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Breaking into Product with Google Product Manager

Getting a Product Management job without experience might be tough but not impossible. You need to be ready for it, and you have to accept that you will have to hear a lot of “no’s.”

Former Google Product Manager talked about how you can start applying best practices from product management to your career and shared the specifics on how you can get a product manager job.

 

 

Former Product Manager at Google

Jocelyn Miller is a businesswoman and entrepreneur with a deep love of product. She has worked at Amazon, Google, and Zazzle, as Director of Product Management. Over the course of 10 years, she has innovated in the areas of search, personalization, commerce, ads, and customized goods. She currently acts as a personal accelerator, helping teams and individuals catapult to the next level.

She also teaches a number of topics to Fortune 500 companies working at the team level, as well as on large-scale organizational change. She holds a degree in Computer Science and Cognitive Science from Dartmouth College as well as Fashion Design and Interior Design certificates from Parsons School of Design. 

 

What hiring managers need to see to say yes to hiring you into a product role?

Transitioning to a product management role from scratch or another position is a process that I have been through many times – and fundamentally is helped by following product management processes to get the job (and life!) of your dreams!” – Jocelyn Miller

Jocelyn covered some of the key practices to help you get your desired PM job as well as more out of what you want in life generally. More specifically, she covered what specific processes and approaches you should use (as inspired by great product management) to get a PM role, what pitfalls to avoid and how you can understand influencing better.

Getting a Product Management Job with Google Product Manager

 

Bullet points:

  • Make sure that Product Management is your thing before getting into it. Know what it is exactly before jumping in.
  • Get clear on your vision.
  • What does it mean to have a clear vision or idea of what you want to do next?
  • Learn a lot about product management and be prepared to take responsibility.
  • The clearer your vision is the easier the process will be.
  • Set goals for yourself. If you don’t have well-defined goals, you don’t have well-defined vision.
  • Network, use your already existing network and get information.
  • The likelihood of following just one linear career path is extremely low nowadays.
  • Before making a career change make sure you want to do it. Test it and learn about it because you’re talking about two to three years of your life.
  • To test it, you can shadow other Product Managers, get mentors, etc.
  • Empathy is essential for Product Managers. If you don’t like working with different people, it’s maybe not for you.
  • Product Management trio: business, design, technology.
  • If you don’t convince yourself that you should get hired for a Product Manager job no one else will either.
  • Try transitioning internally first within your current company. There are also other options, such as rotational program training and small companies.

 

Getting to the bottom of what it is that you want to do and figuring out if the reality is as great as it sounds on the outside is crucial. Once you know what the day to day life is like and you still want to get into it, you can start planning the route to get there. Still, it’s going to be a tough process because making the change requires you to work double time at some point.

 

Have any comments? Tweet us @ProductSchool 

The Product Book has arrived! Learn how to become a great Product Manager. On sale for a limited time. Get your copy here http://amzn.to/2uJqg9A 

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.

Love What You Do with Disney’s Product Manager

Having the passion for what you do is very important, as every Product Manager would agree. Loving what you do motivates you to build great products and features, and making your customers happy is what makes you happy.

Product manager at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Digital joined us for a live Q&A session in Slack, to talk about why he loves working at Disney and if it’s all pure magic.

 

Love What You Do with Disney's Product Manager

Brandon Reed
Brandon works as a Product Manager for the Walt Disney Company in the most magical place on earth, Orlando, FL. He manages product design & development for one of Disney’s mobile applications in the eCommerce space, “Shop Disney Parks”. He’s been at Disney for about 4 years. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration.

 

 

How did you get your PM job at Disney and do you have any advice for those just starting out in this field?

I started here as an intern. Then became a Project Manager in a department involved with big data. I moved over to Product about two years ago because I wanted to be more connected to the user experience (what we call the “Guest Experience” here at Disney).

I got my internship because I had a previous internship at ESPN (owned by Disney). I got that internship because I networked my butt off and stayed curious. I genuinely engaged with people who were where I wanted to be eventually. When they saw my desire to learn, they were eager to help!

 

What’s it like working for Disney in the Product Management side?

I’d be lying if I said it was all magic. Honestly, I love every second of it. It can get frustrating to deal with politics just like in any large company, but people are innovative, creative, collaborative, and passionate about the brand. Can’t ask for much more than that!

 

As a Product Manager, what do you think is an important but often unsexy/neglected part of the job?

Sustainment of the app is critical. To be honest, we don’t do a spectacular job at it. We, like any company, are tempted by immediate opportunities for bottom line increases. New features are much easier to pass through leadership approvals than large amounts thrown at maintaining the functionality of the app.

That being said, having a brand that is as strong and as trusted as Disney, it’s vital that we don’t let the quality of the product slip. It’s a constant fight, but one I’m trying to give more exposure to in this role.

Love What You Do with Disney's Product Manager

 

What advice do you have for someone trying to get a job at Disney?

I wish I had a more encouraging answer to share here, but Disney is a really tough company to get into. They treat their employees extremely well, and because of that, we have a lot of people that are here for their entire careers. That makes new opportunities relatively hard to come by. That being said, there are around 69,000 Cast Members (that’s what Disney calls our employees. We’re all part of the show, after all.) in Orlando alone!

So there are certainly opportunities if you know where to look. I’d say the best way to get your foot in the door here is to know someone. For better or for worse, Disney weighs company connections/experience extremely heavily when looking for new hires. I’ve found most people here are willing to chat if you just ask. So don’t be afraid to do that.

 

With a company as large as Disney do you find it difficult to coordinate products between groups that are treated as wholly separate companies?

Departments run almost like different businesses in and of themselves. This presents a challenge when it comes to getting everyone to buy off on strategy, funding, design, etc. Disney has a lot of processes put in place to try and streamline approvals and get teams working together efficiently, but it is still extremely tricky to do that well.

I’ve found that the best way to ensure all partners remain on the same page is simply to keep them in the loop. Make sure that everyone involved in the product feels like their voice is heard as it is built. If not, you’ll have them kicking and screaming all the way through the final stages of whatever it is you are delivering, if for no other reason than they want to feel like their department was representing the product.

 

How do you keep your developers motivated?

For my team and me, I try to keep them focused on what makes this product “uniquely Disney.” Who else gets to be in meetings concerning Mickey Mouse, Grumpy the Dwarf, and Ariel the Princess Mermaid? Often as devs get lost in the weeds in sprints, it’s important to pull them back up out of that to remind them that what we are building is enabling families to create lifelong memories together.

What they do directly contribute to the magic that helps people through a lot of what they are going through in life. So in short, I try to keep them focused on the purpose of why they are building what they are building. I’d encourage you to do the same for whatever product it is you are building.

It’s an easy connection to make for Disney, but there are obviously many products out there doing extremely important things to better the world around us. Keep them focused on that before you have them focused on the details of the deliverables.

Love What You Do with Disney's Product Manager

 

With so much of creativity and inspiration around, how does your design process in general and ideation and prioritization, in particular, look like?

Awesome question. Sure, it’s a great problem to have to have so much creativity that we don’t know what to work on next. But it’s a problem, nonetheless. Our prioritization of our roadmap lays primarily at the feet of my department.

They give us a lot of say as to where we want the product to go. Everything is vetted through the leadership of course, but we decide what gets worked on and when for the most part. As far as new features go, we try to listen to everyone who wants to share. Whether that be other Lines of Business within the company, Guests, others on the team, whoever.

We try to be as open-minded as we can. Then from there, with our broader strategic vision in mind, we try to pair down what features put us in the best position to deliver on that vision.

 

What would you say are some of your day-to-day challenges and currently, what are some of the core problems that you are trying to solve?

We have got to figure out how to build a product that is valuable to our Guests. Currently, although we have a great rating on the app store, we are struggling to figure out what differentiates our product from other offerings that Disney has. We have got to figure out what needs of the Guest our app is trying to meet. Then we need to hammer on those until everyone who uses it clearly understands the value they are getting.

Being completely transparent, that’s been extremely difficult to do. Leadership drives a lot of what the broader merchandise and eCommerce strategies are here. We can build an excellent product. But building a product that isn’t meeting the correct needs is something we are struggling with at the moment.

 

What would you say is your favorite part of your job?

Once I was standing on Mainstreet with my wife waiting for the fireworks, show behind the castle, and in front of me was a family of 4 all looking down at their phones. No one was talking to each other, and they all look completely uninterested in the magical world that was around them.

Then, the fireworks started. The song that accompanied the fireworks was narrated by Jiminy Cricket himself as he spoke about dreaming big and seeing your wishes come true. As soon as those things started, they all looked up from their phones and began to pay attention.

Slowly, throughout the show, they all got a little closer. By the end, each of them had their arms wrapped around each other as they all watched the spectacle in front of them. As the show ended, they were emotional and shared with each other how much they loved each other and were thankful for this vacation together.

I looked at my wife and said, “that is why I love my job.” Yes, I love the product we build. Yes, I love the team I work with. But mostly I love the brand that what we build represents. No one does it like Disney. No one. To be a part of that, in even a small, small way is something I’ll never take for granted for the rest of my career.

 

Who’s your favorite Disney character?

Pluto. Mickey’s #1 pal.

Love What You Do with Disney's Product Manager

 

Did the recent closures for the hurricane affect any of your production or deadlines?

Fortunately, no. My team is based around the world so although things had to shut down here, development kept moving forward for the most part!

 

Do you believe in hiring for the skillsets or finding the right candidate or is it a mix of both?

I believe firmly in hiring the right candidate. Skills can be taught (for the most part). Team chemistry is everything to me. Especially in a company as “culture driven” as Disney is.

 

How do you keep your products on the cutting edge? How do you stay out in front of what is already in the market?

I’ll answer this using a quote from Ol’ Walt himself. “Around here, however, we don’t look backward for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

He uses one of my all-time favorite words here, “curiosity.” I’d say, from what I’ve seen, we continue to press boundaries because we refuse to become complacent. That, combined with the discipline of always acting in the best interest of the Guest, and protecting the Guest experience, has allowed us to build some extremely cool, and cutting-edge stuff.

Walt also said, “Never forget, that it all started with a Mouse.” That’s a funny quote, but there is a lot of truth in it. Don’t over complicate it or stray too far from where it all began. People love Mickey Mouse and that’s ok just as it is. Of course, we innovate from what we’ve done in the past, but we try not to reinvent what the Guest already loves about what Walt built.

Love What You Do with Disney's Product Manager

 

Where do you go for inspiration when faced with a tough challenge?

For work-related challenges, I literally leave my office and walk into one of our parks. I walk the streets as a guest and experience our product from their point of view. Most of my inspiration comes out of that exercise, and I do it often! I will ride the Hollywood Tower of Terror ride rocking my business casual attire.

There simply is no substitute for experiencing the product from your end user’s point of view. It just so happens my end users are eating ice cream in the parks and meeting Darth Vader. So I certainly am spoiled haha.

 

Any final advice for aspiring product managers?

I’d say that the best advice I can give is to remain obsessed with the user experience. Don’t get lost in User Stories and Defects. Use your product as if you were a genuine consumer of it. Do you enjoy using it? Is it valuable to you? If you don’t even enjoy using your product, no one else will either. Stay focused on delivering value to your user, and that’s a great place to build everything else from. 

 

Have any comments? Tweet us @ProductSchool 

The Product Book has arrived! Learn how to become a great Product Manager. On sale for a limited time. Get your copy here http://amzn.to/2uJqg9A 

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.

What Is Agile Development with Cornerstone Product Manager

It’s not a very unusual path to jump from project management to product management. Many of our speakers have broken into product using this exact road. One of the biggest challenges in this leap is learning what agile process and development are, as it’s now the standard in product management.

The speaker from one of our events transitioned from project management to product and had to learn how to use the agile process. Here are the highlights from his presentation on what agile development is.

 

 

Product Manager at Cornerstone OnDemand

Nick Lesec has been a full-time Product Manager for almost four years, starting with mobile websites in the e-commerce space and now in the enterprise social space. As a nerd for process, he has also had the opportunity to spearhead full-scale process transformations at multiple organizations and boosted his career because of it. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Letters and Science.

 

What is Agile development?

In a recent event, Nick spoke about how a critical part of any Product Manager’s job is execution. He discussed what agile development is, how to use it and why it is useful. He also talked about the agile and SCRUM processes for building software so the teams can realize their product vision quicker.

What Is Agile Development with Cornerstone Product Manager

 

Bullet points:

  • The agile process gets to the core of how teams work.
  • Agile development is useful for any Product Manager job; you need to know what it is. It’s a popular process, a good way to stand out and it’ll help Product Managers get sh*t done.
  • Agile means a collection of principles that are guiding the way towards how to build something.
  • Agile is described as adaptable, rapid, collaborative, team-oriented and quality-focused.
  • Adapt means: satisfy the customer, welcome challenges and optimize the process. If you’re not improving, you’re not doing agile right.
  • Rapid means: deliver often and simplicity.
  • Collaborative means: business/dev collaboration and face to face conversation.
  • Team means: support and trust the team, zero overload, and self-organizing teams.
  • Quality means: progress, technical excellence, and good design.
  • While agile is the set of principles, SCRUM is the framework.
  • The word SCRUM comes from rugby; the whole team moving together in one direction.
  • SCRUM teams usually consists of 5-9 people. If it was bigger the collaboration would start to suffer.
  • In a SCRUM team the product owner owns the value of the product, the team members own the quality of the product and the SCRUM master owns the efficiency of the product.

 

Essentially, agile means to move and do things quickly and easily. The purpose behind it is to perform tasks in short phases, do reassessments frequently and adapt to new plans fast and often. Using agile makes teams more productive.

 

Have any comments? Tweet us @ProductSchool 

The Product Book has arrived! Learn how to become a great Product Manager. On sale for a limited time. Get your copy here http://amzn.to/2uJqg9A 

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.

Monetizing a Gaming Product with Playstation’s Product Manager

How is gaming Product Management different from the conventional Product Management? How about monetizing gaming products? In the era of smart touch screen phones most of the games are free so where do gaming companies get money? Gaming product manager at Playstation gives insight to this modern field.

 

 

Gaming Product Manager at PlayStation

Matt Herrick is a gaming product manager focusing on the touchscreen. He has five years of Product Management experience working at gaming companies such as Playstation, Glu Mobile, and KIXEYE. He started his career at Facebook working on the Digital Chocolate game before smartphones came to the market, and currently, he works at PlayStation. Matt holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication.

 

How is monetizing gaming products different?

Being a Product Manager in gaming is a very different world. In a recent event, Matt Herrick discussed data analytics, A/B testing, the gaming ecosystem, and monetization strategies to help attendees better understand this industry.

He answered the question whether one needs to be a gamer to get into gaming product management and what’s tricky about the gaming industry. He also replied the audience’s questions about gaming Product Management.

 

Bullet points:

    • Even though it helps, you don’t need to be a gamer yourself to get into gaming product management. You just need to know what is fun for gamers.
    • A typical interview question for a gaming product manager role would be: “Why is Clash of Clans fun?”
    • As a gaming product manager, you need to know how to make money with free games.
    • You need to have a good product vision.
    • You have to be a great leader and lead your team to build the right things at the right time.
    • As in all product management executing and prioritization is important.
    • Know why you want to build something, e.g., a new feature for a game.
    • To build a new feature or a whole new game you need to have data to back up that it will be successful.
    • Monetization is crucial. Example of this is mystery boxes.
    • In gaming product management you’re always A/B testing, and you always want to test things.
    • Running an A/B test and appropriately communicating it out is hugely important.
    • Data analysis is necessary even though most gaming companies are small and don’t have their own data scientist. You need to know, for example, how much money your customers are worth by day and how many people are converting into money spenders in your game.
    • Also, because the gaming companies are usually pretty small, as a gaming product manager, you have to do a lot of things that you don’t like doing.

 

Monetizing a Gaming Product with Playstation's Product Manager

 

Gaming product managers have to balance between limited budget, time and content while trying to create quality products. The challenge is creating something unique within limits mentioned above but at the same time something that the gamers can’t finish in three days and move on to the next game. The thing is to get them hooked and keep them coming back.

 

Have any comments? Tweet us @ProductSchool 

The Product Book has arrived! Learn how to become a great Product Manager. On sale for a limited time. Get your copy here http://amzn.to/2uJqg9A 

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.

Build Value with Postmates Director of Product

If you’ve ever been curious about the everyday life of a Product Manager, this talk is for you. The purpose of this Q&A session was to give the audience a chance to ask every question they’ve ever had, with Mike Burk, Director of Product at Postmates. He talked about his journey into product, how he used his background as an advantage and how to build value into products. 

 

 

Director of Product at Postmates

Mike Burk carries over seven years of Product Management experience. He has led product teams at companies such as Scoot, MySpace, and Electronic Arts. Currently, he works as the Director of Product at Postmates. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Media Arts and a Master’s Degree in Cinema Studies.

 

Making valuable products

Mike gave an inside scoop on the day-to-day work in Product Management, the challenges of the job and personal insight from his experience at working at different companies. He talked about how he got into Product Management from films and discussed what it’s like to work in a management role.

He also talked about how to provide value for your product, and gave insight on how to manage different teams and what lessons he’s learned over the years.

Making Your Product Valuable with Postmates Dir. of Product

 

Bullet points:

  • An inside look at his transition from Product Management to Product Leader
  • Check out High Output Management by Andrew Grove.
  • What is the difference between being a logistics company and a food delivery company?
  • What lessons did you learn at Scoot?
  • Can you describe what Postmates is and how is it different to Amazon’s one-day delivery service?
  • What parts of Product Management or Product Directing are you nerdy about?
  • In a new company, how do you learn the new market, tools, and approaches?
  • Coming from films, how did you wrap up your tech background and built the trust of your teams?
  • Do you have some kind of ranking mechanism for the Postmates couriers?
  • Have you emphasized more on one than the others out of business, design, and engineering?
  • Can you give an example of a situation where when faced with a problem you needed to learn something instead of handing it over to an expert?
  • What things in your past ended up being useful in Product Management?

 

Thinking about what kind of value the product will provide is important in Product Management. If it doesn’t bring any value, the customer won’t continue using it. When making value-based decisions, you’re considering what you will deliver and when. For a logistics company such as Postmates, this is an important aspect to keep in mind.

 

Have any comments? Tweet us @ProductSchool 

The Product Book has arrived! Learn how to become a great Product Manager. On sale for a limited time. Get your copy here http://amzn.to/2uJqg9A 

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

Challenges Non-Tech Product Managers Face by Warby Parker PM

While it can be intimidating for people without technical backgrounds to jump into a technical environment, there is amazing potential to affect change and act as a multiplier. Technical product manager at Warby Parker gave his best insight on how you can be the product genius who is good at everything and bad at nothing.

 


Technical Product Manager at Warby Parker

Andrew Jaico is a Technical Product Manager at Warby Parker, working with engineers and stakeholders across the organization to deliver exceptional customer experiences through products. Prior to Warby Parker, he worked in various roles across consulting, public sector technology, and advertising technology.

He also has a wealth of non-technical experiences, including writing weather forecasts in the voice of a cat, performing comedy on a moving bus, and getting paid in hot dogs. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English.

 

How to Understand Engineering Challenges

In this event, Andrew talked about lessons he has learned in how to better understand, prioritize, and tackle technical issues facing engineers in the workplace.

He discussed how you can understand the key business metrics and their relationship to the engineering level metrics without any tech knowledge and utilize tools that monitor those metrics. He also talked about how you can use transparency and democratization to adapt and prioritize.

 

Challenges Non-Tech Product Managers Face by Warby Parker PM

 

Bullet points:

  • “Let go of any doubts you have about being able to work with engineers” because everyone can do it.
  • Don’t make the mistake of believing in the usual myths about engineers; they do respect people that are not technical, and they are not just silent background guys.
  • Don’t think that engineers are magicians; they are normal people.
  • Don’t treat engineers differently from other people, but listen to them generously.
  • Understand that engineering work is different and about perfection.
  • Because engineering is a creative process, you have to respect each engineer’s working styles.
  • “By talking and communicating with your engineers, you understand them and engineering better.”
  • Remember the maker vs. manager schedule; it may take them longer to build something than you would want.
  • Keep in mind that engineering has a lot of “unknowns.”
  • Don’t think that you need your engineers with coding; they don’t need help for that.
  • Think about the value the code carries.

 

There are no direct keys into understanding your engineers. The main thing is to communicate with them constantly and know how to address the challenges they’re facing. Once you have figured that out, you will be able to help them work more effectively. Don’t be afraid of working with them but respect what they do.

 

Have any comments? Tweet us @ProductSchool 

The Product Book has arrived! Learn how to become a great Product Manager. On sale for a limited time. Get your copy here http://amzn.to/2uJqg9A 

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.