This week Product School hosted Fredrick Lindberg, Enterprise Product Manager at Spotify for an #AskMeAnything session on Reddit. Fredrick discussed how to develop critical skills in order to be a top-tier Product Manager. He also discussed the best resources Product people should be using, plus the intricacies of working with various stakeholders remotely and inhouse.
Meet Fredrik Lindberg
When Fredrik first started in 2011, Spotify was about 200 people and a rocket start-up in the heart of Stockholm. Now 9 years later Spotify is a global enterprise with 4000+ employees.
During this journey, Fredrik has been working as a Product Manager for a number of different internal systems shaping business processes and financial processes with a focus on scalability, automation, and compliance. Currently, Fredrik is the product area lead of a department called Revenue Engineering as well as the product lead for Business Applications & Engineering, which are departments serving as the backbone of some of Spotify’s core financial processes.
How do you communicate with the Product Design Team? What you look for in a product design manager?
My domain is a bit special since I work with internal systems. It’s very important for us that the Product Designer has an interest in solving the business problems of our users. As such, it great if the product designer has experience working in a larger enterprise before.
Do you need to be 100% passionate about your product to be a good PM? What aspects of the role in Spotify do you like the most? What made you get into Product Management?
- In my opinion, it’s hard to be 100% passionate all the time. I personally think the most important thing is that you care about the problem that you are trying to solve. If you don’t care about the problem you are solving it will be hard to create great products.
- Like: Working with a lot of smart people. Dislike: Spotify has grown very quickly in recent years and naturally not all processes have kept up.
- I started as a project manager consultant and then made my way into Product Management, so it was basically by chance. But I really love being in between business and technology.
What technologies and methods do you use on a daily basis? What are some challenges for a newbie PM? Also, how do you keep up with developments in your industry?
- Some methods: Scrum, Kanban, Backlog grooming, Stand-Ups, Retros, Planning Poker, Sprint Demos.
- Tools for Product Managers: Jira, Leankit, KanbanFlow, Asana.
- Challenges for new PMs: It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose track of what is important, try to keep a relentless focus on the outcome of what you are trying to achieve.
- Keep up with the industry: As I work with finance/accounting I try to stay close to what the big consultancies are thinking about the future. In addition, I try to keep in touch with companies working on similar problems and exchange ideas and experiences.
Having recently become a public company, with all of the regulations and SOX requirements attached to this, what has been the greatest challenges in getting internal systems up to speed?
Great question! I think it has been aligning everyone who needs to be aligned. When we ship our products, they usually come with some sort of process change that will require change management and alignment. As we are moving quickly as a company and as we are growing it can be very challenging to make necessary process changes.
Whn do you know it’s time to cut corners to get the product launched, and what would you cut?
The products we create almost always need to be signed off by finance directors/execs so deciding what to cut is a joint decision. With that being said, I think it’s helpful to map out the impact of each feature and see if there are acceptable workarounds.
I like milestones as they force a discussion about where we are and how far we are from the target. If milestones are continuously missed for whatever reason then I think it’s time to discuss what corners to cut.
How has a failure set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
Yea, I had a failed project that hurt quite a bit a few years ago! It took some time to get over and reflect upon but I truly believe it helped me get stronger, especially in the area of “Small problems will become Big problems, so deal with them while they are small“. I think it helped me to stay more focused on resolving issues that can become big and not hoping that they will resolve themselves.
What’s the most challenging part of your day to day at Spotify?
Great question… It’s probably to find how we as a team can maximize our impact. I lead both engineers and product managers in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment so a lot about what is next and if we are ready for it (as a team).
Could you tell us about your day to day? What features have you assisted to build and launch?
Currently, I lead a product area so I’m a bit further away from the features than I was a few years ago. The products I have been a part of building are financial systems that manage Spotify’s revenue (Billing, Settlements, Revenue Recognition, Sales). My day to day differs quite a lot but in general (as a manager) I try to focus on what’s to come a few months down the line and prepare for that.
Can you describe your current role and how you got started in product management?
I work as a product area lead which means that I lead a team of 25 engineers and product managers. I started out as a consultant, working as a project manager with Spotify’s ERP-system and basically followed the journey Spotify was on and evolved from project management to product management. I have a background in management consulting which has been very useful working with financial systems and business processes.
I’m a junior in college and very interested on starting my career as a PM (P.s. I love Spotify). Do you have any suggestions? Book recommendation? Any moves you’ll do before starting the career?
Personally, I think experience and solving a real problem is the best way to learn. I would recommend start product managing a product ( i.e. find some engineers and build a product or ask if you could help out PMing an app that you like). That way you could apply theory in practice right away.
As a Graduate Student, competing against the MBAs, what should I focus on to build a stronger or at par profile?
I think it’s good to have some formal education in product management or product design, but many managers are also looking for people with strong domain knowledge so I would probably try to find experience in the area/domain that interests you and try to get practical experience.
You might be interested in Product School’s Product Management Certificate.
I work in a very small startup where everything product related is on me, so I don’t have a mentor. I read scrum.org, attend 1-2 meetups/week, etc… yet I don’t feel I have any kind of feedback loop.
I’d love to find a mentor somewhere, what are your thoughts? Secondly, what resources did you find most helpful to get yourself up to speed?
My personal belief is that it’s hard to find just one product mentor since people have different skills and experiences so I would try to find many mentors to get different viewpoints. Also, in my experience, there is an overload of material around agile & product management so it’s difficult to filter through what is useful and what’s not. During my first years as a product manager, I found it hard to find agile coaches and material that was focused on product management for internal products so I found that the advice I got wasn’t 100% applicable for my situation.
In general, I think it’s very important to take the time to reflect upon what happened frequently (i.e. what did I do? what was the result? What worked/didn’t work?). In addition, I found it helpful to try to get advice on very specific problems (like how do I know what I’m building is the right thing, or how can I get the engineers to understand my vision, etc)
For aspiring PMs, I urge you to spend a lot of time and effort understanding your customer and their problems. I see a lot of PMs fail in this step.
Did you miss this event? Check out our events page to sign up for the next #AskMeAnything session!