How I Came to Storytelling and Product Management, or, a Short Origin Story
How a product manager and fiction writer connected the dots.
So this radioactive spider accidentally got loose in a lab and — ahh, who am I kidding. But my interests in the intersection of storytelling and product management do have an origin story of sorts.
Most people keep the different spheres of their life completely separate: there’s the day job, and there’s the stuff they do for fun. By day I’m a senior product manager, working with development teams to build software applications for internal customers at the Federal Reserve.
At night — or on weekends, or early in the morning, or on the bus back when I used to commute to work — I write. That’s my other “job.” I write blog posts like the one you’re reading now, but what floats my boat the most is my creative writing. I’ve written and published a handful of short fiction, a couple of personal essays, and I’ve also left the husks of many short stories, a novella, and a full-blown novel in a metaphorical desk drawer. (I am, however, still working on a crime novel. I haven’t given up on that one yet.)
And for a long time, there was no connection between these two aspects of my life.
These two realms started converging when I started structuring my fiction writing using, of all things, Trello, a project management tool. I used to be a big-time pantser — and will continue to do so with short fiction — but writing a novel required a little more organization. And the novel I had started (and am still writing) happened to be in the crime genre, which made it crucial for me to keep track of the sequence of events and figure out how to pace what I reveal or conceal for maximum effect.
So the project manager in me was already gravitating to a need for structure — something that writing by the seat of my pants wasn’t going to accomplish well. So I steeped myself in reading about plotting. I read about outline structures and the snowflake method.
And for each short story I was working on, I broke out my writing to-dos-”rewrite everything tagged #clunk,” “fix reporters scene”-and started working on them Kanban-style by moving tasks into “Doing” and “Done” columns. (And yes, I kept the WIP column to a minimum.) I created more categories — plot (intro, middle, end, epilogue), setting, character — and plugged in more to-dos…