PM in Offshore Enterprise Product Management – Career Killing Move
This PM I know has the typical profile of tech-savvy product managers, which you find in various offshore R&D centers. He worked in software engineering in India for a few years, went to the USA to study for his masters, and gradually moved to product management there. After several years there, he returned to India as a PM in an offshore R&D center and now he is in a role where:
a) Engineers are very young and inexperienced, yet smart and aggressive
b) PM is seen as an overhead and an engineering support role
c) His PM manager is in the US, however it is the local VP of business operations that runs his life.
d) All end of life and low priority products end up here, in piecemeal fashion
e) With travel budgets cut or non-existent, customer access only happens on very late night calls
f) He has no access to industry analysts anymore
g) No business relevant or strategic activities are run in India, and his role is totally tactical, creating usecases and PRDs
Within 6 months, he found himself effectively cut-off and isolated from the Business Unit product management team in the US. Additionally, he found that there was actually a negative incentive to producing good quality PM output in India, as there was resistance in the company against moving work offshore.
After managing one software release in 2 years, overtime, overbudget and with very low quality, he got fed up and tried to move out. Sadly, the other PM roles available to him were equally bad, and there is no escape back to either engineering or moving to sales or business development, due to lack of relevant experience. So he is actually passing time, with the least amount of interest left in his product or workplace. Additionally, due to family reasons he cannot move back to the US, not that anyone is hiring there.
The only thing left now is to wait in place, and hope that the market downturn does not eliminate his well paying job. In this scenario, expecting top notch product development in India and leading a fantastic team is a hallucination, and will probably never occur in his lifetime. His only hope is that the engineering team pulls up their socks, improve productivity and quality, and justifies its value in India. In this case, he can make a business case to get relatively new products done out of India R&D and probably expand his work to APJ markets and customers.
Now when he sees posts and websites detailing the “strategic nature of product management” and “PM as a CEO” he simply laughs.
Note: This was told to me by an acquaintance in early 2012, who worked for one of the top telco equipment manufacturers, and was finally laid off when his firm could not compete with Apple and Google. He now works as a program manager, creating spreadsheets and tracking resources in an Indian IT services firm at 50% of his last salary, where his clients are his US peers from his previous firm. And he has no intention of returning to an offshore product management role.