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The Product Management Blog

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

Following Your Passion vs. What’s Popular by ReWalk Robotics

We are all familiar with Product Management in top tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google. But does the job change when you work at a robotics company?

The Global Marketing Lead at ReWalk Robotics took part in a live chat to talk about what he does daily and what motivates him in his job.

 

Following Your Passion vs. What's Popular by ReWalk RoboticsAndy Dolan
Andy leads the global marketing team at ReWalk Robotics, a company engaged in designing, developing and commercializing exoskeletons. Andy has been at ReWalk Robotics since January 2014. He previously served in product management and sales leadership roles for Boston Scientific, Integra Life Sciences and Johnson and Johnson. Andy holds a B.Sc. from Springfield College, an MBA a graduate certificate in bioengineering.

 

 

Table of Contents

What was the career path you took to arrive in your current position, and would you change/improve anything if you had the chance?

I started in medical device sales, which worked for me, others might find different routes. I quickly learned the importance of meeting a customer’s needs, focusing on providing value, etc. However, it wasn’t the right challenge for me, and after observing different functions, I realized Product Management might be.

It took a while, and I had to add to my education with an MBA and an engineering program, but I made the transition. Perhaps I wish it happened earlier, but I learned a lot in the field, so I think overall I’m happy with how it turned out.

 

Other than the usual, what skills do you look for when hiring? Are you looking for people with Robotics backgrounds?

Interesting question. I think it’s important for Product Managers to have the capacity to become proficient with their product line, but not necessarily experts. That’s what the engineers are for. A Product Manager needs to focus on all aspects of success on their product line, and not get too tied up in technical aspects.

I happen to have a bioengineering background, and it helps, but I often have to turn off that side of the thinking to focus on what’s good for the business vs. what would be “neat” to build.

 

What about working in Product makes you happy?

I get to see people stand and walk for the first time in years, something they thought they would never be able to do again. Enough said.

 

Which products or product lines energize and enthuse you the most when it comes to REWALK +exoskeleton tech and robotics in general?

My company focuses on medical applications; others provide industrial, lifestyle or military solutions. My whole career has been spent in medical devices; I find the human aspects of that rewarding. Our next products will focus on assistance for those who can walk but are impaired. We’ll help people better access their surroundings, and in the process maintain their health. It’s economic and social win-win. 

 

Do you have any advice on how to prepare a resume and what to highlight?

All resumes should point to one thing – what value you can provide the company. Job interviews are a sales call, and in selling 101, you learn that a feature of a product is meaningless unless it has a benefit for the customer. How can you background benefit the employer? What accomplishments have you had that show you can achieve, and would also do that for them? Think of it as making your argument vs. listing a biography.

Following Your Passion vs. What's Popular by ReWalk Robotics

What makes a good Product Manager? What are some recommended sources of best practices and tools etc.?

Product Managers have to be OK with not being an expert on every topic they are involved in. Some people find that hard. I have worked with many engineers who want to focus on technical knowledge or salespeople who switch to Product Management and focus on downstream.

You can’t rely on your comfort zone; you have to be very cross-functional and diverse. It can be humbling; however, once you get to a point where you can function as a product line owner, you own the place.

 

What would you recommend to attain more experience in Product while earning money to sustain a living?

This is a tough one to answer, in my experience it wasn’t immediate. I joined a company in a sales capacity and made it known I did so because I wanted to switch to marketing (much to the annoyance of my boss at the time). I networked well with the Product team, volunteered for related tasks, and when the time came for an opening, I prepared to the point where they had no choice but to hire me.

 

How much does a Product Manager focus on Competition, Pricing model and Customer satisfaction in defining the requirements/overall production vision?

The product requirements should be a response to what the market wants. I think of the market as a sentient being – charge them too much, come up short competitively, provide features they don’t need, etc. and they ignore you. Regular touch points with meaningful VOC – ethnographic data, focus groups, etc. help with this.

I think my sales background helps here. I recall one meeting where a bunch of engineers was wondering what the key physicians in our market would like, and I interrupted the meeting to pick up the phone and call a bunch. Sometimes it’s that easy.

 

What professional blogs/sites/groups do you usually get information from on a daily basis?

Have to admit, none. I have some Google Alerts set up for my competitors and markets, and I follow some key opinion leaders in my market on social media, but that’s about it. One nice thing about the medical space is that your top customer base is pretty small so that you can stay in touch with the key ones directly.

 

In hindsight, do you think that the MBA was necessary for your transition to Product?

Eh, on paper probably yes since I was trying to transition with a marketing background. Has it helped me? Maybe a little, but it’s nowhere as important as overall experience.

Following Your Passion vs. What's Popular by ReWalk Robotics

Is a technical background necessary and what would you recommend for those coming from finance or business background?

Nope. Product Management requires a personality type, somewhat similar to a project manager but with more ability to present. A Product Manager role often has upstream and downstream components, depending on your company structure. As a Product Manager, I have always had to sit on product development teams, construct financial/ market models and then roll out launch- which means developing sales collateral and presenting (and exciting) large groups from the stage.

Remember that a Product Manager interacts with almost every function, so anyone who is trying to get in will be stronger in one area than others. Your job as a candidate for the role is to show them where you’re strong, then move past it to show how you can work with all areas. If you are an engineer, show them that then say “but I’ve also interacted with customers, and here is how…”

 

What is the breakdown of time you spend on average communicating with different stakeholders vs. writing up requirements, product specs, doing research, etc.? 

Tough one, literally on the same day I do all of those. The hardest part of the job is balancing, as you can not neglect any area. I go from writing a clinical study protocol to preparing for a media presentation to troubleshooting a product issue before lunch. I don’t have a good answer here because every single day is different.

 

Were you passionate about the industry you’re currently in? Should I chase what is currently popular or trendy or should I follow what I’m passionate about?

I did both. I was in medical devices (surgical implants) when a recruiter called with this opportunity. Powered exoskeletons are medical devices, so there was a fit with what I have always done, but the draw of working with robots excited my inner child enough to get me to leap from a top med device company to a startup.

 

What’s your opinion on must have certifications/courses if you’re transitioning from another industry? Where is that time well spent?

I don’t have one, but I’ve seen others with project management certificates, and it appears to be quite helpful.

Following Your Passion vs. What's Popular by ReWalk Robotics

Do you get nervous when presenting in front of groups? Does it go away with practice and experience? Any tips on how to overcome this?

It helps to know what you are talking about. If you are supposed to be the expert, make sure you are. Regarding large groups, to be honest, I find those easier. I’ve presented to forums with thousands of people; it’s so anonymous that I find it easy. Now when you are in a board meeting with eight people staring at you and firing questions, that’s harder.

 

I have made several proposals to Product that have been chosen and taken forward to customers. Can I apply for Product positions with that or is it better to get a certificate?

If you are an engineer that understands all innovation needs to provide value for the company, then you are a step ahead of most. Keep focusing on one thing- providing value for the company vs. the most interesting technical advancement.

Also, remember that the customer sometimes isn’t the most important consideration. Gasp! Really, your responsibility is to the company, which usually means keeping the customer happy, but not in all cases.

 

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