Product Managers Should Start in QA

I recently came across a couple of really old blog posts on MSDN (Seth Eliot, Scott Louvau) talking about the benefits of being a test developer. The posts reminded me about the Microsoft engineer career trajectory, which – from what I understand – often begins as SDET (Software Development Engineer in Test) before graduating into implementing new features.

I got to thinking there could be advantages to applying that template to young product managers.

One of the hardest things to get used to doing as a new PM is thinking about dependencies and edge cases. Coming up with new features and defining how they’reĀ supposed to work is a fun and creative endeavor. Coming up with how users are going to intentionally or unintentionally break those features is not so much fun, and actually trying out these behaviors can be, with apologies to my friends in QA, mind-numbing drudgery.

The value in testing, however, goes way beyond just verifying the feature. Being forced to try out the same test procedure in three browsers on four OS configurations as well as tablet and mobile setups gives me a chance to really think about how the user is going to experience the feature. Being forced to fully immerse your brain in the feature also gives you me chance to have a eureka moment about what else is impacted by the feature.

In addition, starting a new product manager out by having them perform user acceptance testing on new features and regression test on old features could be a great way to get them fully immersed in and trained on the product.