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Product Management Lessons from the Prosby@askwhale
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Product Management Lessons from the Pros

by WhaleMarch 24th, 2017
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A product manager’s most important job is to be the glue behind the team, and help the whole team do a better job. The first quality is <strong>storytelling</strong> — the ability for a product manager to create a narrative of the users, a narrative using data on what users are doing, what users want to do, how we can achieve those results, and be able to communicate that.

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Q&A from Josh Elman, Daniel Singer, and Jason Shen

Josh Elman, VC at Greylock Partners

Q: “What are the three most important qualities of a good product manager?”

A product manager’s most important job is to be the glue behind the team, and help the whole team do a better job. The first quality is storytelling — the ability for a product manager to create a narrative of the users, a narrative using data on what users are doing, what users want to do, how we can achieve those results, and be able to communicate that.

The second is detail oriented. This doesn’t mean that they’re a micromanager or even a project manager, but that they understand all the little details of a user’s journey and a user’s life, and all the details of what the team is building so that they can actually put them together in order to make sure that the product comes together and doesn’t have any big gaping hole.

The third is what I call data aware. They really have a good understanding of data, both anecdotal and real data in order to make real improvements and measure them.

“Q: What do you wish you knew about PM before getting into it?”

I worked six years as an engineer and engineering manager before I became a product manager, and I think that was really valuable training. What I think is most important to understand as a PM before you become a great PM is the product lifecycle. What it takes to figure something out, build it, ship it, get feedback from users, tweak it, ship it again, and then improve it. Anyone who has at least been a part of that cycle whether you’ve been an engineer, designer, or junior PM can become a pretty good product manager. It’s really hard to learn that in school though, so try to find a place where you can learn it whether it’s an associate product program or starting as an engineer or designer. In school, psychology and sociology classes are the most valuable to be a product manager today — gotta understand people!

Daniel Singer, PM at Sensay

Q: “What are the core characteristics of a great product manager?”

There is one characteristic that I’ll focus on that I think is really important. Whenever I’ve seen this in people, I’ve really appreciated it, which is really caring about other people. Caring for your team, going above and beyond, really trying to make their lives better. It’s a lot of work sometimes, it might not be the most comfortable or easiest thing. It’s really easy to listen to what people want, but to go act on it, and to go out of your way to make it better for someone, and building the product that is your team. One of the most undervalued products a company creates is the team itself. I think that is a product, all the chemistry there, so just being able to brew that chemistry and build a really awesome team is a big part of being a product manager because that great team will build a great product.

Jason Shen, PM at Etsy

Q: “How do you determine which new features to build at Etsy?”

One of the ways we validate the things we choose to build is through prototype teams. It’s similar to an open or closed beta. Sometimes we have public groups, sometimes we have private ones, where we invite people to join our prototype team and try out some new functionality or feature. We also have a dedicated forum, where we’re posting about updates and answering questions, and find and flag bugs that we’re able to go fix and tweak the product to make sure that people are getting a lot of value out of it.

All of these answers were transcribed from Whale videos. Download Whale 🐳 for iOS to expand your knowledge or watch more on our website!

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