We’ve all dealt with fear and anxiety surrounding our work. Whether you’ve just finished the job search and landed a new job or are simply dealing with additional responsibilities of your current role, you may be experiencing feelings of ineptitude. Fear not! There are lots of ways to deal when you don’t know how to do your job and you’re feeling out of your league.
As Product Managers, building product roadmaps is a crucial part of our job. Yet most of us still use outdated tools for product roadmapping — Excel, PowerPoint, wikis, etc. — to try and keep multiple teams on track toward the same goals. It’s painful. The good news is that there’s a better way.
We understand that building a strategic product roadmap is not easy and that your business colleagues always want to know what’s coming next. It’s time to lead your product with conviction. Take a radical new approach to roadmapping because your company needs it and you deserve to build the future and enjoy what you do.
Product management is a role that consists of diverse responsibilities—and therefore requires diverse strengths. Methodical organization, creative thinking, and vision are just a few assets necessary to be an effective PM.
This variety of project manager traits is what attracts so many to the field, and makes their work endlessly interesting and challenging. But it takes a certain type of personality to thrive in this capacity. If you’re considering a foray into this field, take a look at some of the qualities that project managers share to see if they resonate with you.
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 software engineering, UX design, data science, and digital marketing. As a result, jobs in data analytics, computer science, cloud computing, software engineering, digital marketing, and others pay well.
So what does “pay well” really mean? Using data from PayScale, Glassdoor.com, and Burning Glass’s most recent Hybrid Jobs report, we’ve put together the numbers for the most common entry level tech jobs. (Note: salary levels quoted below are for the U.S. and can vary from country to country.)
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.
Many people have creative product ideas, but don’t know how to turn them into a reality. That rang true for Product Management grad Chris Place, who wanted to solve a common problem: People aspire to bring lunch to work, but often fail. He turned to GA’s Product Management course in Hong Kong to give him the tools to create and launch Prepd, a sleek lunchbox and companion app that aims to make meal prep fun.
“GA helped me understand marketing and creative storytelling,” Place said. “How can I tie together my product skills with a compelling marketing plan to bring my product to launch?” After the course, he leveraged his learnings to launch a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $1.4 million to make Prepd a reality. “We never expected this to get this big,” Place says.
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, good product management 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.
There are countless steps where the product experience can break down. Have you ever been waiting at the corner for a ride-sharing pickup, and while the app swears the driver is right there, there is no car in sight? Or how about seamlessly ordering groceries in an app, then waiting well past the delivery window with no sign of your avocados? Ever called customer service by phone to learn they have no record of the two detailed chats you had with online agents about your issue? We’ve all been there.
As consumers who increasingly rely on technology to help us wrangle a vast range of goods and services, we’ve all experienced pain points when really good software doesn’t equate a really good experience. All too often, there’s a breakdown that occurs outside product screens, when a product or process hits the reality of the human experience or a user fails.
Take a peek at the diagram above, which charts the various user touch points that can occur with your brand in a product experience loop. Users interact with a product through many different channels and modes of communication, and bridging the gaps between them is essential to your product’s success. If you present users with a custom call to action in a social media ad, your customer service teams must be ready to respond. If you build an offer email that is redeemable at a brick-and-mortar retail location, the cashier will need tools to redeem it.
The following is an adapted excerpt from Lean vs. Agile vs. Design Thinking by designer, team leader, and business coach Jeff Gothelf.
In 2016, I was preparing with clients for an upcoming training workshop focused on coaching a cross-functional team of designers, software engineers, product managers, and business stakeholders on integrating product discovery practices into their delivery cadences. During our conversation, my client said to me, “Our tech teams are learning Agile. Our product teams are learning Lean, and our design teams are learning Design Thinking. Which one is right?”
The client found the different disciplines at odds because these seemingly complementary practices forced each discipline into different cadences, with different practices and vocabularies targeting different measures of success.
The engineering teams, using Agile, were focused on shipping bug-free code in regular release cycles (many teams call these “sprints”). Their ultimate goal was an increased velocity — the quantity of code they could ship in each sprint. Product managers, using Lean, were most interested in driving efficiency, quality, and reduction of waste through tactical backlog prioritization and grooming techniques.
“Thoughtful product design is essential. It’s no longer enough to bring a functional product to market. Companies must differentiate on UX and customers want delightful experiences. It’s a great time to be in UX!”
– Jason Reynolds, User Experience Design Immersive Instructor, GA Boston