10 Likes and I'll start a thread of product tips and 🌶️takes.
That doesn't happen by accident. It takes work.
If you don’t like learning lots of new skills from sales, to marketing, to negotiation, to EQ, to design, don’t be a PM.
A strong collaboration makes your designers create better designs, and the engineers ship a better product faster. Those assists don't show in the score sheet but matter.
Two of the toughest are PMs w/o good design help or lacking a good tech lead partner
If you think you want to be a PM, look into how people you follow did it. You may be surprised how varied it is.
A) Excel at a growing company & ask to transition (seen it work great for marketers, customer success, design, & engineers)
B) Do a side project or startup to show you can PM (this eliminates the chicken or egg problem of having never been a PM)
It won’t make you a better PM if you already are one, either.
If you want to become a GM at a company, an MBA makes sense, but it doesn’t help product managers.
As is always the case on Twitter, exceptions always get mentioned, but do not disprove the general statement. Save $200k if you love PM and don’t get an MBA.
- MBAs often bring ego + don’t want to do the real work (talking to customers, iterating, etc)
- Engineers can struggle with the interpersonal & relationship building side of PM’ing.
The #1 mistake that good PMs make is not building relationships across departments. Fix it with peer 1 on 1s: jasonevanish.com/2015/09/24/pro…
It’s scary getting outside the building, and they instead choose to be master BS artists.
If this is you, change your ways in 2020. I wrote how-to's I wish I had when I started: jasonevanish.com/product/
If you're hiring, recognize this could explain a short stint on a resume, and if you're job hunting, don't apply to PM jobs that don't match your skills & strengths.
- The business model (Ecommerce vs. SaaS vs. Ad tech are dramatically different jobs)
- Company stage (Think public company vs. Series B vs. Seed)
- Company culture (How are decisions made? What do they value?)
Unfortunately, most PM interviews are veiled in hypotheticals that have nothing to do with the job, and are basically trick questions.
Mastering trick ?s has nothing to do w/ being a good PM.
This is ironic given the trend of calling PMs "Mini-CEOs", and recruiting is one of a CEO's most important jobs... 🙄
Don’t have a network? Search LinkedIn for lower level PMs. No one asks them for help, so they’re more likely to respond & have a call/coffee to discuss the culture, then refer you in.
They died on hills, and helped the company learn what they actually wanted.
Back to work for now...
They just quietly suffer, or churn and then maybe tell you.
I’ve had many engineers be surprised when they see that 2-3 tickets is actually affected TONS of users. Getting a list to email helps quantify it.
All they care about is if you solve their problem or make it possible for them to do what they want to do.
Sometimes customers are more excited by this than your big feature.
You can have one and not the other, and it will cause your business to sputter.
Fateful last words include "that feature went really well, but I have no idea how you contributed" & "Why can't you just..." 🤦♂️
The problem is most PMs don’t talk to enough customers to tell this is the case.
Being around that many product obsessed, super smart people, will level you up rapidly.
I think there are *many* smart, great PMs in town, but it's structural/cultural issues that undervalue product here: medium.com/@Bosefina/how-…
The amount of self deprecation I've seen/heard that really feels like “haha, it's funny, but I’m actually sad about it” has been one of my biggest surprises.
Product is undervalued in many cases here!
Collaboration and innovation are where the magic happens, and that’s the greatest weakness of remote work.
There are ways around some of it, but it takes a lot of conscious effort.
Nothing remote can compare to the energy of being in the room at a white board with your designer and engineer(s) working on a problem.
You can't walk by your pod and tell them about a great customer interview, so you need to find other ways to share what everyone needs to know...in a light weight way they'll actually read/see.
Try doing that in an open office...
- Product specs
- Updates to customers
- Updates to stakeholders
- Note taking in meetings
- Notes and takeaways from customer interviews
- Writing good survey questions
- Communicating to your team
- Blog posts
- Internal documents
- Tweets + Tweetstorms ;)
- Personal notes to collect and organize your thoughts.
- Emails and experiment with templates you use.
- You do a lot of negotiating as a PM. This teaches you a better approach whether working with an angry customer, negotiating with another team for resources, or deftly handling your boss.
- PMs are in the people business and this is the gold standard to working well with other people. This applies as much to what you write as what you say.
This wins many more people over than a batle of opinions.
Set a reminder for yourself 2 weeks or 2 months (depending on your company stage) later to go back and see what worked or didn't.
- When it’s 2 vs 1 day, or 2 instead of 1 hour, it’s not a big deal. However, the bigger the project, the more brutal this becomes (4 weeks vs 2 weeks, 4 months vs 2 months is a problem).
The tool you love for the burn down and gannt charts is not the hill to die on if all your engineers hate it.
This saying I used to hear 5 years ago still seems true.
- Look into the analytics, ask the engineer to explain why, ask what motivated your designer to go that direction. You'll learn, and it often sharpens their thinking.
It’s great to give back AND it will make you a better PM.
- DMs on Twitter
- Well crafted Linkedin messages
- Cold emails after they read my blog and found my email address on there.
- Replies to blog post emails from subscribers.
* Exception = E-commerce it can work since it's easier to have a consistent target.
Care about the details, but in a tactful way. Know what hills to die on, and how to have both strong opinions, *and* loosely hold them.
- You appreciate other roles more as you likely wore their hats
- You learn to ruthlessly focus on the metric that matters most
- You learn to deal with extreme constraints & the creativity that breeds
- Glue to hold things together and fill in gaps
- Grease to make things run more smoothly and adapt to changes
Some day I'll finally turn this into a blog post it deserves:
1) They ask “What’s best for the customer?”
2) They plan an experiment or table the discussion until they get some data/evidence
You need to do it sometimes, and so does everyone else on your team.
The key to avoiding resentment is to measure the results of the decision. Everyone is wrong sometimes, and that's okay as long as you fix it later.
- Get customer success to forward you customers with issues in areas you’re fixing
- Reach out yourself (email, @intercom, etc)
- Partner with marketing on surveys & reach out to interesting answers.
- Talk to sales leads
It may be possible, but there’s a good chance you’ll die trying.
A lot will be obvious, and in many cases, anything you build will work.
The power dynamics and negative inertia are too great. Also, the founders should have been figuring it out, not a hired gun with 0.5-2% of the company.
It’s one thing when you say it, but when they hear a customer say it, it hits their ego differently in a good way so they want to fix.
Suggest something you know will be rejected to get you back on the track of what you all do want. medium.com/@jonbell/mcdon…
Sales & Marketing machines can be just as dominant, if not moreso.
This keeps it from crippling you and halting all progress (or killing you) later.
A nice overview is here: blog.crisp.se/2013/10/11/hen…
It also helps keep the engineer(s) working on it thinking about customers.
Fortunately, said breaks are predictable: getlighthouse.com/blog/company-g…
- Post Mortems (even when things go well)
- Peer 1 on 1s to get individual/private perspectives
- Ask for feedback after a ticket is closed (What can I do differently to make that easier/better next time?)
You can’t be everywhere, but you can teach bits and pieces to others. Teach them how to ask a good followup question over email, or to do some of their own interviews.
I’ve interviewed and been rejected by more companies than you’d ever guess. Lost many deals. Been flaked on by customers over and over. It happens 🤷♂️
You need to hear their individual stories and situations, not group think.
“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end”
The best solution is usually not the first idea. Keep pushing to get it right to unlock magic.
This insures you immediately apply it to your work…and I find also motivates you to finish reading faster.
I'll share some good places to start after #100
None of them show you how to calculate ROI for what they charge, and typically it’s a small part of successful onboarding + educating users.
- Customers don’t read.
- They skip overviews and tours.
- They quickly get bored of videos
...then complain they “don’t get it.”
And it's still your job to help them get to the AHA! moment.
A little bit of everything makes it so there’s something for everyone.
Ideally, you'll simplify & help them focus on 1 thing, but that can be resource intensive.
Be nice. What’s obvious to you may be a difficult lesson for others, and vice versa.
This is especially true in product given how varied all our backgrounds are.
This video is a great way to conceptualize that:
- Want to learn more PM skills, my reply here gives a few people to start with:
- Search for their blogs and you’ll find gold mines.
- Read lots of books too, my favorites by category here: jasonevanish.com/bookshelf
If you have a big team to manage, sign up for a trial to make your 1 on 1s organized, motivating, and accountable, or tell your eng. manager to check us out: getlighthouse.com