I have a monthly check-in with Josh Ho. Josh is the founder of Referral Rock and a master of general awesomeness. Josh is a curator of the wealth of information that podcasters share. He always has a recommendation, and our check-in this week was no exception. He recommended a recent episode of 20 Minute VC. I listened to the episode, and it hit home. Josh was right. He is always right.
The role of a product manager is pivotal, akin to that of a conductor orchestrating a symphony. This multifaceted position has steadily evolved from a mere function within teams to a central axis around which entire organizations revolve. Product management is the art and science of balancing the often-dissimilar worlds of what customers want and what engineers can do. Its job is to make sure that the products delivered meet market needs while also being technically and financially possible.
I spent 20 years in engineering and transitioned to product management four years ago. I have had a wonderful experience in this second career. A lot of what David Meyer shared resonated with me and also helped me understand some of what I experienced more deeply. Josh always knows what to share at the right time. I wanted to share the takeaways of the episode, but I encourage anyone remotely connected to product management to watch, absorb, and process the full interview.
“If you’re rocking it as a product manager, everybody thinks you suck. If sales loves you engineering hates you because you’re chasing deals and you’re not thinking about the long-term future. If engineering loves you sales hates you because you’re just doing long-term stuff and you’re never helping them close deals.”David Meyer
David Meyer believes there is a balance between technical know-how and customer-centered approaches. He also talks about the strategic use of data, the importance of communication and leadership, and the need to keep a human connection and truth-seeking behavior as the basis for good product management and company growth.
Key Takeaways and Insights About Product Management
- Diverse professional backgrounds, especially in engineering, can provide a unique perspective in product management.
- Negative customer feedback is more valuable than positive feedback for product improvement.
- Data should inform decision-making but not dictate it; focus on metrics that reflect true customer value.
- Effective leadership requires human connection and tailored communication.
- Hiring should prioritize curiosity and truth-seeking, and scaling challenges include maintaining connections with individual contributors.
- Keep product review meetings small and ensure thorough documentation in remote settings.
- Great leaders inspire by shaping a vision of the future and balancing ambition with truth-seeking.
Tips to Grow as a Product Manager
- Spend time using your product as your customers do. Engage with customer support to understand the issues users face and participate in user research to gain deeper insights.
- Foster strong relationships with teams outside of product management, such as sales, marketing, customer success, and engineering. Understanding their challenges and goals can help you align the product strategy with company-wide objectives.
- Tailor your communication to different stakeholders. For instance, engineers may need more technical details, while executives are likely interested in high-level impacts on business objectives.
- Become proficient in interpreting data and extracting actionable insights. This means not just looking at the numbers but understanding what they mean for user behavior and business outcomes.
- While data is critical, it’s also important to balance it with market trends and customer insights that may not be fully captured in your analytics.
- Keep up-to-date with new technologies, methodologies, and competitive landscape shifts. This can help you anticipate changes and adapt your product strategy accordingly.
- Regularly seek feedback on your performance and areas for growth. Find mentors or coaches who can provide guidance and challenge your thinking.