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Products Are About People with LinkedIn’s PM

What does it really take to become a good Product Manager? Is it about being technical or having a business background or something completely different? Senior Product Manager at LinkedIn made an argument about products being about people and talked about his own background, how he got into product Management and why you need to understand people.

 

Products Are About People with LinkedIn's PM

 

Jonathan (Jasper) Sherman-Presser
Senior Product Manager at LinkedIn. Previously Business Development intern at Spotify and Product Manager at Comcast and MyNewPlace. Has a degree in English and an MBA. Weird fact: worked as a Trip Leader in France for 2 years.

 

 

 

We can look at product management from many different angles and none of them are wrong. Let’s look at it from this one now: “To build great products you need to understand people.” People are the users so it makes sense to go to the source and try to understand their problems and desires in order to build products that address them. Here are our top picks about why products are about people.

 

“To build great products you need to understand people”

You won’t get very far building products if you don’t know the reasons behind building it. Understanding people’s needs, desires and problems is crucial in this process because essentially products are made for those people. The important thing is to understand what problem you’re trying to solve in order for you to take the idea and execute it.

Figuring out what the real problem is can be discovered by asking why until there are no more whys. What is left is your problem.

 

PM’s learn from the wrong solutions

If you ask a PM whether they’ve spent more time with a successful product than an unsuccessful one the answer is no. Most PM’s spend most of their time with unsuccessful products because it’s not PM’s job to have solutions for everything. Product Managers need to own the problem not the solution, and not get attached to any particular solution. People don’t care about the solution they care whether it fits their needs.

 

Products Are About People with LinkedIn's PM

 

“Great products make people feel something”

When you’ve built the product well you’ll see the results. Those results can be seen for example in the amount of users that product has. People come back to use the product because it gives something to them. It gives them feeling of productiveness, effectiveness or it inspires them. Even though the product is never perfect and it’ll never be ready it already gives something to the people to make them feel.

 

“Products are built by people”

There is always a team behind building great products. The size varies between companies but the idea is the same. Product Management is about the process of getting to the right solution with the team. Product Manager’s job is to make the team do the things the PM wants them to do to make them and the product successful.

The intention is not for the Product Managers to have all the answers to the questions that the team asks. PM’s main goal is to help the team by giving them the tools to figure out the answers themselves.

 

Products Are About People with LinkedIn's PM

 

Questions from the audience

 

How do you stay away from great ideas that the data doesn’t support?

Saying “no” is one of the most important and most difficult things as a Product Manager. Make sure that people are focusing on the problem. Really press them on it. If a person comes to you with an idea that you know is probably not a good idea challenge them by asking how do they think it addresses the problem. Make sure that it does and that it doesn’t just sound exciting. Sometimes if you just help people through that process they will figure it out and realize that it’s not such a good idea.

The other option is saying that it’s a great idea and that we can do that in the version 2 if we do the other things first. The intention behind it is to make sure that you solve the small things first before moving on to the bigger things. Also letting people make their own mistakes and learn from them is an important thing to do so sometimes you have to let them do what they want to do.

 

How can you figure out quickly what each team needs from you?

Depends on the team. Some people learn it overtime when they learn people’s personalities. I’d say you need to get a good sense of who are the loud people on the team early on and listen to their feedback. You can also do regular retrospectives to get the whole team together to talk about what’s going well and what not so well, what are the things we changed what did we improve on.

It’s the whole team talking to each other and they have different perspectives on it. It helps them feel like they’re one helping and being part of the process.

 

Products Are About People with LinkedIn's PM

 

How do you sense when a product is going downhill?

There is a certain point in the product life cycle that doesn’t matter what you do you can’t move any metrics anymore. Even at that point it doesn’t mean that you should abandon the product. Your product can still be really successful but you have hit the total penetration of your market and there are no more people to do what you want them to do. It is totally fine but as a business you need to start doing other things in order to grow.

But this is different from trying things that don’t work. It could be that the solution wasn’t any good or the problem wasn’t really worth solving in the first place. It’s one of the hardest things is to know when to throw in the towel.

 

Any advice for people that want to become Product Managers at LinkedIn?

We would ask you if you can look at a specific thing and articulate why that product is great, what does it do that works well. We’d want to know if you understand how products and solving the problem work and whether you can articulate and diagnose those things. The second part is just whether you can get shit done.

For example, how do you measure success, how do you draw a roadmap, how do you feel about working with engineers if you don’t have technical background and how do you deal with different things. We look for people of all stages of experience. Because we’re a big company we can look for people that don’t have 4 years of PM experience.

 

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.

 

Products are about people because they’re built for people. An important thing to understand is not only what the problem is and what people want but also understand what the team needs from the PM to get things done. Essentially it’s all about people, their desires and needs and solving problems.

 

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.

Become the Expert of Your Product w/ Twitter PM

How to become a Product Manager and how to succeed in product management? Our community presented these questions and more to the Product Manager at Twitter, Phil Getzen, in a live chat AMA. His advice is to become the expert of your product because the faster you can answer questions about your product, the faster you become the go to person for product decisions. More advice from Phil below.

 

Become the Expert of Your Product with Twitter PM

 

Phil Getzen
Product Manager at Twitter leading media consumption @TwitterBoston. Previously a Program Manager at Microsoft. Founder of Gique and TempoRun. Holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science Engineering.

 

 

Did working at Microsoft help transfer over skill sets that would be relevant to what you’re looking for next step wise?

Yes, definitely. Each place has been unique with different learnings along the way. I started out as a computer science major and embarked on building an iOS app with some friends called TempoRun that categorized music into levels based on BPM so you could always run at a consistent pace.

During this development, I learned I enjoyed defining how the product worked, how it was designed, and how to market/make the product successful. I also realized I didn’t want to spend all day, every day writing code. The first time I ever heard of product management was when I was a junior in college.

From there, I worked as a software engineer intern at a small local Medicaid company that sold software to schools to process Medicaid claims. There I learned the importance of building healthy relationships with your peers and creating an atmosphere of learning.

After this, I got an internship as a PM at Microsoft working on app virtualization software, which is technically complex, but not really what I’m interested in. I ended up taking a full-time offer out of college to work on a similar team working with enterprise management software called Intune. I learned a lot there about what I did and didn’t enjoy in a professional setting, how to communicate more effectively, and the importance of becoming a product expert.

Finally, I am now at Twitter which has been the most enjoyable experience so far. I’ve learned how to delegate responsibility, trust and value my talented engineering team, and become a better thought leader, looking to define and refine our vision around video.

 

What are the top 3 things to always be mindful of when leading a team as a PM?

This will vary across every PM, but for me, they are communication, clear vision and open mindset. To run an effective team, you need to be able to communicate at a personal level and build relationships with engineers and other stakeholders. Having a clear vision of where you’re headed keeps your team motivated and focused on delivering products, and having an open mindset around your process and work will serve you well. Being able to admit when and where you messed up is critical for success in a product.

 

Become the Expert of Your Product with Twitter PM

 

Can you tell about the “strategic planning” process you endure?

I plan in different levels. At the year(s) level, I’m looking broadly at what our vision is, where we’re headed, and how we can be impactful in a market that may not exist yet. At the quarter level, I’m planning concrete work with loose details on how they should function with the expectation that they will change. At the week level, I’m working with my Engineering Manager counterpart to plan specific tasks for engineers to focus on to make sure we’re delivering at a rate consistent with quarterly planning.

 

Do you have any frameworks for determining ROI on new products/features that don’t necessarily have a baseline?

This is something that can be difficult for new experiences you’re building. At Twitter, we have a healthy mix of experimentation, User Experience testing and gut-based investments. For example, with the investment in Live video, we didn’t have a great baseline to test our hypotheses, so we made a bet based on where we thought the market was going, and what our research was telling us. Once we have an initial product to test, we quickly iterate to improve what we’ve decided are the core metrics for success.

 

What books/materials would you recommend for people making a transition from Project Management to Product?

There are so many good ones out there, but a personal favorite is Cracking the PM Interview. While it’s about interviewing, there is so much core PM knowledge, and it helped me transition from a program to product manager.

 

Is it necessary to be a coder to land a position at a company such as Twitter?

You certainly don’t need to know how to code to be a product manager. Especially at Twitter, we look for qualified and capable candidates, not degrees. For a product management position, you should be comfortable working with engineers and be knowledgeable enough technically to represent your team in discussions across the company. Dedication to learning your product space is key to being a good PM.

 

Become the Expert of Your Product with Twitter PM

 

What’s the process when you are developing features?

  1. Identify a problem that exists within your space.
  2. Evaluate the customer impact of solving that problem.
  3. Present the problem/impact to other stakeholders and those you need to buy in.
  4. Build a set of user stories and requirements and build a user research plan.
  5. Get a level of effort from the engineers.
  6. Build a prototype.
  7. UX test it.
  8. Iterate.
  9. A/B test it.
  10. Iterate and ship.

 

What are the differences of a PM who works in Enterprise Applications vs. Consumer Applications?

Yes! They are very different regarding the work, but the core values of a PM are the same IMO. It’s essentially a different mindset on who your customers are. In enterprise, it’s likely a business which you need to reconcile with the needs of your users. In consumer (especially for my team), the customer and user are the same. I love consumer products, but I know lots of people who love enterprise.

 

What advice do you have for designers who are trying to transition into management?

I have never been in a designer role, but I am always thankful for designers and researchers because my role isn’t possible without them. Advice I would give would be to understanding the problems your users face and extending that to understand the market, business needs, and development process. PMing is a little bit of everything.

 

Do you have any suggestions on how to gain more experience in Product Management?

Read books, talk to PMs, and go outside to learn about how people interact with the things they use/do everyday. Think about the products you use in your own life. What problems are they solving for you? How can they be better? What would you do differently? Do other people face the same problem?

 

How do you filter all the feature requests coming from your user base to find the most appealing one?

I find one of the strongest skills a PM can have is the ability to say “no.” You have to have a clear vision of where you’re going and how that fits into the company and user success. If something comes up that isn’t a part of that, you should feel empowered to say no.

 

Become the Expert of Your Product with Twitter PM

 

Do you have any tips for breaking down epics into manageable smaller chunks?

Estimation is hard. There are many different ways to do it, and none of them are perfect. This is still something I experiment with all the time. It depends on what sort of relationship you have with your team. We’ve developed a weekly sprint cadence that is very personal and self-owned. We trust the engineers on the team to manage their epics as part of the development process.

 

How can I successfully transition as a PM for larger tech companies when I come from a more non-traditional background?

I started out by doing a small startup in college which I used to propel me through initial interviews at Microsoft. I know that at Twitter, we look for action moreover than credentials. Working on a side project or concretely demonstrating things you’ve built will go a long way here. Regarding getting in front of an audience, continue to build your network.

Go to different events in your area, reach out to people at a company you’re interested in, and make yourself known. Recruiters can be a double edged sword, the easiest way to recruit is thru existing networks and referrals. That’s not ideal as we miss a lot of awesome candidates this way, but getting yourself out there can offset some of that.

 

What metrics are important to your team to track? Do those include “counter” metrics?

This is going to vary by team, but there is a philosophy we try to stick to. Your team metrics should indicate what success looks like from a customer perspective and contribute to high-level business perspectives.

 

How do you typically go about writing specs and including wire frames in that process?

We use Google Docs here at Twitter. To me, it’s less about the tool and more about the process and content. I start out with a problem statement and summary of why we think it’s important to solve the problem, followed by customer impact, user stories and requirements, and a section for success metrics. I try to keep it to 1-2 pages, and if it’s longer than that, it should probably be split up into multiple features. Collaboration is critical to success and docs is great at that.

 

What do you wish you had known on day one as a Product Manager?

Become the expert of your product. This means asking lots of questions to ramp up quickly. The faster you can answer questions about your product, the faster you become the go to person for product decisions. This is vitally important as you’ll need to get buy-in from many different stakeholders, and building that relationship early aids in that process.

 

Become the Expert of Your Product with Twitter PM

 

After completing your quarterly level what are the typical deliverables you are expected to serve up the chain?

I structure my plans at the project level of solving a customer problem. For example, problem is users have a hard time discovering videos. The project is recommended videos when a user watches a video or something like that.

 

What does a technical skill set mean to you?

Technical skill set to me is anything relating to a background in tech. What I think is helpful is the ability to work across many groups of people including engineers. I don’t need to know how a method was implemented in code, but I should be able to understand the basic technology and architecture behind my product and relay that to others and make decisions based on my understanding.

 

Can you share some best practices for user interviews? How do you identify potential customers to reach out to?

Our audience for research will be tuned towards what we are trying to study. For example, if we’re testing out a new feature related to Live video, we want to start with users that have watched Live video on Twitter as a baseline. Someone who doesn’t watch any video is less helpful in that situation. On the other hand, if we’re trying to understand why users do not see video, that demographic is more useful.

 

When hiring a Product Manager what are the qualities or skill sets you look for?

I’m mostly looking for the following: good communication skills, the ability to work through problems (not just solve them), how they work with engineers, designers, and other stakeholders, past projects, their perspective on diversity & inclusion, ability to brainstorm in the problem space they’re interviewing for. Things I don’t care much about: certifications/degrees, domain expertise (to an extent, should still be knowledgeable, but for context, I had no video expertise starting in this role), where they went to school (if at all).

 

What things does a software engineer (no MBA degree) need to keep in mind while trying to move to product?

I graduated in CS and also don’t have an MBA. I think an MBA can help, but most of the PM’s I know don’t have one. The biggest thing I could say is to understand your users and the problems they face. Everything we build (or should build) can be rooted in a problem that someone faces. Start with the problem and figure out what other problems exist around it, and continue to build stories around addressing that problem. Then start thinking about a solution.

 

Become the Expert of Your Product with Twitter PM

 

How can one ensure full commitment from the cross-functional teams?

This is one of the hardest aspects of being a PM, especially at a larger company. The unfortunate reality is that things will sometimes slip through the cracks, and you can’t make everyone happy. You need to focus on what problems your product is solving and focus on those.

Make sure they fit into company goals and success, but not at the expense of your customers. For Media Consumption, we sit at the center of many different teams including ads, sales, client teams, etc., and it’s not possible to fulfill every request. We end up saying “no” a lot. Otherwise, nothing would ever ship.

 

Can you talk a bit about Data Science Product Managers?

I don’t know too much here, but there’s a lot of overlap between a data scientist and a PM. I spend a lot of time looking at and analyzing data to make informed decisions. I think the gap you need to make as a DS is to understand where your analysis leads and how it contributes to a product.

 

What’s your project management tool stack?

We’re mostly on the Atlassian stack (Jira, Hipchat, Confluence) and Google Apps. It varies by team, as most things do here. Our team has used sheets in the past for roadmap planning, but I’m exploring using confluence linked to our Jira epics.

 

Any advice on looking for a mentor or building up a board of mentors to help you with different aspects of your career?

Product School seems to be full of people with good ideas, great place to look. I would also suggest Twitter. If there’s someone you follow that you look up to, strike up a conversation and see where it leads. Mentors are very important IMO. If you’re already working somewhere, check to see if there is a mentor program, if not, start one.

 

What piece of advice would you give to yourself ten years ago?

“Just chill out, man. It’ll all work out.”

 

Become the Expert of Your Product with Twitter PM

 

How do you manage to keep others notified of project status?

It depends on the audience. For broad audiences, email still works best. For stakeholders that are not necessarily part of the product process (like marketing, trust, and safety, etc.), I hold syncs once in awhile to keep everyone on the same page. For people close to the product, we do standups daily and share docs.

 

Aside from SQL, what other “technical skills” could I develop to get into a product manager mindset?

Work to understand how the things you use everyday work. As a PM, we spend a lot of time defining the “what,” but understanding the “how” can help inform those decisions.

 

How does monetization of a feature/product play a role in Product Roadmap (in Twitter)?

For video specifically, we like to think of a cycle between users, publishers, and advertisers. More/Happy users encourage publishers to publish more/better content, which encourages advertisers to spend more on the platform. While our team isn’t building features for advertisers or publishers, our focus on the user is vital to the cycle’s success.

 

Any advice for aspiring product managers?

Be confident. We’re all product managers in our own lives. Identify problems that, if solved, can generate a large impact. Communicate well and fearlessly. Keep an open and growth mindset. Take feedback seriously, but understand it’s not always actionable, you need to find your own voice, not be a sounding board for everyone else. Push for diversity and inclusion on your teams. A good product has many perspectives. And above all, be empathetic to your users. Every success starts with a single user.

 

Become the Expert of Your Product with Twitter PM

 

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.

 

Product Management Events May 2017

This May we have a great mix of not only Product Management and Coding but also Data Analytics events coming up for everyone. Our amazing events feature speakers from LinkedIn, Uber, Google and Salesforce just to mention a few.

 

Product Management Events May 2017

 

Check all our events for May below:

 

NEW YORK

 

Wednesday, May 3rd

Open Source Product Management with KEMP Tech’s PM
Speaker: Danny Rosen, PM at KEMP Technologies.

This talk is geared towards a non-technical audience interested in the magic and wonder of open source. We’ll go over what open source is, why it’s important, what it means to have an open source product and why it’s important to customers.

 

Thursday, May 4th

Beginner’s Guide to ‘The Cloud’ with LearnVest’s Tech Lead
Speaker: Rudra Dixit, Tech Lead at LearnVest.

This is an introduction to The Cloud and PAAS (Platform as a Service), SAAS (Software as a Service) and FAAS (Function as a Service.) It gives you an overview of AWS, Heroku, Azure, Google Cloud.

 

Wednesday, May 10th

Building High-Growth Products with Jobs-to-be-Done
Speaker: Jared Ranere, A Growth Partner at thrv.

“Satisfying customer needs better than the competitors in your market” is the key to launching high-growth products and the key to your success as a product manager. But, what is a customer need? Who is your real competition? What does it mean to be “satisfied?” And, by the way, what is a market?

 

Wednesday, May 11th

Capturing and Leveraging User Data w/ Betterment’s PM
Speaker: Matt Salefski, a Group Product Manager at Betterment.

Distinguishing business critical events from user behavior is an important part of leveraging event tracking for product development. In this session, Matt will demo funnels and discuss how and when to use SQL and Mixpanel for tracking events and behaviors.

 

Tuesday, May 16th 

Job Hunting For PM’s: Recruiting & HR
Speaker: Richard Chen, Student Advisor at Product School New York

Join us to learn how you are viewed by Human Resources, HR Software, and Hiring Managers. You’ll also get the inside scoop on where your resume goes and how recruiters view you.

 

Wednesday, May 17th

Google vs. Small Startup with Google’s Former PM
Speaker: Nishant Bhalla, the Director of Product at Toys “R” Us.

Ever wondered what it’s like to work as a Product Manager at Google? How about a small startup? Learn what it’s like to work in this dynamic role. You’ll also get the inside scoop on the day-to-day work as a PM and the challenges of the job.

 

Thursday, May 18th

Exploring What a Typical Data Science Project Looks Like
Speaker: Ania Wieczorek, Co-founder of Bowery Analytics.

What does a typical Data Science Project look like? Explore the current Business Analytics Landscape: Get past the Jargon into actual business cases. Data Science is the newest hot trend in the world of business, but what does it really mean?

 

Thursday, May 25th

Intro to SQL for Beginners
Speaker: Mike McClellan, Senior Product Manager at Paddle8.

SQL provides powerful but reasonably simple tools for data analysis and handling. This workshop will take beginners through the basics of SQL. You’ll learn SQL queries needed to collect data from a database, even if it lives in different places and analyze it to find the answers you’re looking for.

 

Wednesday, May 31st

Data Analytics for Product Managers w/ Mixpanel
Speaker: Eric Hwang, a Solutions Engineer at Mixpanel.

Building an analytics strategy is crucial for every product manager. How do you build and implement an effective product analytics strategy that quantifies and drives product success and iteration?

 

 

SAN FRANCISCO

 

Wednesday,  May 3rd

Open Marketplaces vs. Managed Supplies explained by AirBnB’s Product Manager
Speaker: Jiaona Zhang, PM at AirBnB.

AirBnB is the ultimate unicorn. As a digital marketplaces, AirBnB has fundamentally transformed the way in which we as consumers book vacations. This talk is a crash course on this new wave of products, and how it compares with a traditional managed inventory.

 

Thursday, May 4th

Intro to Data Analytics with EA’s Director of Product
Speaker: Bertram Chan, Director of Product at EA

Building an analytics strategy is crucial for every product manager. How do you build and implement an effective product analytics strategy that quantifies and drives product success and iteration?

 

Wednesday, May 10th

Products Are About People by LinkedIn’s Senior PM
Speaker: Jasper Sherman-Presser, Senior PM at LinkedIn.

Many people who want to become product managers worry about amassing technical expertise. During his talk, Jasper will argue that to be a great product manager, you first need to understand people: you need to understand people’s problems and desires in order to build products that address them.

 

Thursday, May 11th

Group Product Manager at Levi’s Talks: Data for Beginners
Speaker: Kristian Hansen, PM at Levi’s.

As a PM you will want to know about Data Analytics and how to work with a team of data scientists to build a product users will love and trust. During this workshop, you will understand the basics of data analytics and its use in start ups as well as large companies.

 

Wednesday, May 17th

Effectively Managing Engineers w/ Former Salesforce Growth PM
Speaker: Ashish Jotwani, Growth PM at PagerDuty.

Successfully managing a team can be quite overwhelming. And although you may be a great engineer that doesn’t always mean that you are prepared to be a great manager. During this workshop, Salesforce’s Product Manager, Ashish Jotwant, will discuss the hard and soft aspects of managing.

 

Thursday, May 18th

How to Growth Hack Your Product Without Coding
Speaker: Josh Fechter, growth evangelist at Autopilot HQ.

Understanding your users and how they discover and adopt your products is very important in building a product. Join Autopilot HQ’s Josh Fechter as he discusses tactical techniques in gaining and retaining a strong user base.

 

Wednesday, May 24th

Risk Explained by Uber’s Product Manager
Speaker: Aaron O’Brien, PM at Uber

Risk Management in product development has been one of the most neglected activities. Poor risk management is the number one reason why startups fail. People make decisions without planning for the consequences and end up stumped when something goes wrong.

 

Thursday, May 25th

Data 101 with Credit Sesame’s Former Director of Analytics
Speaker: Stanislav Kelman, data analytics teacher at the Kellar Graduate School of Management.

During this workshop, Product School’s founding Data for Manager’s course instructor and curriculum designer will offer an intro to this course, including how to collect, aggregate, and analyze data.

 

Wednesday, May 31st

Data Explained by LinkedIn’s Lead Product Manager
Speaker: Shakhina Pulatova, Lead PM at LinkedIn.

Building an analytics strategy is crucial for every product manager. How do you build and implement an effective product analytics strategy that quantifies and drives product success and iteration?

 

 

SILICON VALLEY

 

Wednesday, May 3rd

Enterprise Product Management explained by Dropbox’s Product Manager
Speaker: Ketan Nayak, PM at Dropbox

During this exclusive talk, Ketan will discuss why and how the function of product management is different in important ways in enterprise software as compared to the consumer web, and why it’s not the drag that everyone thinks.

 

Wednesday, May 10th

Mock Interviewing with Salesforce’s Product Manager
Speaker: Priyanka Kumar

During this talk, Priyanka Kumar will teach you how to prepare for PM interviews, what top companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft really look for, and how to tackle the toughest problems.

 

Wednesday,  May 17th

“Ask me Anything” with Hearsay’s Product Manager
Speaker: Meghbartma Gautam, PM at Hearsay

Ever wondered what it’s like to work as a Product Manager in the valley? Want to know the differences between being a PM at a 4000 employee company vs. 300? This is an exclusive Q&A session to give you a chance to ask every product related question you’ve ever had.

 

Wednesday, May 24th

Product in Online Advertising with LinkedIn’s Senior Product Manager
Speaker: Linda Leung, Senior PM at LinkedIn

Whether you like ads or not, online advertising is still the lifeblood of the internet. Every consumer internet business at some point asks itself, should we be putting an ad on this page? Learn the basics of online advertising and what a monetization PM focuses on.

 

Wednesday, May 31st

Best Practices of Product by BlueJeans’ Product Manager
Speaker: Pashmeen Mistry, PM at BlueJeans

During this workshop Pashmeen will answer all key questions about Product Management including “What is Product Management?” and “What does a day in the life of a PM actually look like?”

 

 

SANTA MONICA

 

Wednesday, May 3rd

How to be a (Kick Ass) PM w/ LoopNet’s former VP of Product
Speaker: Terence Mylonas, Former VP of Product at LoopNet

Former VP of Product at LoopNet speaks about how to make sure product people are pursuing the right projects, getting buy in from different parts of the org before/during the product development lifecycle and successfully launching products.

 

Thursday, May 4th

The Agile Product Manager with Cornerstone’s PM
Speaker: Nick Lesec, PM at Cornerstone Inc.

A critical part of any Product Manager’s job is execution. In this talk, he’ll teach you the Agile and SCRUM process for building software so you and your team can realize your product vision.

 

Wednesday, May 10th

Lean Product Development with Pivotal Labs’ Senior PM
Speaker: Michael Fisher, Senior Pm at Pivotal Labs

How to avoid building products and features that no one wants by applying lean, user-centered design, and agile principles? Topics will include ways to minimize risks by maximizing learning, and the role that Product Managers play in the lean product development lifecycle.

 

Wednesday, May 17th

How to Break Down a Problem with Cornerstone’s PM
Speaker: Sarah Villamaino, PM at Cornerstone Inc.

Building successful software products (through Agile methodology) requires Product Managers to organize and communicate the functionality of the product to their development team. Without this understanding and documentation, teams cannot move forward in development.

 

Thursday, May 18th

“Ask Me Anything” with Senior Product Manager at Hulu
Host: Gene Miller, Senior PM at Hulu

Would you like to get a job as a Product Manager? Join us for this free open doors session to get an overview of our part-time product management course curriculum and meet a very talented PM.

 

Thursday, May 25th

Product Management Info Session
Host: Joseph Jensen, Campus Director In Product School LA

Do you want to get a job as a Product Manager? Join us for this free info session to get an overview of Product School’s part-time 8-week product management course and meet the lead instructor.

 

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES

 

 

Thursday, May 11th

Intro to Coding for Managers
Host: Joseph Jensen, Product School LA’s Campus Director

Do you want to take your career to the next level? Thinking about learning Code to amp up your career? Then don’t miss this free event to learn why coding is not just for software engineers. Get a chance to ask any questions you might have on learning Code as a manager.

 

Thursday, May 25th
Ask Me Anything with Guess? Inc.’s Mobile Product Manager

Host: Maanas Bukkuri, Mobile PM at Guess? Inc.

Ever wondered what it’s like to work as a Product Manager? This is an exclusive, Q&A session to give you a chance to ask every product related question you’ve ever had, with Maanas Bukkuri, Mobile Product Manager at Guess? Inc.

 

 

WEBINARS & SLACK AMA’S

 

 

Thursday, May 4th

[Webinar] Why Build Good UX w/ MasterCard’s Senior Product Manager
Host: Maria Polo Guardia, Senior PM at Mastercard

In this session we will explore how the e-commerce paradigm is changing and what it means for the user, how a good UX can make a difference when purchasing goods or services online.

 

Tuesday, May 9th

[Live Chat] with Product Manager at Twitter
Host: Phil Getzen, PM at Twitter

Curious to know what it’s like to work as a Product Manager? Join us for this exclusive Slack “Ask Me Anything” session to ask every product related question you’ve ever had, with Phil Getzen, Product Manager at Twitter.

 

Thursday, May 18th

[Webinar] Electronic Arts PM Talks: Product Innovation from the Inside Out
Host: Jordan Janes, PM at Electronic Arts

When we think “Product Manager,” most people think of the products we use every day. But we need to consider another large opportunity for new product managers: internal-facing products. Companies need these to keep operations going strong, and you could just be the next PM leading the way for innovation on the inside!

 

Build Products that Users Love w/ Sr PM at Rhubarb Studios

The best way to start the transition into product management without any previous experience is to connect with current Product Managers, chat to them and ask them questions about it. Once again we unleashed our product management community and urged them to ask the Senior Product Manager at Rhubarb Studios, Ryan Prust, how he got into product and what his advice is for aspiring product managers.

 

Build Products that Users Love w/ Sr PM at Rhubarb Studios

What was your path into product management like, Ryan?

I started developing my first product at the age of 15. It was an ergonomic seat cushion for wheelchair users. My father and I grew that company over ten years. In 2012 that company, Raft, was acquired by BackJoy.com. I studied business and entrepreneurship at Indiana University Kelley School of Business, graduated in 2012.

 

For the past five years, I’ve been working on software products. I’ve worked on products in education, real estate, advertising, food, IoT, productivity tools, fitness, healthcare and more.

 

Which path is better, PM in B2B to PM in B2C or software engineer in B2C to PM in B2c?

I think it depends on your current experience and skills, how quickly you want to make the transition, and which industry you want to work in. With very little information about you, I would say the PM in B2B to PM in B2C is the better path.

 

When hiring an APM, what experience would you look for?

I want to see that the candidate has built something before. I want to see that they have gone from nothing to idea to build to deliver. For APM, I also want to see that they are going to be resourceful in learning new skills and further developing current skills.

 

Any advice for someone trying to move from software engineering to product management?

Understand the business. You are probably really talented at developing software. You can probably, given enough time, build anything. Often, the challenge for engineers is to understand why businesses make product development decisions. Most products exist for the purpose of furthering a much larger business goal/vision.

My advice is to deeply understand the bigger business goals and visions.

 

Build Products that Users Love w/ Sr PM at Rhubarb Studios

 

Is product strategy more about long-term initiatives?

Yes, product strategy requires a long-term goal/vision. One idea that I apply to product strategy is this: “user needs over business goals.” That is to say that user’s needs are more important than business goals. Business goals are important but, if you can build a product that users love, you can find a way for that to meet business goals.

 

What are the tools and processes you use that enhance your PM productivity?

I use Pivotal Tracker, Slack, and lots of whiteboards. One of my favorite brain hacks to make my creative mind sharp is to start every day by doing something creative. It hardwires my brain into having a “create first” sort of auto-pilot for the day.

Creative can be creating a wireframe for a new feature idea, answering questions on Quora, or even playing some guitar.

 

I’m a product analyst wanting to transition to product management. How do I do it?

That’s one of the most difficult aspects of the PM transition. It’s such a chicken and egg experience. Which comes first?

My advice is to build something for yourself. The first product I developed, the ergonomic seat cushion for wheelchair users was inspired by solving my own problem. I had broken my leg playing competitive ice hockey in Canada, and part of my recovery was spent in a wheelchair. I had a personal problem to solve.

Your personal problem doesn’t need to be as dramatic as a broken leg. Find something that pains you on a regular basis, and try to build a product to solve it. Use tools like wix.com, Typeform, Zapier and Mailchimp to create MVPs.

 

Build Products that Users Love w/ Sr PM at Rhubarb Studios

 

What are the top reasons for product failures regarding product reach and user retention?

The number one reason for product failure is building the wrong product. Regarding product reach, well, wide reach usually costs money. So often a failure regarding reach comes from under scoping the resources needed to reach the number of people required for success. This can also come from poor messaging around solving the user’s problem.

As for user retention, failure often comes from a product that was not developed with the user. Products should be in the hands of users at every step of the development process. They should drive the product development. When this is missed, user retention tends to fail.

 

Any suggestions/tips on Product Management for distributed (remote) teams?

The key is communication. I use slack as the tool to enable constant communication. The tough part is establishing the culture of constant communication within the team. It needs to feel like everyone is sitting around the same table. That can be done with Slack, but it takes a lot of intentional culture development.

As for remote design sprints, I love these two tools: milanote.com and realtimeboard.com.

 

What is the most important product metrics that every PM should be aware of?

The most important product metrics are customer funnels. Ex: Activation, Acquisition, Retention, Referral, Revenue. Find the biggest holes in your funnel and fix them. Kissmetrics.com is another good analytics tool apart from Google Analytics.

 

Build Products that Users Love w/ Sr PM at Rhubarb Studios

 

What would the differences be for a PM between B2B vs. B2C.?

Historically a big difference has been the importance of user-centered design. In the past B2B products did not rely as much on great user experience design. This difference still exists, but in my opinion, any company not investing in great user experience design is going to fail. Now, I think you’ll find the biggest difference to be in the sales cycles and user onboarding.

 

What’s the best product you’ve seen recently and what do you think makes it a strong product?

sharethemeal.org has a great mobile application that helps people donate meals to kids in need. They’ve shared over 12 million meals. The excellence of their product is that it has made a very confusing and muddy process a transparent and satisfying one.

 

Would you suggest that technical skills in specific tools or technologies are a baseline requirement for APM’s?

Figure out what the current team is using in terms of tools and technology. Learn as much as you can before the interview. If you get the job, then you can learn the rest on the job.

 

Build Products that Users Love w/ Sr PM at Rhubarb Studios

 

Last advice for aspiring product managers

is thisMy last piece of advice. Aspiring PM’s, develop a bigger vision for yourself than “I want to be a PM”, “I want to be a B2B PM”, etc. What do you want to accomplish with your life and how is being a PM going to get you there? Create a big vision for yourself and explain to potential future employers how that PM role will help you accomplish that vision. You’ve got one life to live, make it a great one.

 

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.

Untraditional Path into Product w/ 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.

 

Untraditional Path into Product w/ 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.

 

Untraditional Path into Product w/ 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.

 

Untraditional Path into Product w/ 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.

 

Untraditional Path into Product w/ 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

 

Untraditional Path into Product w/ 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.

 

Lessons Learnt as a PM w/ Gliffy’s Sr PM

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.

 

Lessons Learnt as a PM w/ Gliffy's Sr PM

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.)

 

Lessons Learnt as a PM w/ Gliffy's Sr PM

 

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.

 

Lessons Learnt as a PM w/ Gliffy's Sr PM

 

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.

 

Lessons Learnt as a PM w/ Gliffy's Sr PM

 

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.

 

Lessons Learnt as a PM w/ Gliffy's Sr PM

 

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.

 

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