Should Product Managers Travel?


We all know there are tons of personal reasons to travel, Google even lists 1.6 billion search results for the search term “why travel”, so you know it’s important.

Other than relaxation and taking some time to recover from a hectic work life, taking vacation and travelling can make you a better person in many aspects, such as:

  • Making you more open-mind by experiencing new experiences and cultures
  • Making your brain bigger and sharper as you age by learning new languages
  • Making new friends by talking and interacting with people
  • Making you adaptable through certain experiences (i.e you lost your luggage or passport, now what?)

Even though there are a great many reasons to travel, it’s been reported ~41% of people don’t take all their vacation days for reasons such as catching up with a ton of work, not having a replacement or it looks like they are not dedicated to their job and company.

As Product Managers, we’re seen as essential to product and the organization so taking vacation is hard, but can travelling help you as a Product Manager? Can it enhance your career and make you more kick-ass in the professional life?

Without a doubt: yes!

Let’s explore how you can use traveling to be a better Product Manager so you can feel less guilty about traveling:

Learn to connect better with people

Due to so many factors, including the technology, rapidly growing global industries, and immigration, we are connect to the world like never before resulting in you may working with an outsourced team in the Ukraine or India, or interacting with clients in different countries.

Technology helps connects us, culture, unfortunately, divides us. How do you connect with somebody from India or Switzerland when the two of you have grown up in almost two different worlds. Business needs, and perhaps pop culture, may connect you, but that connection could be quite shallow.

But what if you knew a bit of their native language or visited their country (or even their city), and now you can relate and connect to them on a different level? Wouldn’t that show a different dimension to then and amaze them? Perhaps enough to close that deal that the client was so hesitant?

Personally, I was born in Kenya, lived in Toronto, the Bay Area, Singapore and now New York, and I have an Indian heritage. So when people tell me they’ve visited Africa, we can talk about the animals and the beauty of the African landscape. Living in New York, when I meet Bay Area transplants, I can understand what they are going through when they first move. Even if people talk about their love for Indian food, which I love (has to be the great cuisine out there!), we have something more personal we can connect on other than work.

Building personal connections with others can help propel you, your team, your client, and your product because you are transforming colleagues into friends, and friends work hard for each other.


Learn how people use your products or competitor’s products

Steve Blank has a famous quote: get out of the building! Understanding how people use your product or your competitors’ products will deliver (amazing) insights that you might not have gotten on your own. But the way people use products may differ by region and by country so if you stay local, you might be missing the bigger picture and a bigger opportunity.

You could, of course, segment your data/metrics by region, but data can only tell you what people are doing but not why they are doing it. Plus, you don’t have access to your competitors’ data!

If your product’s market is primarily in your country, use your vacation to travel to different regions and see how the people use your product or similar products. By interacting with people, you may be able to understand where your product and competitor’s product excels and struggles. For example, people in San Fransico may use Uber differently than in Chicago, and by speaking with them and watching them, you may be able to tailor the experiences to maximize on these differences.

Similarly, if your product is used internationally, why not use each vacation to travel to a different country and take advantage of observing and meeting your users firsthand!

Are they additional benefits to doing this? Of course! You’ll be able to build a collection of  users (with their permission) who you can always connect with to ask more questions and/or test new features. You’ll also be building a better brand and increasing the opportunity for your product to grow more without spending any marketing dollars!

Now you may be thinking by doing this that your vacation is no longer a vacation since you’ll be working. They key here  is if you are truly passionate/committed to your job, work is never just work — it’s fun! It doesn’t have to involve hours of interviewing, it can be as casual as a 5 minute conversion while you’re sitting as a cafe or a park with a local.


Learn how people use technology in general to gain insights

If you work in a certain industry, it’s always insightful to see how people interact with that industry.

For example, since I’m in the technology industry, I love to see how people use technology. For example, I love watching how people use Facebook across the world. While I was backpacking India, I noticed most teenagers could not afford a smartphone, they were always at a computer cafe and always on Facebook (they were mostly stalking rather than contributing). In Guatemala, some of the locals had smartphones and were constantly taking selfies (pictures of themselves) for Facebook. Just through these two observations, if I had a product in those regions, I would probably be testing different services either the product or through Facebook that incorporates people’s vanity (not in an evil way, of of course!).

Gaining such insights can only be done through increasing your exposure to the world. And to increase your exposure, you have to travel.


Makes you more hirable

There are three main reasons why traveling makes you more hirable:

You become better at strategizing. Product Managers need to understand what today and tomorrow look like. If you understand either the national landscape and/or international landscape, you’re in a position to shape the product strategy.

You become a better team player. Product Managers do not create products on their own, they work with others to transform their vision to a reality. Traveling, as explained at the beginning of this article, has a huge effect on your mind/attitude, helping shape you to be more more cooperative, adaptive and a better communicator.

You become more driven. By having the opportunity to meet people around the country or the world, you’ve met either current users or potential users. You’ve been able to connect with them on a personal level, helping your understanding of what their lives are like. This will help you push harder for a better product for them because you know if you fail, they know you failed and you’ve disappointed your new friends.


Traveling does not mean going to a resort or hotel and staying on the beach. Get out. Talk to people. Discover yourself and the world!


What are your thoughts? Were there other aspects I missed? Are you convinced to travel?


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