My favorite product managers are quietly powerful. Every day they take small steps that move their teams and business forward in a meaningful way. But they do it without a lot of hoopla, taking a confident yet unassuming approach.
After all, product managers have a lot on their plate every day. They are responsible for the strategy, roadmap, and feature definition for their product. It is a big responsibility that requires facilitating and collaborating with many different teams — both internal and external — without the formal authority to manage those teams. It requires a unique mix of humility and strength.
However, that quiet power does not mean leading product is easy. I realized early on that the daily life of a product manager is unpredictable, hectic, and sometimes very tough.
It’s no secret. Tech talent is in high demand across industries, but finding people with the skill sets to fill these roles has been challenging, causing competition amongst businesses for talent in tech—in programming, UX design, data science and marketing.
Your words can be a powerful ally or your worst enemy. It all depends on how you use them. So, how often do you think deeply about what you are going to say before you say it?
Product managers, in particular, cannot afford to be careless in their speech.
After all, the product management role demands leadership and requires frequent conversations with other teams as well as different external stakeholders. These are not casual conversations; instead, they have some urgency and gravity. The success or failure of the product may depend on how well the product manager communicates with others.
But mastering the art of effective communication is not easy. If you are not careful, your words can undermine your effectiveness and authority.
That is why PMs must root out responses that convey a negative attitude and shut down communication, hindering their progress as a team.
Members of the Buster team mapping out their redesign. Photo by Adam Brodowski.
We recently completely redesigned Buster, our online booking site for buses, limos, and vans, after the first version (v1) of our website had been live for about a year. It was our first big review of what had worked in our early product, and what hadn’t, and our biggest chance so far to refresh our thinking about the business we’re growing. Rethinking our product was both cathartic and grueling. Here are the hardest things we had to do to make it happen.
Nice work. You just scored an interview for a product manager position—one of the hottest and highest-paying roles right now according to Glassdoor. Companies know that product managers play a key role in their success or failure. And they are making sure that hiring the best is a top priority.
You probably have no idea what to expect from this first interview—especially if you are trying to transition into the field from engineering or marketing. How can you pivot into this new role? What qualities are they looking for, and how should you present yourself?
Natasha (bottom, farthest left) with her Product Management students.
Like any self-respecting teenager, I had vowed to be different from my elders. My mother and her three sisters have glittering careers in education. After ten years in tech, I now practice the craft my younger version was adamant to avoid: I moonlight as an instructor at General Assembly.
This side-gig, that started as mild experiment, has become a full-blown passion. I have been at our New York campus every month since I joined the instructional team a year ago. Below is a round-up of 12 lessons I learned from 12 months of preaching product management to five classes.
Here is how it happens. You see the CEO in the hallway and he stops you. He then says, “I was thinking about this the other day—I have a great new idea for a feature.” You nod politely and walk back to your desk—feeling sick to your stomach along the way. Continue reading →
Marketers are analyzing more complicated data sets, developers are building websites and apps that are functional and drive the bottom line—business and technology do not function in a vacuum, and skilled professionals are expected to develop both sets of skills.
These hybrid jobs are among the fastest growing and best careers in today’s job market—more than 250,000 positions were open in the last year alone, and the average starting salary is upwards of $100,000. Continue reading →
Due to the rapid evolution in consumer behavior when browsing travel destinations online, TripAdvisor is a brand that is constantly working to stay on top of their customers’ desires, expectations, and digital behavior.
In the video above, Ravi Meta, VP of core consumer product at TripAdvisor, highlights three key methods for staying ahead of customers through both quantitative and qualitative feedback: Continue reading →
The team at Staples Advantage, the B2B arm of Staples, recently had an idea to roll out a new feature for their mid-market customers that would simplify their buying process. The hypothesis behind the product feature was that a virtual buying assistant would provide a superior customer experience when compared to the current process of interacting with Staples specialists over the phone.
To validate this idea, Staples leveraged rapid prototyping methodology to begin testing the idea and a minimum viable product. In the video above, Matt Leitao, Director of Strategy for Staples Advantage, explains how Staples would have typically approached this new product feature in the past, “We would have done some market research. We would have had marketing involved. We would have had a slew of teams and it would have been about 6 months later where we might have had a good solution to go out to the marketplace with, with one key component missing: understanding if our customers actually wanted this, how they would respond, and how they would react.”
After training with GA’s corporate training team, the Staples team took a completely different approach to quickly test and validate their new product feature. “We said what can we use off the shelf? What can we use today to start doing this,” explained Leitao.
Watch the video above to hear Matt Leitao explain how the Staples team quickly tested and validated their minimum-viable-product.
Interested in incorporating rapid prototyping methodology into your product team’s workflow?