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Exile of a Product Manager

If your a product manager beware of delivering late! You will end up in a hotel in Chengdu, like the Green Westin Hotel, where I am relaxing after 7 days of long hours. A software release was late, and my customer had production on hold waiting for it. As CEO of the product, you are the one ultimately accountable for execution.

Gren Westin Hotel.jpg

We delivered, and now the customer wants us to stay longer and remain on call in case there are problems, train their employees, etc. Yet I must move on to the next release and leave it to others to manage support.

A lot of people are making noise about the Foxconn explosion. Responses to the article range from business as usual to a slave operation with nets to catch runaway indentured servants trapped in company housing and chained to an assembly line. Foxconn does final assembly of iPads, etc. I presume final assembly is done in China because of low cost skilled labor. Some speak as if Foxconn is the only company involved in building iPads, however I believe I saw a breakdown that determined about 10% of the value is added in China. The semiconductor supply chain required to service the iPad is global. I know many of the power supply components came from a Semiconductor manufacturer I worked at in the US.

I have been hanging out at one of the contract package and assembly houses in Chengdu and conditions there are similar to Silicon Valley in the 80's. It is clean. Workers are generally happy. They have a nice cafeteria, with food way better than anything in the US, and get a short nap. Yes, they make a lot less than Americans. But my lunch was only $1.39 USD. If they are slaves, they are quite happy ones that have homes and families and go shopping on the weekend. Sound familiar?


There is still some construction in the business parks and I saw some empty lots. I have been told that Chengdu is becoming China's technology center. I am not sure why, because it is a log way from any port.


Housing is dense, much like Shanghai. These apartments are quite nice inside. Tile floors, nice furniture. They are small by American Standards, but then people are not having large families.

The air quality is a bit sketch as my kids say. The locals pointed out that Chengdu is surrounded by mountains and most of this is moisture. An expat I ran into this morning said that is what the locals like to say. My eyes don't burn or anything. I am guessing it is a mix. Shanghai air looks kind of the same. Foggy like. Not too cold, not too hot, just right.

Getting here was not so easy. On the 3 hour trip from Shanghai the plane turned around and landed on some closed airstrip 1/3 of the way back to Shanghai in god knows where. We sat on the runway while a big storm cleared in Chengdu. The pilot said there was wind shear. Bt the time the flight arrived in Chengdu, instead of 10PM, it was 5AM. The taxi line had a few hundred people in it. My private ride was long gone. Being the engineer, I calculated it would take 3 hours to get a taxi, and I have been awake for over 30 hours and had to work that day. I discovered you can go upstairs where the taxis drop off. You wait for one to stop, and when the passengers get out, you jump in fast before he goes down a level to the stand. He gets a customer faster, and you get the hell out of Dodge. I left the taxi line for those thinking inside the box.


If you are a Product Manager you get to hang out with pretty girls and wear nice hats, but don't be deceived. This was taken early in the day on the first shift. I was not so fresh by the middle of the second shift. CEO of a product can be a tough job. Eight hours of sleeping, sixteen hours of work. Seven days a week. The blue jacket is a nice perk. Actually, there are several colors, like blue, white, yellow and pink. Blue is for engineers, white for operators, and pink for QA, etc.

We ani't in Kansas any more boys. The nearest Starbucks is 1 hour away in the downtown area. The coffee at the hotel is boiled. That's right, boiled coffee. Very strong, but keeps you alert! Like India, the trick is to eat what the locals eat. Don't eat anything that pretends to be American. McDonalds is better than in the US, but the local food is much better. You have to be hungry and in a hurry to drive through McDonalds when you have such great food available.

Are you wanting to be CEO of a product yet?

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