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Tips and Free Resources to become a Great Product Manager
Tips and Free Resources to become a Great Product Manager

Follow the Data with Mobile Product Manager at DICK’s Sporting Goods

What’s the most important thing a Product Manager should get good at? An equal balance of gaining user empathy and following the data.

Mobile Product Manager at DICK’s Sporting Goods gives advice for new product managers, shares insight on using hypothesis-driven approaches to deliver ideas to users and much more. Check it out in our recent Q&A below.

Following the Data with Mobile Product Manager at DICK's Sporting Goods

 

Jeffrey Barrett

After a government career in protective services, Jeffrey Barrett transitioned into Product Management, specializing in mobile and innovative tech experiences. He continually challenges himself to ask the right questions and to always maintain a very direct feedback loop with his user. In his spare time, he’s a keen cook!

Table of Contents

How did you break into product management from your past career in protective services?

It was really an interesting change but something that I was really excited to do. While I was working for the government, I was finishing up business school and really knew that my passion would be in a somewhat entrepreneurial field. I had been a customer with USAA for years and they are very supportive of hiring members and people from the public sector. When I first applied, I didn’t really know what I was signing up for but I was excited. When I found out that I was going to start a career and get paid to geek out on cool tech and make some awesome stuff, I knew it was for me!

What advice would you give to a new product manager who is in their first few months of work?

The most important thing to do is gain an understanding of your product and empathy for your user. product management is about making a connection and improving ways for people to complete what they want to do. There are tons of skills and tools to accomplish that, but at the end of the day, knowing who you are helping is the most important part.

What are some challenges you faced early on and what skills helped you to be successful in your product manager role? Is there anything that you wish you had known prior to entering the role that you know now?

I think what I have learned the most is that product management is an equal balance of data and empathy. Early on, I embraced the empathy but was reluctant to invest much time in the analytics. I am here to tell you that data comes in many ways and will make you much more effective. Whether it be user interviews (qualitative) or session/event counts (quantitative), the best product managers know the data and where to get it.

What tools do you use for gathering customer feedback for iteration?

There are a ton of tools, but honestly, start with free ones. Ask your friends, family, etc. Start storyboarding on the back of a napkin or paper and show it to someone. Too often, product managers perfect what they plan on testing and at that point, you missed the chance.

How did you go about cultivating your technical fluency in order to have informed conversations with the engineers you partner with?

The best way is to be involved early and throughout the conversations. Start writing down specific questions and then go speak with the tech leads during the downtime and ask. I think the best product managers in this space can hold conversations and at least challenge engineers on the high-level approach to things.

Are you seeing a shift in usage from Android users versus iOS on mobile?

The question between Android and iOS comes up a lot, but being honest, I don’t think either are going anywhere. For a new company starting out in mobile, I would suggest thinking about who your users are and some demographic indications that might lead to one being prioritized. Also, both have very unique capabilities out of the box so it depends on which functions and interactions would be best suited for your product. At the end of the day, building on mobile is about creating a utility for someone to improve what they already want to do and not overthink how it should look…because your app is NOT going to be the most used one on their phone. Knowing that you have the benefit of leaning into what has already been created and tweaking it to make it better.

Do you plan and advance the mobile app as its own product or is it a unified path with the rest of the digital front?

First off, there is no way to effectively treat mobile as two distinct channels. Some organizations view apps as their own entity with no recognition of how users are interacting with the company elsewhere. This is not only wrong but insulting to the user. Creating mobile experiences is about balancing what someone wants to do, how they do it, and how often they do it…apps are not going anywhere, but they also aren’t always the right solution.

Among you and your peers, what companies have earned the most respect for their approach to product management?

Not to be obvious, but Spotify really pioneered this space in my eyes. Here is a really cool link to check out from one of the first in product management.

Often, business partners come up with problems but also solutions. Given they are HiPPOs in the group, how would you navigate not being able to always consider their solutions due to lack of time and resources?

This is a great question! I think the best way to support arguments and sway HiPPOs is through data. Most times in the ideation phase of product development, the easiest and most effective data is user research. I would look up some great resources out there on human-centered design and have the team run through a few of the methods. This will help people see the problems in a new light and often recognize better ways to think.

What are the benefits to go with Native vs. React Native or Cordova for the first iteration of a mobile app?

Languages change and new ones evolve – every day. Trying to spend time learning each is fool’s gold and will only delay. If you think a user will benefit from what Native can do, build Native. If not, you probably don’t need an app.

How do you approach optimizing for user experience with mobile solutions vs. desktop?

I highly suggest doing crowdsourced testing through online tools (like UserTesting). Watch how people interact with your products and see what you can do differently. Then, start testing. Organizations wait too long to implement an effective A/B testing element and this data is extremely tactical.

How do you distinguish and balance the scope of your role as a Product Manager from Technical Program Managers?

To be frank, I don’t. Although in very large scopes it helps to have someone keep things organized, I have been brought up in models where the best PMs can relate to both roles.

At the moment, DICK’S offers league and team management software for free – are you planning to also offer a mobile version of this platform?

I think the hope is to better understand how users want to interact with us before just building and hoping they come. That said, those acquisitions have created great opportunity for DICK’S, we just need to formulate the right strategy.

In the last few years, “product manager” has become such an important title, with so many people interested in growing into the space. Where do you hope your career in product management will take you?

I absolutely agree, it has really taken off and it’s an exciting time to get in or be a part of. Personally, I really want to stay in the mobile/innovative tech space – especially user-facing. I think I have found my niche and passion and I still believe there are plenty of ways to help solve problems through the channel. Who knows, maybe I will make my way out to the Left Coast some time?!

 

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