The Quarterback at Element: The Product Manager

Many people say that product management is the “it” role in Silicon Valley. I don’t necessarily disagree; after all, many of my peers going into tech companies were adamant about becoming product managers before they realized the scarcity of the role. Despite the plethora of “What is Product Management” articles floating around the internet, it remains a nebulous career owing to both its apparent scarcity and because its responsibilities are so uniquely tied to people and product. With all that being said, I feel beyond fortunate to have experienced my first taste of product management at Element Analytics.


Element’s approach to product management truly speaks to its respect for individual expertise.

Element’s approach to product management truly speaks to its respect for individual expertise. Its approach is a bit untraditional compared to that of established product management programs, primarily differing in the ratio of PMs to Engineers and Product Designers. Element rocks a much lower ratio for both, because the leadership team fundamentally believes in the expertise of Design and Engineering to craft and deliver product. PMs rely on the Designers to come up with the best designs and rely on Engineers to build the best products, all while leveraging personal intuition and customer input. Rather than take a hands-on approach in the creation process, PMs serve as the product quarterbacks who coordinate the development of a product and ensure that all stakeholders are aligned. However, that’s not to say you can’t be hands-on; product management at Element comes with the autonomy to focus efforts however you’d like. Every day, I made decisions over how to best utilize my time, whether it was to stay high-level, get in the weeds, or get a second opinion. Element PMs work strategically to provide direction to all teams and serve as a sounding board, as much as they serve as front-line defense.   

Element’s respect for and ability to leverage individual expertise extend to its PMs as well. Its approach to product management inherently places a lot of responsibility onto few individuals to be sources of truth for a product - its past, present, and future. I’ve loved being this person, because I get to leverage my love for details and managing relationships. Being able to do both is critical, because an Element PM derives most of his or her information from conversations and interactions with individuals and groups. I can’t begin to count the times that I’ve pow wowed with one individual, only to slowly create a larger conversation with other stakeholders -- essentially serving as a connector of Element experts. Having these conversations, both planned and impromptu, enabled me to quickly form a mental model for the full context of the product, everything from the fine details to the bigger picture. While managing multiple projects at a fast moving start-up like Element can be a daunting task, my collaborative and highly-skilled co-workers have made my time as an Element PM a fulfilling experience.

PMs serve as the product quarterbacks who coordinate the development of a product and ensure that all stakeholders are aligned.

After starting the job, it rarely crossed my mind that product management at Element was considered “untraditional”. Under Element’s approach, I had the freedom to make decisions over how to maximize personal and company development, all while having fun working with many different personalities. I now understand why PMs are necessary for navigating between product and people, and I’ve loved the opportunity to scope out what this experience entails at Element. Element provides an incredible space to be a PM and I’ve found that the analogy comparing product managers to ”CEOs” is especially valid here. It will be really exciting to see how product management at Element evolves over time!