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Live Chat with Sr Mobile PM at Jet.com

How many roads are there to product management? There is no answer for this question but there are about as many stories of people breaking into product as there are different backgrounds. The Product Manager at Jet.com, Kareem Shirazi, was asked to sit down in front of his laptop and answer questions from our product management community. Here’s what his road to product was like.

 

Live Chat with Sr Mobile PM at Jet.com

 

@lmasri: Tell us about your untraditional path into Product.

I started by working at a company called CAA (Creative Artists Agency). They are one of the world’s largest talent agencies. I then moved to a digital media company, Fullscreen, which is where I fell in love with product. I was exposed to it in an awesome startup-y environment which also helped.

After navigating that company, I landed on their internal tooling team, informally, but ran with it for as long as I could. Then I realized I wanted to move to a B2C team, customer facing. That’s when Jet popped into the picture, and I’ve loved it ever since.

Something to remember is that there is no defined path to product. Having a diverse background is a blessing in disguise. You can pull the unique knowledge from your past jobs, that may only be tangential to product, to help you build unique and delightful products.

 

Live Chat with Sr Mobile PM at Jet.com

 

@ceceliashao: How do you move mobile design away from the mindset that it’s just a subset of desktop design?

We’re actively going through this right now! Since Jet’s inception, we have done just that – translated desktop/mweb design into native. And that’s not the right approach. We noticed that our app user had much different behavior than our desktop/mweb user, and our design did not lean into that user’s needs. It’s important to understand context when designing and building an app so that you make the right decisions for your user.

We explored the iMessage App feature last year and built a cool “shared cart” app where you can collaboratively build carts with your friends straight from iMessage. Unfortunately, it was hard to discover, but we liked the idea of shared carts, so we’re exploring how to bring it to the main app experience.

 

@junloayza: Can you tell us about your team, how you discover opportunities and prioritize your roadmap?

Our native team is comprised of 5 iOS devs, 2 Android, two dedicated UI/UX folks, and 2 PM’s. We are adding a couple of more engineers and a dedicated analytics people to the team soon. Since Jet got acquired by Walmart late last year, we’ve been doing some “soul searching” on the mobile team and what came out of that was that we determined that autonomy was important for us (and ultimately for our users).

Mobile users have different needs, so we needed to divorce ourselves from the web roadmap. We typically do user research (in our house lab), usertesting.com and deep dives into our analytics. A lot of features are still “table stakes” so the innovation chapter is just beginning, which I’m super excited about!

 

@salome: What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made as a PM and what lessons you learned from those mistakes?

Biggest mistake I made as a PM was that I didn’t ask enough questions early on. Learnt lesson: don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. People think that asking questions makes you look dumb, but I’d argue assuming things makes you look dumb. Asking questions is one of the most liberating things you can do early on because you can surface bits of knowledge you wouldn’t otherwise gain without asking those precise, well thought out questions.

 

Live Chat with Sr Mobile PM at Jet.com

 

@twang: When triaging urgent production issues, how do you prioritize which is more important?

Typically when we have major production issues, it’s an API issue (not to hate on the API!), but we don’t really allow ourselves to get into a situation where we release something client-side that can cause so many problems. We write unit tests for every feature and manual QA from our in-house team. We adjust the sprint schedule to accommodate for any issues – everyone is aware that things may get pushed when we have big issues.

 

@samhart: How did you acquire the technical chops to speak fluently with engineers?

This puzzled me for a while when I started, but ultimately I found that being “technical enough” is all that is needed. It doesn’t mean that you’re writing code and making commits. You should have the right amount of knowledge for how the API is structured and works, and just enough knowledge for how the clients are built. This way when you are in a meeting with e.g. marketing you can tell them that the promo code feature they’re asking for doesn’t take a week’s worth of work but in fact three weeks.

Another thing I did early on at Jet when I was on the web team was slowly built trust with the front-end engineers by asking them to take over menial parts of their job (we were a scrappy startup after all.) This means that there were things like on-site copy updates.

Eventually, I was able to dive into the style sheets (CSS) and adjust things to my, and the designers’ liking, and the engineers were happy because they were able to focus on javascript and make the site function. It was a win-win. I gained knowledge, and the engineers trusted me.

 

@faye_shi: How does Jet acquire its users, and the metrics they use to measure the acquisition performance?

We use a variety of channels to acquire users: mweb banners deep-linking into app/app store, Ibotta, targeted ads on social networks, subway ads, tv, etc. The biggest metric the growth team monitors is cost of acquisition. Once we convert a user (downloads the app) we see if that traffic source was trash (meaning they don’t ever make a purchase) or if that traffic source provides us with users with great intent. We monitor, refine, rinse and repeat. I’m reductive, but that’s the super high level.

 

Live Chat with Sr Mobile PM at Jet.com

 

@ezeagwulae: What is your approach when joining a new PM team and how do you navigate the first 15-30 days?

I think the best thing to do early on is set up time to chat with all the engineers and designers you’ll be working with. There will be a learning curve, and it will last anywhere between 1-3 months so just expect that (and if you’re at the right company, they will too, so don’t stress about it) really digging deep and understanding the technology stack and how everything works together is invaluable knowledge.

And for design, being able to understand the principles, design library, and the approach when ideating on new features will help when you introduce new ideas and features.

 

@tenagne: Can you tell me about some of the pure product management parts?

Jet was a bit of an anomaly in that we were brought into existence by someone who is an expert at the e-commerce game (Marc Lore) so the go to market was more around brand positioning. How we were different from Amazon/Target/Walmart, and what our specific value prop is (price drop as you shop). Hammering those home were mainly on the marketing side, and product/UX had influence over that in a meaningful way.

It’s a beautiful cocktail of opinions and expertise that eventually give birth to your product. The app was a second class citizen when we launched (we had one eng for ios and one eng for Android) so we were just constantly playing catch up, but for jet as a whole, the KPI was GMV (gross merchandise value).

 

@carlosmiguelp: What makes a great PM? What is the interviewing process at Jet like?

Great PM:
1. Is well versed in tech-design-marketing, meaning you should be able to speak those languages.
2. has attention to detail and is very organized (at jet PM’s play the role of the project manager too so getting set up with the right process and tooling helps you do your job tremendously)
3. can see the forest for the trees, meaning discerning an overall pattern from a mass of detail. Jet interview process tests these, but we also are HUGE on cultural/value fit because the human element of all of this is too important to forget.

 

@drakeopolypse: Do you manage other PM’s or the development team?

A huge part of my role is managing people, and honestly, it’s one of my favorite things about the job. I manage a team of developers and designers. I work with engineers constantly to refine our process to make sure we’re following processes that everyone feels comfortable with.

It’s all about collaboration, don’t make decisions in a vacuum, always take people’s input and whip that together to form something great for the team, whether that’s a feature or a team org design decision.

 

@cassandra Any advice for aspiring Product Managers

Final advice: Always be hungry. Always read. Always talk to other PM’s, designers and engineers to get new viewpoints. Be humble and _listen_, check your ego, and do what’s right for the customer, not yourself.” – Kareem

 

Live Chat with Sr Mobile PM at Jet.com

 

Have any comments? Tweet us @ProductSchool

We teach product management courses in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and New York. To learn more about our upcoming courses and how to apply click over to our course page.

 

Live Chat with Gliffy’s Senior Product Manager

As many Product Managers have said it’s not absolutely necessary for PM’s to have a technical background but it sure helps them in many ways if they know at least a little bit of coding. Our community asked the Senior PM at Gliffy the same question and more in a recent “Ask me anything” live chat. Find out what lessons he has learnt over the years and what advice he would give to aspiring Product Managers.

 

Live Chat with Gliffy's Senior Product Manager

Jun Loayza

Sr Product Manager at Gliffy for 2 months, previously Head of Product/UX at Chou Force, and Torre Technologies Co. Throughout his career, he’s raised $1M in angel funding, sold 3 companies, and failed with 2. he doesn’t have a technical background. Started his career in technology in online marketing. Has a very data-driven approach to marketing, that has evolved into growth. 

 

 

What do you like most about your work?

That I get to build products that hundreds of thousands of people use. It feels good to make a tangible impact on the way people work.

 

Do you need technical skills as a Product Manager?

First of all, it depends. If you have a very technical role, for example, you’re the PM for API integrations at Twilio or Stripe, then I believe you must be technical.

However, a technical background is not absolutely required for many PM roles. I know that Facebook doesn’t require their PM’s to be technical. I have focused a lot of my learnings on managing a team, UX, and Gamification to be able to add solid value to product teams and company objectives.

 

What difference do you see when you were a CEO, and as a Senior Product Manager at Gliffy?

HUGE differences. First and foremost, my level of responsibility as a founder of a company was tremendous. I had to hire people, fire people, define the vision, motivate people, get clients, everything.

As a PM, I am focused on one particular product at Gliffy with one main objective. It allows me to stay very focused on leading a team while executing, without having to worry about the operations and high-level vision of a CEO.

 

When moving from a startup to a growth focus, what strategies do you use to tamp down the noise?

I feel it’s important to have solid, defined operations before you begin to grow. On the Product side, you should have a defined workflow for the way Product teams do the following:

  1. Define requirements
  2. Run Sprints
  3. Measure success of sprints and products launched

General rule: Aim for product growth, not paid growth (try to achieve a K-factor greater than 1 before you begin paid acquisition.)

 

Live Chat with Gliffy's Senior Product Manager

 

How do you measure success at Gliffy? 

We need to get better at this. I have certain KPIs that I track:

  1. Revenue from X Product
  2. Churn from X Product
  3. New revenue from X Product

I have moved from User Stories to Job Stories. Every job story has an Epic with a defined objective. I have a regular cadence after a Job Story is completed to measure if we achieved our objective. I normally do this 2 weeks after an Epic is completed.

 

As both PM and founder what are most applicable learnings to being a founder? 

The biggest and most important learnings are people management and expectation management. I feel that I’ve learned the most in People management by working with people that I highly respect and that I can learn from. For expectations, it’s about learning how to prioritize. I use ICE to prioritize

 

Name one thing (from your experience) that one should simply never ever do as a product manager? 

Never make assumptions. If you’re at a company that has millions of users, then use data to define the challenges and questions you must answer. If you’re at a small company with few users, then use customer interviews to define the challenges and questions you must answer.

 

Live Chat with Gliffy's Senior Product Manager

 

Have you found that not having a technical background has been challenging in any way?

Yes, absolutely. This is why I have to work extra hard on my strengths: people management, leadership, UX, and Gamification. You can apply Gamification immediately. I define it as human-focused design. By applying Gamification intelligently, you can immediately begin influencing your users.

 

What has been the most compelling argument when competing for funding?

Gliffy is a bootstrapped company (no outside investment). Raising funding is about people management and expectations management. You have to show 3 things:

  1. You are in a big, exciting market
  2. You have proven traction in that market
  3. If the investor gives you $X amount, then you can put that money directly into growing the company in the following, proven ways: X, Y, Z

 

How would you address failure? 

Not every product is a success. The most important thing is to learn from your failures. We have a defined process to measure all of our efforts (retrospective). We then document our learning on Confluence and share them with the team so that everyone can learn from it.

 

Live Chat with Gliffy's Senior Product Manager

 

What was the last book you read? and what’s the next one you’re thinking about reading?

I recommend Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards by Yu-kai Chou, I last read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and I will read next Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.

 

What is an aspect of PM you found challenging that you did not expect to be so and vice versa? 

More difficult than expected: it’s really hard to build a product that gets hockey stick growth. That’s the dream, but really, it’s so hard: many things have to go right. It’s not just about building a good product, but you have to have the right market and the right timing. Easier than expected: managing different teams. My experience as a startup founder helped a lot with this.

 

How far into the future does your roadmap go? 

This always varies. A 12-month roadmap will always change. I think the best practice here is to be transparent with your team at all times and let your customers know the vision of the company. We currently manage a 3-month defined roadmap at Gliffy.

 

Live Chat with Gliffy's Senior Product Manager

 

Do you have anyone you look up to professionally?

Yes. Many people that you guys know, so I’ll mention 2 people who you most likely don’t know: Yu-kai Chou and Alex Torrenegra.

 

Any advice for aspiring product managers?

Build your own products. Because of the tools available to us (such as Sketch + Invision), it’s quite easy to build high-fidelity prototypes. Start your own blog where you write about your ideas about product and design. This will help you tremendously with breaking into this challenging and very rewarding career path. 

 

Have any comments? Tweet us @ProductSchool

We teach product management courses in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and New York. To learn more about our upcoming courses and how to apply click over to our course page.

 

Live Chat with Craft.io’s Founder and CEO

Product Management is a hot topic at the moment and there are a lot of aspiring Product Managers wanting to break into the field. What qualities would a hiring PM look for in a person? This time it was the CEO at Craft.io, Nir Erlich’s, turn to answer our community’s questions about product management and share his experiences in product and challenges in his day-to-day life.

 

AMA with the CEO at Craft.ioNir Erlich
Started as a PM almost 2 decades ago at UK based Cellular Operations. Has lead product at RayV ( acquired by Yahoo), lead mobile and player at Kaltura, world leading video platform. 4 years ago created Execute Apps, a design and development agency. Founded Craft, the first product-driven, product lifecycle management tool. Founded a company called Knocka TV at 2006 which joined the startup deadpool 2 years later.

 

What are the top qualities you look for while hiring a PM?

The No. 1 thing I’m looking for is the ability to be a team player and to be honest – I love the “nice” people, they are great to work with. As for specific things I look for in product managers, depends on the team and the role, but in general I love the ones that question everything, that love to get into user’s shoes, that have truly empathetic and have the ability to suggest creative new ways to do things.

An analytical mind is important as well, but it’s not the most important thing for me.

 

How does the product team write requirements at Craft.io?

We obviously use Craft for that but as a method we throw any idea we have into a pile and then spend time discovering the ideas we think will bring the greatest value using User Story Mapping. Once an idea is mature enough to be planned for the near future we start with high level User Stories, high fidelity designs etc.

We give our ideas value points and Kano categorization and then prioritize them into our long term roadmap. Then we do sprints. Any changes made are reflected immediately in Craft since every aspect for the product is interconnected.
AMA with the CEO at Craft.io

 

What are the biggest challenges you face as a PM that are part of a distributed team?

Our teams are remote in nature, and it took time for us to crack the system. I think the hardest barrier is what we call a virtual pressure.When you don’t see someone face to face, you tend to get more frustrated as time goes by. We use Skype, Zoom, Slack etc, to communicate all day and see each other’s faces which really helps break the tension. We also regularly travel to see each other in our various offices.

 

How do you keep your schedule?

I try to keep at least an hour a day to users and 3 hours to do stuff without the usual noise around. This is sometimes a mixture of finding time while working out (swimming for me) and at non-working hours. During working hours I’m being pulled 1000 different directions with meetings, chats, investors etc. and I’ve learned to live peacefully with that.

 

What can a UX designer do that would make a PM say ” this guy is great to work with?”

Focus less on what’s beautiful and more on what will make the user more successful. Choose a small place where there is an obvious UX problem by talking to your users or analyzing data. Suggest and design features and flows and transform the way users are currently using this small feature. Your product manager will love you forever.

 

Live Chat with Craft.io's Founder and CEO

 

What failure have you experienced that has defined you?

Every failure really; a startup that failed, a major release that did not achieve its goals, a missed deal, a churned customer. Every bit of failure made me stronger and I truly believe that in order to succeed what you need is the patience to see things through and stick with your goal for the long run. 

 

What books do you recommend to learn more about product management?

Some books I really like are Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster by Alistair Croll, Talking to Humans: Success starts with understanding your customers by Giff Constable, the Lean Product Playbook by Dan Olsen and Designing with the Mind in Mind by Jeff Johnson. 

 

Any advice for someone looking to transition from a non-technical field into product management?

I think companies are much more open to non techs in product management. I think it’s a great thing. Leverage the fact that you are not constrained by knowing what is “hard” to code, this makes you more creative in nature. Look for the right company with the right DNA to work for.

Live Chat with Craft.io's Founder and CEO

 

How do you prioritize new features?

I always like to see a mixture of the three Kano types in every release, exciters performers and basics. This makes sure that you keep bringing real value to your users while making sure that your basics and foundation work. I strongly recommend using the Kano method, google it if you don’t know it, there are tons of info about it.

 

How do you handle a problem when you don’t have user research data?

There are few methods but one is the best. Create the simplest form of a product (not an MVP, something that you know will be kind of crap) and launch it. The best communication tool to any user by far is a product. When we started Craft I’ve connected to 20 product managers in LinkedIn and asked them for user feedback for what was a shitty version of Craft.

5 PM’s responded, 4 answers were kind of helpful but one guy took the time to write a full feedback review which made a huge difference for us and actually shaped what you see today as Craft. Without our then shitty product this would not be possible.

 

Have any comments? Tweet us @ProductSchool

We teach product management courses in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and New York. To learn more about our upcoming courses and how to apply click over to our course page.

AMA with the Sr Product Manager at TaskRabbit

The road to product management can be long or short, complicated or easy, intended or unintended or anything in between. Whichever it is every Product Manager has their unique story to tell about it. How did the Senior Product Manager at TaskRabbit end up working as in product management and what are his challenges in the job?

 

 

AMA with the Sr Product Manager at TaskRabbit

Derya Rose
Sr PM at TaskRabbit for 1,5 years, previously in companies such as Target, Rosetta Stone, and American Express. European parents, he grew up in France, which is why he’s interested in languages. Has a degree in Marketing and an MBA. Has held various marketing positions, volunteered in an Ecuadorian jungle as well as worked in business in Mexico City, and brand in France. He talked his way into Product to his first PM job at Rosetta Stone.

 

 

TaskRabbit

TaskRabbit is a brilliant two-sided marketplace company where people that need help with something can meet with the people that can help them with it. For example, if a person needs a hand in a move or to put together furniture they can connect with the TaskRabbit’s taskers and one will come and help them do it. The taskers set their hourly rate and do things for people for that price. “TaskRabbit is revolutionizing how work gets done.”

 

AMA with the Sr Product Manager at TaskRabbit

 

AMA session questions

 

How do you personalize a big marketplace and segment your customers?

Certain types of businesses like Uber or Lyft are very complex companies, but the service is pretty standard. You get into somebody’s car, they take you safely to where you want to go, and that’s it. TaskRabbit is a more personal business. You can have someone to come and clean your place or a handyman to fix some stuff. It’s a challenge trying to standardize the offering because it’s hard for the client to know what to expect.

It’s quite common for the customer support to receive calls saying that the tasker cleaning at their place is deliberately taking a long time so that they can bill more. It’s obviously not a nice thing to hear, but if you think about it, all of us have had the perception that a certain thing is going to take a certain about of time. There are always unexpected things that take longer to deal with.

One thing that’s challenging for us is the perception of the task size and complexity vs. reality. Mixed into that are the tasker’s own skill levels. The taskers are all good at what they do, but one might be 5 mins slower than the other one. You can’t standardize that.

Last year we came up with a recurring option which is completely voluntary. If you are asked to go to somebody’s house, and they expect you to take a mop with you than you do. Another thing is about price. There are now two ways of getting a tasker. One is looking at people’s profiles, comparing their qualities and prices and then choosing one. The other is a set price. The client sets a price that he would like the task to be done for, and any tasker can accept it.

 

AMA with the Sr Product Manager at TaskRabbit

 

How did you build up your technical background and earn the respect of your engineers?

In my opinion, you don’t need a technical background to succeed as a PM. But would a super data company hire me? No. I wouldn’t want to work there either. It’s not my thing. If you want to work there as a PM you’d better have a computer science degree or something like that.

For a lot of businesses, such as TaskRabbit, you don’t need a technical background, but that doesn’t mean that when an engineer talks to you, you would understand them completely. If you don’t have a technical background fear not but there are some things that you need to learn and understand to work well with engineers.

Firstly it’s a good skill to be able to eyeball any body of work even without a heavily technical knowledge and be able to understand the scope of work whether it’s big, medium or small. Secondly, you need to develop the ability to understand if there are going to be dependencies to something else.

A third thing is to never promise delivery dates. If there’s a partnership and a contract and that has a deadline then yes, of course, you work towards a date. One thing that the engineers hate is a PM that goes and talks to people externally and promises that the thing will be shipped next week.

Unless it’s already been estimated and you have a high confidence that the team can do it then don’t do it. Statistically, every sprint takes 40% longer than what you originally estimated it would. You need to prepare for uncertainty.

 

In my opinion, you don't need a technical background to succeed as a PM. But would a super data company hire me? No.

 

How does TaskRabbit compete and at the same time stay loyal to your vision?

This is about any basic corporate strategy across any industry. If you have x amount of resources spread out to different places and a competitor comes in that’s smaller than you and that puts their resources into one single thing, doing it really well what can you do. There’s no real answer. It’s a question about how to put our best thing forward in the marketplace with quality and to do a good job at it. We keep an eye on the competitive marketplace and where trends are going.

There’s a thing about Wayne Gretzky. Why was he such a good ice hockey player? It’s because he wouldn’t go where the puck is now, but he would go where the puck is going to be. That’s what we try to do. We have our competitors here now, but where are they going to be in a while?

We take into consideration where the opportunities are, what the clients want and what the taskers are good at. We try to optimize, and we do tests.

 

Any tips for the PM interviewing process?

It’s very insightful because typically product managers will interview people with many different functions because as a PM you’re going to work with all of these people. It’s a very interesting experience learning from their lens. I got interviewed very efficiency type of questions, and it helped me understand their way of thinking in their position.

Another example is an engineer who asked me to tell him about a time when I had to bring somebody aside to give them news that I knew they wouldn’t like and how did I handle it. To me, that question said so much about the company culture and the things that they value.

If you get to know the lens that other people view their own challenges within the business that’s insightful and you can also get a really good idea of the company culture through the questions they ask.

 

AMA with the Sr Product Manager at TaskRabbit

 

What have been some weird requests on TaskRabbit?

Three come to my mind. The first one was a person who said that his keys were at the bottom of a lake. A tasker went to get them. I don’t know how but it was a success.

The second was a person saying that he’s a San Francisco resident currently in LAX taking an international flight later on that day and his passport is in his house in San Francisco. A tasker went to his home in SF and jumped on a flight to bring the passport to him in LAX. It was a success.

The third one was another local task that said that a bunch of people are on a boat in the San Francisco Bay and would like a case of beer. I don’t know how they expected to get it and I don’t know if it got done but that was funny.

 

Have any comments? Tweet us @ProductSchool

We teach product management courses in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and New York. To learn more about our upcoming courses and how to apply click over to our course page.

Emotional Intelligence for Product Management w/ LearnVest

They say that two-thirds of all communication is nonverbal. It’s not about what is said but the way it is said. Body signals, gestures, and eye contact are examples of this, and often they are unconsciously done. A neutral message can turn into a negative one if the body language and the verbal message don’t match.

Even without using words the nonverbal signals can be interpreted. But how does knowing this help Product Managers and most importantly how can they use it to their advantage? In a recent event, Vivek Bedi from LearnVest talked about Emotional Intelligence for Product Management. Here’s what we picked up from it.

 

 

 

Emotional Intelligence for Product Management w/ LearnVest

Vivek Bedi
VP of Product at LearnVest for 2 years. Broke into product over 15 years ago. Studied Engineering and Computer Science. Worked at Goldman & Sachs for 13 years, first as an engineer but after 2 years realized that he didn’t like it. He likes startups and enjoys working at LearnVest.

 

 

Emotional Intelligence

Let’s start with Vivek’s simple question. If you had to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 14 days with one person what would he be like? Patient? Flexible? Collaborative? Thoughtful? Funny? Empathetic? The question has a lot in common with qualities that a good product Manager should have. However, they are all adjectives on the softer side.

A Product Manager is involved in everything when it comes to a product, and he needs his team members to get along with him and vice versa. When there are a lot of people in the room (designers, engineers, and developers) and a problem needs to be solved who do they all turn to for a solution? The Product Manager.

Emotional intelligence is an important skill for Product Managers. It’s not just about how you can manage your own emotions but also about how you adapt to other people’s emotions. For engineers, the world is black and white, but for PM’s everything’s gray. Here are our four tips on how to master emotional intelligence as a PM.

 

Connect on an emotional level

Reading the room when you walk in is very important. It doesn’t have to take a long time. Just to do a quick check on what people are expressing on their faces. That way you can pick up on some emotional clues and are more capable reacting to them.

Team empathy, engaging with your team and making time for people you work with is also crucial. Build relationships by making time to have coffee with the team. Also, get deep with the conversations. Give something of yourself to the conversation.

 

Emotional Intelligence for Product Management w/ LearnVest

 

Manage your lizard brain

There’s a primitive part of your brain that reacts to a situation before evaluating it. Control that. Examples of this can be Homer Simpson type of explosion in situations where you feel anger.

Instead of letting that rage out think first. Evaluate the situation from the point of view where you are a bystander and watching it happen. Maybe the situation doesn’t require an explosion of anger. Instead, use curiosity to deflect your emotions and rename the feeling from anger to hurt, sadness or something else. Think what you might have done wrong.

Emotional Intelligence for Product Management w/ LearnVest

Recognize your primary emotions from the secondary ones

Emotions are divided into primary and secondary emotions. Anger, pride, and nervousness are examples or the primary ones whereas insecurity, sadness and being upset are secondary ones. The primary feelings you feel first because they are more on top but after a quick recheck, you can realize that the primary feeling isn’t really what you’re feeling.

 

Say “hi” to the people you work with

Sounds obvious but not everybody does it. It’s such a small little thing but does remember to greet the people in your team and ask how they are. Be engaging with the team and lighten up the atmosphere with a quick chat about other stuff than work.

 

Emotional Intelligence for Product Management w/ LearnVest

 

Questions for Vivek from the audience

 

When you’re brand new in a company how do you get going?

When I look at every single role that I’ve taken on, I think the first 30 days are important. As humans, we are wired to see results. In our minds, we’re thinking of how to make the greatest impact and show that I did a win. If you take that route, you’re probably not going to be that successful. I took that route and failed in doing it.

In the first 30 days, you’re learning how people work in the process, how things get done there, who are the right people that make the decisions, who are going to be the people that you partner with. It goes back to a lot of the chats and learning situations. The best way is to go and say “I have no idea of any of this, teach me.” Do 1-on-1 conversations. Knowledge is power. The more you learn from people, the faster you can have a big win.

My advice would be to embrace yourself in the team, learn who’s out there, learn how the process works, figure out if it is a white board company or meetings company and if you need to involve this team or only the other team. You can even go to people and ask what they do in the company and how you can help them. Before you can be impactful, you need to learn how the organization works.

 

Emotional Intelligence for Product Management w/ LearnVest

 

How do you connect with people at a deeper level when there are a lot of people in the company?

It’s really important to remember that not everyone is going to be your friend. I think co-workers and friends aren’t always the same. In some cases, they could be, and that’s great, but everybody that you work with doesn’t have to be your friend. If you’re trying to make everyone your friend, then it’s not going to work.

There are always going to be people that you’re just going to be doing business with. You can take the coffee chat approach, but that might not work with somebody that just doesn’t see eye to eye with you. If that happens, you should just treat it as a business transaction. What I do is I say “we need to do this deliverable can we get together and figure out how we can to do this.” Get both of your views together and meet half way.

 

Are there any books that you would recommend related to product management and EQ?

I’ll be honest with you. There are tons and tons of books, and they’re great, but when you go to your first job you realize that none of the things in the books make sense or matter because the real world isn’t like that. There are good books out there and if you want to read them then read them.

However, I would suggest blogs and TED talks because this way you get opinions from people in the industry. Living in the Gray is a good book as well as True North. The problem is that to read about EQ; you’re going to have to look for other books than product management.

 

Emotional Intelligence for Product Management w/ LearnVest

 

The more you read people’s nonverbal signals, the more you learn, and the better you get at doing it. On top of managing everything else related to the product Product Managers also have to manage the people’s emotions. Pick up on the cues that people send. When you make a decision, observe what people think about it even if they don’t say anything. That will help not only you but them as well.

 

Have any comments? Tweet us @ProductSchool

We teach product management courses in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and New York. To learn more about our upcoming courses and how to apply click over to our course page.

Organization Size & Product Management by Xero PM

Would you choose to work in a small or a large company? Honestly, who wouldn’t want to work at massive companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google. But how does the day-to-day life as a Product Manager in these companies actually differ from working in a small tech start-up company? And ultimately does size matter?

 

 

Organization Size & Product Management by Xero PMJason Goodman

PM at Xero with eight years of experience in product. He ended up in product by accident. He didn’t mean it to happen and he doesn’t even know how exactly it happened. Previously he worked at the Department of Homeland Security for 12 years.

 

 

One day he read an article about product management and realized that he had done all the things related to it. He started using the title and gradually made the transition. Now he gives presentations in places like Product School. Here’s one of them.

 

Measure size in organizations

There are many ways to measure size in organizations. You can measure the number of employees, the revenue, number of customers and the amount of product management teams. These all can define the company. Some are large, some are small. However, most companies fall somewhere in between. They’re not really small or large.

 

Is size important?

In this case, yes it is. It changes the company’s culture, identity and how they operate. Large companies don’t really seem to have an identity because they are so massive and they have a lot of people working for them but even that is a sign of some kind of identity. It’s easy to hide one person in a large company but it’s nearly impossible in a small one.

 

Organization Size & Product Management by Sr PM at Xero

 

Needed skillset

For starters you need to have a different skillset altogether if you’re working in a small company versus a big company. Small companies are looking for a more varying skillset. You need to be willing to do various things yourself instead of expecting or even being able to ask others to do it for you.

If you want it done you have to do it yourself by getting your hands dirty. Sometimes it requires creativity and that is something that you rarely find wanted in larger companies.

 

Focus in a small vs. large company

It is quite obvious that the focus in small companies is different. Product market fit is something that is of an important value to them whereas in larger companies they need to keep the trains running.

Also growth of the product is more important in large companies while smaller ones are trying to keep afloat not to fall fast. In Silicon Valley there are a lot of products and companies and it’s easy to fall fast.

When it comes to making the decision of whether to ship or not small companies don’t really have that much choice. They just have to ship. Big companies evaluate the situation and manage risks before shipping. The communication to get to that decision point can also be complicated because of the amount of people in large companies.

 

Organization Size & Product Management by Xero PM

 

Autonomy & leadership

What is good about small companies is that there are no layers. Because there aren’t usually that many people in them it’s very easy to decide things. They appreciate if the Product Manager is very decisive and can solve problems himself. On the other hand, in larger companies the decision making isn’t up to you, in fact, there might not even be just one person who decides.

For someone who wants to advance in their career small company is not the best place as there are fewer opportunities. There might not even be a title such as the Senior Product Manager, just Product Manager.

 

How to choose what to do?

“When I first started looking for product management jobs back in 2010 after quitting at the Government I sent my resumé to every organization that had an opening for Product Manager. I heard from 1.”

The reason for this was that he had no experience. But even without experience there is something you can do. To figure out the things that you’re better at then other people and focusing on those things is crucial.

 

Organization Size & Product Management by Sr PM at Xero

 

Questions from the audience

 

Did you notice any differences in strategy and roadmap between working in a small company vs. large?

I did but I wouldn’t attribute them to small versus large. It is more like where they are in the product life cycle. In the large organization I was at I felt like they weren’t realistic about where they wanted to go, how and what resources they were allocating to get there. They had a desk top software that they wanted to migrate to the cloud which is incredibly difficult to do.

It’s difficult because you have to get your customers to agree to do that while having that software impossibly backed up in your machine. They think of it more secure than the cloud so you have to first convince them of that. Then they also wanted it to work exactly the same way as it used to work and they didn’t want to innovate. If you were doing it to cloud initially people wouldn’t have the same expectations.

 

How do you approach getting a job at a large organization vs. small one?

The best situation you can find yourself in is when you get successful and you don’t need to look for a new job but you have the recruiters contacting you. In a large organization they’re more wedded to their procedures. In government, for example, it doesn’t matter if you know the hiring manager. You have to go in the front door as everyone else. Large non-government organizations might not be that strict but you’re still going to get funneled into some automated system.

If you can find which recruiter is dealing with that requisition that person may or may not ignore you. The best way to get into those large organizations is usually with a referral. It’s the same getting into a small organization but that referral becomes a lot more useful because it will get you around that. At a small organization a lot of times it can be about interacting with the company, following the company and having some kind of connection with them.

 

What are your final words of wisdom to the aspiring product managers?

Think carefully about what you want and don’t waste your time on searching things that are not going to make you happy. If you’re desperate to get into a product management role but your internal dialogue is telling you that you’re going to be miserable once you get there it’s not going to be worth it.

That first product management role is going to set you up for your second and the following ones and if you stumble there even if it’s not your fault it’s going to be harder to bounce back from that. It sucks to have to wait a little longer but be really picky about that first opportunity that you take.

It doesn’t have to be perfect because it won’t and it’s not going to be but you shouldn’t be willing to take just anything especially if you think you’re going to be miserable because it’s ultimately not going to serve you very well.

 

Organization Size & Product Management by Sr PM at Xero

 

Have any comments? Tweet us @ProductSchool

We teach product management courses in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and New York. To learn more about our upcoming courses and how to apply click over to our course page.

 

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