to your manager” or “You need to keep engineers busy.” and you know, these might be things that maybe your mentor told you or somebody told you, and it seemed well-intentioned, but it costs a lot of people, a lot of headaches.

Your beliefs are compelling. They’re often driven by conventional wisdom. Instead, go for first principles and always question your assumptions.

It matters what advice you listen to, where you go, and act from first principles.

Making decisions from where you are rather than where you want to be

Some of the best product managers, and leaders that I’ve met, make decisions, not from a perspective of where they are right now. They’re a senior product manager, have some good charter, and are making decisions already in their career from the certainty that they will be the chief product officer of a major company someday. They’re investing, treating that as a given. They’re investing with that, that growing like they’re acting into that inevitability.

You have to be that person right now. Being that person trains j your subconscious to act in that direction.

So be as if you have achieved your goals, you’re already in the position you want to be, and then act or do your actions from those, rather than making decisions and taking steps from where you are right now. And you’ll see that the outcomes you achieve in your career will be dramatically different.

If you liked the blog post, you would love my free workshop, “5 Steps our Product Manager Clients Take to Land Their Dream Job, Increase Their Salary by 200%+, and Accelerate Their Career.” Go ahead, enroll now!



Shobhit Chugh

Founder at Intentional Product Manager ( Product @Google, @Tamr, @Lattice_Engines, @Adaptly. Worked at @McKinsey