Few things I learned in first 3 months as a Proxy Product Owner

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Three months ago I started to work as a Proxy Product Owner (Proxy PO), so I thought it might be interesting to reflect on it and maybe write a thing or two about it, for the benefit of other people starting in a similar role or me coming back later.

So what's a Proxy PO?

If you want a specific definition, you can find a couple of them onlineā€¦ But, for context of this article, Proxy PO is a member of an agile team, with a subset of responsibilities and powers of a PO. PO should still be part of the team, so one might use this role when PO can not fully concentrate on a product (eg. she has multiple ones), is not co-located with the rest of a team, and so on.


When I started to search for a PM/PO job about a half year ago, I didn't even know that such a role existed. When I looked up a definition, the consensus (= few articles I read, so I might be totally off) seemed to be that it's not really a good role to be in, because you hardly have real ownership and people might look at you as an assistant/secretary to the PO.

After 3 months I can tell that that's not true: Whether you're PO, PM, Proxy PO, or developer; how much ownership over a product you can yield only depends on the amount you're willing to take and to demand.

You might not always be as successful in getting it as you would like to, but, more often then not, it's just a question of time. Why would you get hired otherwise?


That leads to the second point: Trust required for ownership is not an easy thing to get. But don't worry, you can help yourself by doing what you're already good at.


And that's figuring out people's needs. I am not not using word customer by accident, because by people I mean your stakeholders, PO, testers; basically everyone. Treat your organization and your team as you would a customer: understand their problems and then prioritize solving them. In most cases, this will move the product forward as well.

A word of warning, though: Make sure people want your help.


Start at an interview. That's the one trick I can't recommend enough: try to figure out what kind of problems they are looking to solve with the role, then ask yourself whether that's interesting for you.


Being "only" a Proxy might be even good for you. It's always easier to assert ownership over time than trying to hold on to it from day one. Being Proxy also gives you more freedom to pick up stuff you're more comfortable with.

Summa summarum

Summa summarum, I am pretty happy with the last three months. If you see such a role being advertised, it's definitely worth interviewing.

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