HelloMeets recently conducted a workshop on “Product Management for Startups”. Lakshay Pandey who is a Product Manager at team hike & has previously worked with Jabong, Zomato and Paytm, shared his insights on how early stage startups should go about hiring a Product Manager.
**This blog will be helpful for startup founders looking to hire a PM & for aspiring PMs.
Before we go ahead with discussing the hiring process, lets understand who a Product Manager is.
— Product managers are considered to be people with strong technical background, UX experts and also having excellent Statistical and Data Analysis skills.
For a more detailed explanation you can read the following:
Some companies even describe them as Mini CEOs in the job description!!
On the basis of ground realities, the role of a PM comprises of the following:
- Understanding the user needs and complaints
- Understanding constraints and need to be able to build in the given constraints
- Logging, viewing and utilising data
- Keeping maniac focus on the priority and ignoring the noise
- Helping coordinate between functions of different departments like Operations Team, Marketing team, Tech team etc.
- Helping move the product forward by keeping a constant check on the feedback of users and working of different departments
The important question that a Startup founder needs to answer is — When do I really need to hire a product manager?
In the early stages of a startup, founders usually juggle the role of a Product Manager. Also — maximum startups have fewer funds because of which they do not want to hire a separate person to manage their product.
So the need to hire the first product manager comes up when the team/product is large enough to need dedicated focus.
As a founder, some questions to ask yourself before you hire a Product Manager are —
- Am I unable to keep track of the details now?
- Am I the bottle neck for the product being built?
- Am I caught up with one particular aspect of the business?
After answering the above questions the Main considerations while hiring your first Product Manager are-
1. Technical/Domain expertise
- We usually quantify based on engineering background
- Need to judge what is the main pain point for your product
- While nice to have but technical knowledge for product management is not a boundation in most products
2. Internal or External
- For your first hire, there is always a choice between internal transfer or external hire
- Internal transfers guarantee the respect of the team and cohesion with the founders
- External hires bring in a new view point and experience
3. Tactical & Strategic or Delivery oriented
- Do you need a Product Manager to own the product or a product manager to just handle launch and release?
- For the second case, it is better hiring Engineering Managers or Project Managers
- Be aware of different skill sets and treat candidates accordingly
Suggested Reads: Hiring Your First Product Manager -Steven Sinofsky
Finding your Product Manager
As there are different kinds of Designers (UI/Creative/UX) or Engineers(Backend/mobile/frontend), there are different types of PMs.
But they are not based on domain knowledge or product manifestation, rather they are classified by suitability of scale.
Product Manager Types:
— Ken Norton (Google Ventures Partner), defines them as —
- Gold: accountable, thorough, and detailed. Great for places needing process and order
- Orange: push product teams to think bigger, to try crazy new ideas, and to be even more
- Blue: Invaluable for keeping their finger on the pulse of a team, flagging discord, and playing peacekeeper
- Green: The engines that keep product teams grounded in reality, building and inventing clever systems
— Sachin Rekhi (ex Linkedin Head of Product), defines types as
- Builders: People best at taking an existing stable product and pushing out a cohesive wholesome roadmap
- Tuners: Great for specific scenarios with a focus on a single north star metric and improving that metric
- Innovators: People best at fast paced building and evaluating. Great at validating ideas with experiments and finding a product market fit.
Hiring A Product Manager
- If you are a startup, most likely things are a mess and a new person has to come in, take control, clean the mess and drive the company forward. So you have to think about how you will enable them to do that.
- Interviewing a Product Manager is about open-ended skills. This requires some preparation by the interviewer.
- Keep in mind the main tasks of a Product Manager, don’t look for coding background and marketing plans.
**For perspective on how much preparation is enough, you can read the book — ‘Work Rules’ by Laszlo Bock (ex HR head of Google).
BASIC DO’S ANS DONT’S OF FOR INTERVIEWING A PRODUCT MANAGER
• Introduce you and the Company
• Respect Time
• Build Context
• Understand profile of Candidate
• Understand how they handle conflicts in different teams
• Discuss a use case — not generic questions, walk through on solving cases
• Look for technical understanding, not an engineering degree
• Look for jack of all trades
• Get into domain specific questions
• Start proving the candidate wrong, counter-productive for all
• Make it an engineering interview
• Make it a marketing interview
• Make it a data science interview
You can also read: — How to Hire a Product Manager by Ken Norton
— How To Ace Your Product Management Interview by Sachin Rekhi
Wait a minute !! Lakshay also gave some Tips for aspiring Product Managers —
- Since there is no formal education for a Product Manager, make your own
- Read everything that enhances your knowledge — there are varied thoughts on the internet on building products
- Try to judge, assimilate and experiment
- Learn to resolve conflicts amicably without resentment
- Document everything. It’s a pain but the pros outweigh the cons
- You are not the mini-CEO. It’s a farce to entice you
- The business people seem evil, but they just might not be
- Build a connection with your engineers — they will help you out more than you help them
Some helpful books for Founders and aspiring PM’s:
- The Hard thing about Hard things, Ben Horrowitz
- Zero to One, Peter Thiel
- Every Jeff Bezos Letter to share holders
- Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
- The Everything Store, Brad Stone
- Creativity Inc., Ed Catmull
- Managing Humans, Michael Lopp
Some of our upcoming events at HelloMeets:
- Content Marketing Workshop — 11th June — Bengaluru
- Design Thinking in Product Development — 17th June — Bengaluru
- UX Design Bootcamp — 17th June — Delhi