Product Managers or CEOs? Product School’s Founder Explains
As we all know, product managers work in the intersection of recent technology, user experience, and business. This means that they need to be on top of every single thing happening in their team at all times, and be informed of different aspects of the industry. Our Slack community asked our Founder and CEO questions about product management, skills that product managers need and the changes he foresees in the product role in the future. Here’s what he answered.
Carlos González de Villaumbrosia
Here’s some background about me. I’m the Founder and CEO of Product School. Recently, I published The Product Book and it became an Amazon best-seller. As you can tell, I’m very excited about building digital products and helping others do the same. I started my career as a software engineer, and I became a Product Manager by starting my own companies. I also went to business school.
The reality is that very little of what I learned in engineering or business school was applicable to what I had to do as a product manager or founder of different technology companies. I felt like engineering school was too technical, and business school was too high level, so I decided to create Product School right in between both.
It’s very important. As a PM, you have a great responsibility but very little power in the sense that most of your engineers, designers and marketers don’t report to you directly. You have to know a little bit of everything and learn how to influence people instead of manage people.
Best tip here is to spend time with leaders you admire, and read books from other leaders you admire. I recommend “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”.
Is a Product Manager usually a Product Owner in an organization as well?
It depends on how many products and PM’s an organization has. If you have one product and one PM, then the PM is the Product Owner but it might not be the same in all the organizations.
What exactly does an associate/assistant PM do? I code and design a little, and I can do data analysis so I’m trying to figure out where I’d fit in.
APM programs are becoming very popular among big companies that want to train aspiring PM’s into PM’s. Here’s an article I wrote about the most popular APM programs and how you can apply to them.
How would you do things differently at a growth-stage startup?
Being a PM at a pre product-market-fit company is very different than being a PM at a post product-market-fit company. In the first case, it’s all about moving fast and breaking things until you figure out what sticks. In the second case, it’s all about optimizing what works and make it bigger.
The skill-sets required are quite different as well. If you haven’t been a PM before, I recommend focusing on medium to large companies so you can learn from experiences PM’s.
How do you see the product role evolving in the next decade?
Product is becoming the core of every company, and PM’s are becoming mini-CEO’s, if not CEO’s directly. Take a look at most big tech companies, and you’ll see their CEO’s most likely have a product background.
Becoming a great Product Manager is becoming more complex, and it requires a combination of technical, design and business backgrounds. At the end of the day, you sit in the middle of everything, and you have to be ready to lead the different specialists around you.
Certifications are always good to prove your skill-sets in front of a potential employer. Check out Product School’s full-stack product management certificate.
What are some of the ways to communicate product learnings effectively within an organization?
I am big fan of retrospective meetings at the end of each sprint.
Which one is a better starting point, APM in a startup or going to a big company to learn from an experienced PM?
APM programs are mostly focused on recent grads. Startups don’t offer those programs because they don’t need to hire many PM’s yet (the CEO usually acts as the PM at the beginning). I would recommend to check out our product management courses. Think of Product School as an APM program for mid-career professionals.
How do you prioritize among competing features? What is the thought process?
There are so many different frameworks. I like this one from Intercom. At the end of the day, you will have to come up with your own framework depending on the situation
Obviously LEAN isn’t the best approach for everyone. Any tips on figuring out what works best for your team?
We teach different agile frameworks at Product School. As I said in my previous answer, it’s good to know your options but at the end of the day, you will need to come up with your own framework depending on each situation. There is such a thing as 100% company or 100% waterfall company.
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