Product or UX Design, That is the Question

10 months ago, I joined Marketo as a user experience designer. It was my first full time design role at a well known company. I was excited to have a legit brand on my resume and to build my design skills with an experienced team of designers, engineers, and product managers.

Then something unexpected happened. I was promoted to Product Manager. At the time, I had no idea what Product Management was. My mentor reassured me that it was a great career move. He said there was more growth potential and more money. Being the curious optimist that I am, I accepted the promotion with an open mind.

After five months in Product Mangement at Marketo and reading a few books, here’s how I’d differentiate user experience design from product management:

– In Product, you don’t design

– You do a lot of project management

– You interact with more people because your role is responsible for features and product from the very beginning (ideation, prioritization) ’till the very end (training, marketing, sales).

– You have a ton of meetings

– You manage vendors

– You spend a lot of time and effort getting stakeholders on the same page  and keeping them updated

Like any new job, I get to discover things I love and things I don’t love. I love talking to people all day and interfacing with different departments. I love learning about every aspect of the company-from how Sales makes their pitches to how Ops configures their PODs. I love keeping projects on track because keeping organized is one of my strengths.

One thing I don’t love, however, is that I never design. I didn’t realize it was a problem until one day, I was sitting in a conference room and I picked up a whiteboard pen to draw a sad looking girl on a couch. I examined her face and realized that I was in a rut. I was a creative person and I wasn’t creating.

A couple years ago, I made the career jump to user experience design because I love making things. Music, food, art, relationships, interfaces-everything. While I realize that I can’t have everything, I’m interested to see how Product exists in other companies. Is design always separate? How does Product function differently when there are project managers in the mix? What about Product Designers? Is that a combination of user experience and product?