Commentary and insight on product management as a profession.

Ideas Are Cheap

An early wake up call in my product career was the stark reality of who makes product decisions within companies. Foolishly I believed that the strategy involved with launching a successful product starts and ends with product managers. Needless to say, 20-something year old me learned a few things about how companies operate very quickly.

Strategy is unequivocally the fun part of product management, but what most executives will never admit is that it is also the easy part. When something is fun, easy, and promises glory, there is absolutely no shortage of people willing to claw and grab at the opportunity to make a name for themselves. Young ambitious product managers will quickly find that their aspirations to steer a company will be reduced to a sandbox of things nobody else cares to bother with.

I originally found this to be a soul crushing reality, but things are not

Do PMs Need To Be Technical?

Product management messaging boards are typically filled with timeless clichés, most of which are questions from aspiring product managers. Of the usual inquiries young PMs have, there is one in particular which I find to be misrepresented: "Do I need a technical background to be a good PM?"

When looking to the large tech companies in Silicon Valley, many people entering the realm of product find the requirements daunting: "BS in Computer Science or equivalent required." This is when most undoubtedly turn to the internet for answers, usually to be consoled by PMs currently in the field. The response is more or less always the same. Consensus amongst employed PMs is nearly always that a technical background is not required, and that one's own curiosity and people skills are all it takes. As I typically do, I'd like to take the path less traveled on this

Will Product Go The Way Of Marketing?

I'm not too crazy about marketing people. It's not that I dislike marketing as a concept... on the contrary, I have nothing but respect for the concept of subtly manipulating the human mind. Thus it is naturally frustrating to watch the concept of marketing move away from calculated campaigns, and more into the realm of Mailchimp and Social Media junkies. If the ability to use Facebook tops your list of tangible skills, chances are I wouldn't trust you to define my company's voice.

I'm assuming that undergrad marketing programs consist of more than introductory Instagram classes. Where then, are these concepts being applied? From the outside looking in, a case can be made that marketing is the discipline of deploying microsites and unapologetic sales messaging.

I can only imagine how CMOs who meticulously shaped brands feel about a workforce striving for a bare-minimum understanding of their field. Yet I can

Defining Your Project's Issue Schemes

If there is a single qualification in becoming a PM, it would probably be knowing the meaning of "As a ______, I would like to _______, so that I may ________." By now we're all painfully with familiar the standard issue types used in Trello and JIRA boards across the world.

User stories, tasks, and bugs. Boom, ship it. While the most common set of issues covers many needs, this industry standard set should really only be used as a guideline on how to define your product.

It's surprisingly common for PMs to stick to the norm when it comes to defining issue schemes... or worse yet, force issues schemes on projects where they are hardly applicable. As a problem solver, one of the first problems a product manager should solve is what the right way to tell your product's story.

Issues Types

Before jumping into schemes, here are the issues

Product Management: The Personality Profession

Articles covering product management remain a scare breed. We're familiar with the cliché “qualities of a good PM" articles which recycle themselves on the front page of HackerNews once every few weeks. These seem to provide great advice at first glance, mostly because they closely mimic much of our society's golden rules.

Consensus amongst vocal product managers is that being a good PM isn't too far off from simply being a good person. The mantra of leading by example and turning the other cheek has somehow made its way into my own professional psyche for the last 8 years.

After thoroughly testing this mindset in the field, I'd argue that this mindset under the following circumstances:

  1. You're a PM at Google
  2. Your company would rather keep you happy than extracting maximum work for minimal cost

Those odds don't feel great.

After nearly a decade, I've stuck to my guns