I was always working with team of juniors developers or software engineers, where I was always the smartest person in the room.

Now I'm the dumber, I'm working with senior developers or subject matter experts, who however don't know very well how to work together.

But it's difficult to put a structure around them because they are very opinionated, don't change easily or don't accept easily suggestions from a guy they don't know and that didn't understand what they are doing.

I can't lead nor drive anything. I give shy suggestions that nobody hear, and I feel left out.

Edit: my role is Product Owner. Actually the project need the coordination of 3 teams working part time on my project. Some of the teams have a scrum master. As product owner I try to drive a scrum of scrums among teams, I don't know if that makes me a scrum master too.

But the difficulties is to impose the overarching goal over individual team goals, and ask for changes to very well structured and senior people. Matter experts just give advice, dint get involved but expect everything to work according to their requirements

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    Which role do you have in the team ? manager ? project manager ? team lead ? junior ? senior ? Jan 31, 2023 at 21:41
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    Are you saying the senior developers you work with now are smart but don't get along well among themselves ? Or they get along well among themselves but don't get along with you ? Jan 31, 2023 at 21:42
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    There's things in this question that merit an Answer, but we really need some additional information at this stage. Jan 31, 2023 at 23:04
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    As a product owner, I wouldn't expect you to be managing people in the way the question implies. Usually that kind of responsibility is delegated to project managers or technical leads. Do you have anyone like that? Or is it just a 'headless' bunch of developers working on whatever they feel like?
    – Touchdown
    Feb 1, 2023 at 7:49
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    "I was always working with team of juniors developers or software engineers, where I was always the smartest person in the room." There is a saying "If you're the smartest person in the room, then you're in the wrong room."
    – Stef
    Feb 2, 2023 at 13:36

2 Answers 2


So, now we have the context - I'm going to give this example:

The Captain of a Ship is not the person who knows everything about every system, Ships are far too complex for that. Their goal is for the Ship to complete it's task - whether that's a Cruise Ship going on a Cruise, a Cargo ship going from A to B or a Warship undertaking a Mission.

They are responsible for the Big Picture - as the Product Owner, you have the same big-picture perspective. So, your master Engineer who knows the ins-and-outs of the Engine like the back of his hand comes to you and says 'we have these issues' - you listen, weigh up the pros and the cons of each issue in relation to the overall objective. One issue might prevent you from completing your goal absolutely, whereas another may only be a minor annoyance - as the Product Owner, it's your job to ask questions from your SMEs (subject matter Experts) to then evaluate them in relation to the big picture.

A classic example of this is Jean Luc Picard (of the Starship Enterprise) from Star Trek TNG - he doesn't know everything, but he has a team of trusted advisors who allow him to make decisions - sometimes that involves taking a calculated risk, sometimes not.

A big part of your lack of confidence and the perception of lack of respect is that you aren't this.

So SME 1 comes to you and says we need to do XYZ, it's your job to ask questions - What is the impact of XYZ on PDQ? Would we need to do this if we did ABC instead?

Then SME 2 comes and says something else - your job is to facilitate them coming up with a solution that works for everyone by having a clear end-goal and good structure.

Not architecting the solution

As you demonstrate your ability to lead and to do this, you'll get the respect of the team and that will grow your confidence


I think @TheDemonLord's answer is good but I will add one other aspect based on one of your comments.

impose the overarching goal over individual team goals

It is hard to co-ordinate work across multiple teams, when you don't manage them. There has to be alignment of your goal and their goals, otherwise if their biggest priority is different to yours, the project is likely to fail.

If you need an SME to do work (even if it's just answer the questions TheDemonLord talks about) and they don't give it enough time, you need to raise that with the SME's manager. I know you said you are the only manager but it seems unlikely that the SME answers to literally no-one and can do whatever the hell they like. Surely the report to someone, even if it's a director or the CEO.

Either their manager will agree with you and make it clear to the SME that your project's success is one of their goals, or they'll say something like the "SME's top priority is this other project Y", in which case you need to raise that mismatch of priorities with your manager.

Ultimately if the company wants the project to succeed, that needs to be reflected in the contributors priorities and they need to follow them.

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