The Rookie Product Manager

Blue Jays left fielder Travis snider/ photo by tom sullivan 

Blue Jays left fielder Travis snider/ photo by tom sullivan

Please don’t hit it my way, please don’t hit it my way…

I’ve been a product manager for two months and I still feel like I’m walking out of the dugout everyday and on to the field wondering how the heck I got here.

Back in August, after six years of doing marketing and communications for OpenSRS and 15 years in film and television before that, I took on the role of product manager at Hover.

Hover is domain registration and management made simple. It’s been around since early 2009 and has a loyal customer base numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

Some of the people I look up to the most love Hover and use it to manage their domain names. People like Marco Arment, John Siracusa, and Leo Laporte, to name just a few. We’re talking major league here.

Suffice to say, this is not something I want to fuck up.

It was August 29, 2008 and a young baseball player named Travis Snider was making his Major League debut with the Toronto Blue Jays against the New York Yankees. I can only imagine what was going through the head of this 20-year-old kid on that day, standing out in left field in Yankee Stadium where some of the greats of the game have played.

“What the hell am I doing here?” and maybe, “Please don’t hit it my way.”

Snider did pretty well in those couple of months of his first season, finishing up the year hitting .301 with a pair of homers and 13 RBI in 24 games. Not bad at all.

Two months on the job and I still feel like I just got called up from the minors. Quite honestly, not a day goes by where I don’t experience at least a twinge of self-doubt. Often more than that.

“You’re not a product manager,” I think to myself. “What are you doing here?” And sometimes, “I hope there aren’t any big decisions to make today.”

In the couple of months I’ve spent on the job I’ve already learned a great deal about the role of the product manager. I’ve made some good things happen (adding .io domains was my first extra base hit) and I’ve screwed a few things up too (no need to dwell on that stuff…even the best batters fail 70% of the time).

I think I’m batting about .300 with a home run, a bunch of singles and a couple of doubles. I won’t win a Gold Glove, but I can hold my own in the field.

I’m fortunate to have a patient mentor/boss who gives me the green light on a 3-0 count now and then, and when required will send in a sign telling me to drop down a bunt and try to move the base runner 90 feet.

Like Travis Snider and a long line of rookie ball players before him, I’m probably most fortunate to have a team around me with a culture and history of playing hard and winning. They pay attention to the fundamentals and are passionate about what they are building. They love Hover as much as I do and as much as our customers do. Probably more.

I’m still scared to death I’ll screw it all up and misjudge a fly ball to left that will get over my head and go all the way to the wall. But I know in the that the rest of my team will be there to pick me up and get us out of the inning with no damage done.

It’s a pretty great place to be standing.

Written by

James Koole

Hopeful pessimist, marathon runner, media critic and huge fan of the Internet. Product Manager at


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3 thoughts on “The Rookie Product Manager

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