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product management

10 tips to help you rock product management

500 333 Brenda Akinyi

Product Management encompasses a wide range of responsibilities and means different things to different organizations. It involves understanding your customers’ current and potential needs then creating a product that solves these problems.

In our first Product Management series, we hosted a webinar featuring industry leaders in the field. Rachel Steinberg (ex-CPO @ Shortlist), Ravijot Chugh (co-founder, ex-Head of Product @ upGrad), and Deepak Singh (Group PM @ Flipkart)  shared insights they have garnered throughout their journeys on what it takes to be a kick-ass Product Manager.

Here are their top 10 tips on how you can rock Product Management:

Think of your product as a little person:

Your goal is to have your users have an ongoing relationship with your product, so think about it as an actual person. Consider what your product’s “personality” is and stay true to your “character” in every aspect of your product.

Takeaway: If you’re building a comfort food delivery app, you want your product to ooze “home cooking” and perhaps be a little grandma-like. Having a 404 page with gibberish code (no matter how funny) would be totally out of character for grandma 😉. Stuck on how to go about it, check out Rachel’s blog on making your product tiny humans.

Product management is a dialogue:

If your product is a person, getting your users to the right place is a matter of dialogue – and you’re the scriptwriter. Make it easy for your users to understand what your product is saying (use “text and animations” as body language cues) and don’t forget to LISTEN!

Takeaway: If you’re a Product Manager for a fitness app, don’t ask a returning user if they like to stay healthy or exercise – instead, listen if that’s something they do often by understanding their activity. It would be a bit like a gym trainer asking a regular client whether they like to lift weights when that’s what they’ve been doing for ages! LISTEN.

Ruthless prioritization is your superpower:

In any situation with more requirements than available resources (which, let’s face it, is one faced by nearly every product team ever), doing the right things and avoiding distractions is your biggest superpower. As a Product Manager, the table you don’t sit at is more important than the table you sit at. Opportunities are everywhere and you need to be careful to not get lost in unnecessary tasks.

Takeaway: If you have 3 engineers and 1 designer at your disposal and you’re tasked with growth and engagement, don’t waste your resources worrying about improving your overflow menu or contact us flow. Instead, focus all your time on building things that increase your number of users and ensure your users keep coming back, such as your content and reminder notifications.

Take feedback – you’ll get lots of it:

You’ll always get feedback from people in your company and your users. It’s very easy to get defensive and become immune to this feedback – don’t fall into that trap. While you will sometimes have people who think they know your product better than you, It’s important that you learn to filter through the noise and pick out what information is important to you and your users.

Takeaway: You’ll always hear from people about how a certain feature should work – rather than thinking your user is an idiot who doesn’t know how to use your product, be empathetic, understand their mindset, and find the signals from the noise.

Never say “I don’t know tech”:

You’ll be surprised how often Product Managers say this. Don’t fall into this trap, whether you’re speaking with your engineers, leadership team, or in an interview – it’s the quickest way of losing the other person’s respect. On the flip side, don’t pretend you know things that you’re not familiar with, either. No one expects you to be a coder but you are expected to know how to speak to your engineers and problem solve. Interview tip: If you don’t know, don’t have a hands-off attitude to things you don’t know. Show that you are willing to learn

Takeaway: If you don’t know something about the tech stack or architecture your engineering team is working with, acknowledge that you haven’t worked with that specific kind of technology before, sit with your engineers to understand it better, and maybe even ask for time to go do your own research before coming back to engage in the conversation

Manage products, not projects:

It’s about context, not control. Your job as a Product Manager is to set the product vision and then unclog problems for your team, rather than simply managing timelines and workflows. It’s your job to do whatever it takes to make the team capable of delivering on time. Your role is to figure out what is blocking your team from achieving your goals.

Takeaway: Whenever you’re launching a new product or feature, ensure your team is clear on what and why they need to build something. Then get out of their way and let them deliver. Avoid focusing your time in daily catch-ups on whether a specific task was done or not. Instead, understand what is blocking your team from doing it and try to unblock. Book recommendation to help you get started; Good PM/Bad PM – Ben Horowitz

Listen to customer needs, not requests:

As Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said, “faster horses”. Take your customer feedback and de-construct if to get to the root of the problem (their need).

Takeaway: Always talk to your customers, but don’t necessarily build the solutions they ask for. Figure out what they’re saying implicitly and solve the problem.

In product management, measure outcomes, not activities:

Many Product Managers fall into the trap of measuring things like meetings, features shipped, and other input measures. These are, of course, not the true measure of success for your product.

Takeaway: Focus on the things that matter most for your business. What metric are you trying to get to? Does that mean user growth? Retention? More efficient/cheaper customer acquisition? It depends on the outcomes you need your business to achieve.

You get what you write:

When speaking, it’s easy to jump from Point A to C in a narrative because you expect the listener to follow along. When you’re writing, taking shortcuts is not nearly as persuasive. Build a writing habit. This not only helps you structure your thinking but also builds organizational knowledge for why something was or was not done. Writing makes everyone accountable as you articulate your flow and the next steps better.

Takeaway: DO THE WORK ahead of time to structure and clarify your thinking in writing. Moreover, make it crisp and clear because no one wants to read a lot. Book recommendation: High Output Management – Andy Grove

Give credit, always!

In the words of Reid Hoffman (founder of LinkedIn) – “Make everyone a hero of their own story.” This builds psychological safety and helps your team perform.

Takeaway:  As a PM, there is no faster way to lose your team than when you take credit for achievements but share blame for things that go wrong. Use more of  ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ when sharing success stories. But when taking accountability, take it all upon yourself.

Bonus section

Interview tips for aspiring Product Managers:

Do your basic homework on:

  • What does the company do?
  • How do you fit into the organization?
  • Why should they hire you?/ What do you bring to the table?
  • What is the role is about? Do you know the details?

More interview prep tips? Check out our Interview series.

You can listen to the full webinar recording on our youtube channel, and check out more reading recommendations from the team below:

To be the first to get information on our upcoming events, new opportunities in Product, and more, sign up on the Shortlist platform below!

virtual interviews

Virtual Interviews: How to prep and ace them

475 321 Brenda Akinyi

Virtual hiring is set to be a new wave for most organizations in the coming times. With companies working to develop and implement strategies that allow for remote hiring, interviewing and onboarding, as a professional on the other side of the spectrum, are you prepared to ace virtual interviews?

Despite the physical absence keep in mind that with the right tools, recruiters are able to evaluate you just as well as they would during an in-person interview. It’s therefore important to prepare just as much for virtual interviews while being aware of the different challenges and opportunities they present. While you may already be familiar with the common tips on interview preparation and showing up on the d-day, in this blog we share some pro tips to help you shine in your virtual interviews.

#1. Set up your space

If you can, ensure you have a blank background to avoid distracting your interviewers. It might be helpful to move around things in your room to create a more professional environment. Minimize the clutter around you as it can be distracting both to you and those conducting the interview. Be mindful of the lighting in the room. Make sure it shows up well on video.

Just like you would go for an in-person interview, ensure you have a print out of your CV beforehand. You don’t want to be clicking through different tabs on your screen during your interview. Ensure that you are also well prepared, practice your responses to common interview questions without necessarily memorizing them to help you sound more authentic.

#2. Check your virtual interview technology

Whether or not you are familiar with the app in use(e.g. Zoom, Google Hangouts, Webex, etc.), you should need prep your technology set up so you can ensure you don’t have any mishaps on the d-day. Have a mock interview with another person to test out the sound and video and fix any glitches. Mock interviews will also help you know whether your space is right for the interview.

Practice your responses during the mock interview to get an idea of what you sound like. Your tone of voice says a lot; You want to stay calm and collected throughout. This will help you identify where you might need to make adjustments. Be sure to also mute out any desktop notifications on your computer and on your phone to avoid unnecessary interruptions during the interview.

#3. While you dress to impress…be careful not to distract

When it comes to color, it’s easy to get away with brighter tones and hues while having in-person interviews. However, it’s a tricky balance with virtual interviews as certain colors or patterns show up differently on video. When choosing what to wear, keep in mind that solid colors like grey, black, and navy blue colors show up well while whites, reds, pinks, purples and complicated patterns may appear too bright and be distracting to your interviewer.

Do consider the type of jewelry you choose to wear as well. If you must have jewelry keep it subtle as bright pieces can reflect on camera. For the ladies, pay attention to your make up as well. Much as it will not show on video as much as it would in person, you want to keep it neutral.

#4. Non-verbal cues matter during virtual interviews too

When you sit down for your interview, ensure that your head, neck, and shoulders are visible. Mind your posture, as a slouchy position may imply a lack of interest or that you are a timid person. Fidgeting too much can also reflect poorly on your confidence so be sure to keep this in check. Another thing to pay close attention to is gesturing. While sometimes gesturing can help you emphasize a point, too much of it tends to be distracting.

Remember to mirror your audience as this helps you build rapport by making them feel that there is something they like about you. This can include anything from their posture, gestures, sitting position, tone of voice and talking pace. One thing to note though, avoid mirroring any negative body language as this will just give off negative vibes.

After your interview, don’t forget to seal the deal. You should be as courteous after the interview as you were during the recruitment process. This may help you stay top of mind and give you an opportunity to clarify anything you might have missed out on.

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