How does shipping product differ in a large corporation compared to a startup? What does a seasoned product manager look for in a candidate with little product experience? We got the answers to all this and more in our recent #AskMeAnything live chat session with our Slack community. Buckle up for the ride and come join us next time!
Logan Hutchinson is a Senior Product Manager at Siemens. With over 12 years of product experience, he’s managed mobile, SaaS, platform, client and boxed applications, working from companies ranging from early stage startups to publicly traded large organizations. Logan has a Bachelor’s Degree in Management of Information Systems, Computer Science and in his spare time he enjoys anything with his wife and two young children. He also teaches product management at our Chicago campus!
What does your day look like on a high level?
My day changes all the time – It’s one of the reasons I love this job. But earlier on I didn’t have structure and you really have to have structure. Always be focused on shipping product!
What are some differences between being a PM in startup vs a large company? How do you approach each?
Working in a startup is definitely the wild wild west! You are truly answering the phone one minute as sales and the other as support – you can get pulled very thin. A startup is also all about adoption of product and on-boarding. You can define the game at a startup but you need to know how to. On the other hand, large companies usually have an established process, but most of the time it’s broken so working with stakeholders is far more key in a large company.
What is a better background for a career in PM – data science or web developer?
In my experience, background doesn’t make much of a difference. You should go towards what interests you! I’ve seen great PMs with Biology degrees and terrible ones with Computer Science degrees and MBAs.
Why do people want to transition from a data analytics or science background to product?
I’d say it’s usually because they want a broader view of their impact. It can be tough being a developer and not having the final say. At the same time, being a PM and making decisions isn’t easy – you have to learn to say no.
How can you transition to a PM role from a role that regularly works with PMs?
If you regularly work with PMs, the quickest way to transition is to show you helped directly with the launch of a product – ship it ship it ship it! Ask the PMs if you can help with the launch, maybe do a sales webinar for the new release if you work in business development. Having a history of releasing products is the first thing hiring managers look for.
I have previous experience in shipping product. What resources can I use to help prepare for an interview?
There’s tons of great books out there! I actually just sent my class a list, some are directly product focused while others have underlying principals you can use. I’ve read all of these multiple times.
What does a hiring manager look for in a product manager?
Show that you understand all of the factors in a launch, not just the ideation and writing requirements. So think operations, how do we sell, how do we support, how do we go to market, etc.
What makes the resume of a potential candidate attractive?
History of shipping product – that and how they talk about their job history. Let your job history tell a story. For example, I went from Motorola to Siemens because I wanted to learn more about IoT.
When looking for new opportunities, how important is my experience in that particular field?
It’s not usually but it can be. Showing that you follow sound principles is key. I was never a market expert at any role I’ve taken, I became one – but I showed sound principles.
What would be your top bits of advice for someone with no or indirect PM experience who wants to get a PM job?
Pay and attend Product School. Read – see books above. Educate yourself on the practice of product management, there’s so much material out there now, far more than when I was coming up. Latch on to PMs at your current job, they always need help and as you get more tenure as a PM, you start to learn what to focus on.
As a PM, making everyone around the organization happy must be really difficult. How do you manage shutting down ideas that others are convinced will be great for example?
It’s hard and it takes time to learn. Build relationships – not just business ones, but personal ones, with all stakeholders.
As a PM at a large organization, what is your approach to building products that require input from a large amount of internal stakeholders?
Large organizations are tough, lots of matrix and politics. I tend to do a lot of skunkworks stuff to get things moving. Once something is established, then I bring in the stakeholders. My advice is to have a small team of “trusted partners”, then roll it out to a larger group.
Assuming you own most of product decisions, do you ever ‘escalate’ it to the higher ups? What types of risks would prompt you to do that?
It very much depends. If it has cross-portfolio impact I will, for sure. I would also do it if facts have changed during the release process.
What are key metrics that you like to look at?
It depends on the company, type of product, market and what phase of the cycle you are in. Grassroots user feedback is great, through a user portal for example. Then there’s market research reports from places like Gartner, public data like a census for sizing a market product health.
Who do you discuss the metrics with when you’re coming up with them?
It depends on what I’m doing. If I’m sizing a market or opportunity for a release, usually my boss and his boss.
What parts do you like about your job and which do you not or find difficult?
I love that I get to touch so many different things. I love to build things and being a product manager lets you do that. It’s hard work though, you fail a lot and it can get frustrating,
even now for me.
What’s the biggest hurdle you’re facing right now with shipping your product?
I’ve made plenty of wrong ones, but the key is to make a decision. The biggest hurdle, I would say, general chaos in the process itself. My company is old-school hardware so software is new to them
and different rules apply, they think releasing every 2 years is fine.
As a product manager focused on UX, what skill have you developed that has made you the most efficient at your job?
A/B testing for sure. And lots of embeddable APIs you can use on that. Wireframing and workflow. Sometime UX designers lack the understanding of programming constraints and vice versa. In my UX, I try to marry the two. So for example, don’t put a data table on a page that will have thousands and thousands of results. It could cause issues with page loading. A UX wants to show it all, a developer wants to show 10. Product managers focused on UX should find a balance.
Any final advice?
Ask questions – dig dig dig. Never stop learning. Seek out advice, pound sand if you have to. All are key traits of PMs. Product management is such a great job and there are worlds of information about how to do it well. Everyone attending now is on the right track!