There’s a pretty good chance that you’re reading this email and don’t remember ever subscribing, and you may not have any idea who I am. It’s not your fault: I haven’t published in more than three years. (TL;DR — it’s about product management.)
My name is Ken Norton and you probably subscribed because you are interested in product management. I started the newsletter while at Google, where I spent more than fourteen years as a PM. Until I got too busy, Bring the Donuts (this newsletter that you are now reading) went out semi-regularly and included my musings on being a good PM, interesting articles about PMing and PM job listings. (You can see the full archive on my website.)
After I “paused” the newsletter an interesting thing happened: you kept subscribing. More than 25,000 of you will receive this newsletter, and for the vast majority of you it will be your first one (although a good number have probably unsubscribed before they made it this far). Bizarrely, this dormant newsletter also kept winning awards. To be honest that freaked me out. If my almost-but-not-quite-dead newsletter was growing like a weed and sweeping awards categories, surely my publishing to it could only hurt?
In reality I just had other priorities and distractions. I was extremely busy at Google, my kid was somehow turning into a teenager, and the world was generally turning to shit around us all. Here in the United States we were confronting leadership that somehow combined cruelty with incompetence and reckoning with the legacy of slavery and our 400 years of racial injustice. And all of us around the world were suffering from a pandemic that has stopped us in our tracks, forced us to reinvent how we learn and how we work (if we were are lucky enough to still have a job), and killed more than two million of our friends, parents, children, siblings, and lovers. More than 400,000 lost here in the U.S. alone.
So that’s why I haven’t written in a while, you know because… gestures around wildly.
A new year, and a new administration here in the U.S. fills me with my first bit of hope and optimism in a long time. It’s inspired me to dig around the closet, pull out the old newsletter, throw out the stale donuts, and get back to writing. A fresh start. I intend to write about the craft of product management, just as before. I’m going to include job listings, for free, like before (see the bottom of this email for how to submit). This newsletter will remain free, just as it was in the past, and despite migrating to Substack. (In exchange I only ask that you remember that you’re getting what you paid for…) I intend to publish only once or maybe twice a month. And just as before, please please please give me feedback and send me suggestions for future topics.
In the earlier incarnation of this newsletter I didn’t write much about my personal life or day job, other than when it provided lessons or anecdotes. Having earlier editions cross-posted to my website held me back a bit and forced me to write through the lens of public posterity and the sweet, sweet scent of SEO. Now that this publication is on Substack I intend to limit the cross-posting which will permit me to treat the newsletter as more temporal and share and reflect a bit more on what’s going on with me.
Here’s what’s going on. I left Google last fall after more than fourteen years at the company. That’s a ridiculously long time, as long as my now fourteen year-old son has walked this earth. And just like my son, the job loved me but had clearly grown a bit irritated with me (there might have been some eye rolling too). Don’t get me wrong: Google is an amazing place, it was the greatest job I’ve ever had, and the highlight of my career. I feel so incredibly fortunate. But I was exhausted and it was time to move on. (And… 2020 right?)
I’ve spent the intervening months stumbling a bit and trying to find my way. I landed at a job that ended up not being the right fit for either of us, realized that pretty quickly, and decided to part ways quickly and with mutual respect (more on that in a future newsletter). Through all of that I kept reminding myself that I really, really enjoy being a part of the product management community. I love mentoring and coaching PMs, writing about PMing, and connecting with all of you who love this job as much as I do. I miss going to conferences and meeting you in person. I miss all the donuts you bring me.
So I’ve decided — at least through the end of 2021 — to do it full time. This. I’m going to focus my time on advising startups, coaching product managers and product leaders, consulting, speaking, and writing. I’m excited and frankly a bit nervous. I hope you’ll stick around and join me (at least those of you who haven’t yet unsubscribed and made it this far).
Social Media is an Extension of White privilege in the Office, Fast Company. My friend Bärí A. Williams writes about who gets to speak their mind online, and who doesn’t (and what it costs them).
Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products, Marty Cagan. Marty is one of my favorite product management writers. Empowered is the excellent successor to the outstanding Inspired.
What is the product management role like at different companies? Lenny Rachitsky ran a survey to see how the role varies across companies. It’s obviously a biased sample that skews toward his audience, but I found it quite interesting, especially this plot of how much influence responders believe they have:
I will include primarily product management and product marketing jobs. My readership skews more experienced, so there is a preference for more senior roles. Director and VP jobs always garner the most interest. Job listings are free, but are selected based on relevance and interest to the audience so I don’t guarantee that I will include every submission.
If you’d like to submit a list for consideration, fill out this form.