Alex Mitchell

@Amitch5903

The Modern Product Manager Toolkit (2019 Edition)

More and more people are becoming Product Managers every day.

Last year alone, job openings for Product Managers grew 30% (LinkedIn) and both Product Management and Product Development were among the most in-demand skills on LinkedIn.

With all of these new Product Managers, I’ve created a toolkit of the best digital and (surprise!) non-digital products the Modern Product Manager needs to succeed.

Whether you’re fresh to Product Management or are a veteran, I hope you’ll find at least a few tips and products to help you reach higher.

The Modern Product Manager Reads

The Modern Product Manager understands the value of reading. They read to learn from other’s strategies, they read to take a step back, and they read to stimulate their creativity.

They read books, they read blog posts, they read everything they can get their hands on to help them achieve their goals.

Check out this list for top books you should check out to level up: Top 10 Books for Product Managers

Also, check out this list for top blog posts that you should read (hopefully you’ve already read a few of these!): Top 10 Blog Posts for Product Managers

The Modern Product Manager Listens

The Modern Product Manager doesn’t just communicate, they listen. They listen to leaders in the Product field, they listen to innovative entrepreneurs, they listen to learn.

The best way to listen? Check out this list of Top Podcasts for Product Managers.

Instead of spending your commute listening to the same playlist over and over again, listen to something that will change your perspective.

I’d also highly recommend picking up Airpods for your listening. Of all of the wired and wireless options out there, they aren’t the highest fidelity sound, but they simply work well. Grab your Airpods 2 here.

The Modern Product Manager Sets Goals

https://www.projectmanager.com/blog/what-is-okr

Whether personally or professionally, The Modern Product Manager sets strong goals in the form of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results).

First developed by managing-legend Andy Grove at Intel, this goal-setting approach was massively popularized by John Doerr and Google.

Set your OKRs at work. Set your OKRs in your personal life. Learn more about how to set killer OKRs here: Don’t Set Resolutions. Set Personal OKRs

It doesn’t matter what software you use for goal tracking (Evernote, iOS Notes, or good old fashioned pen and paper), what matters is that you commit and you put your OKRs in a public, highly visible place.

It’s why I’m staring at my OKRs right now as I type this post.

The Modern Product Manager Travels

The Modern Product Manager travels because they know they can learn from others around the world and be better at their job with a broader worldview.

I’d highly recommend a Timbuk2 backpack like the one below for your travels (whether domestic or international). The backpack has a surprising amount of storage for all of your devices and the quality truly holds up. I’m using the same one I got 4 years ago and it’s as good as new.

Timuk2 Uptown Laptop Backpack, OS, Cobalt Full-Cycle Twill

If you’re booking travel, check out Scott’s Cheap Flights. Over 1.6MM people get Scott’s newsletter with unbeatable deals. Find great deals, live the digital nomad life, and keep learning from others.

Also, pick up a pair of Allbirds. If you haven’t experienced Allbirds yet, you’re missing out. They’ve reimagined footwear and created several different types of shoes from ultra-comfortable Merino wool. You won’t regret having Allbirds for your travel to any part of the world.

The Modern Product Manager Analyzes

The Modern Product Manager heavily analyzes the performance of their products. They don’t simply use intuition or gut-instinct, they want hard data. Here are a few of the tools you should be using (if you aren’t already).

Heap (the better Mixpanel): Quite simply, Heap is the tool you wish Mixpanel was. Heap doesn’t require developers tagging all events throughout your app and keeping those tags up to date, it simply works.

Heap automatically maps all of the actions your users take throughout your application and with the product, you can instantly build funnels and see stats for any action.

Launch a new feature? Heap will instantly start tracking its performance from the moment it goes live.

Fullstory: If you aren’t using Fullstory, you need to stop reading right now, go to their website, set up a free trial, and get going — you won’t regret it.

From bug reproductions to understanding exactly how users are using your product and your features, Fullstory is incredible. The product allows you to see exactly what a user sees on your site and exactly where their mouse moves and exactly where and how they run into trouble.

The Modern Product Manager Asks Questions

The Modern Product Manager asks questions. They ask their customers questions, they ask the market questions, and they ask non-customers questions. They certainly aren’t embarrassed when the answers to those questions prove their initial hypotheses were wrong. Rather, they’re excited by the signal they hear in the noise.

How are you asking questions? Here’s a product you need to know.

Typeform: The best survey and form creation product, period.

The company started with a refreshingly new and modern UX approach to surveys and forms. Since then, they’ve built powerful integrations, robust APIs, and much much more.

Connect Typeform with Zapier for almost unlimited potential.

Thanks for reading! If you’re enjoying this post so far, I think you would enjoy my book Building Digital Products.

Also, for a limited time I’m offering a free chapter of my new book: Disrupt Yourself. Claim yours now here: I want a free chapter of Disrupt Yourself!

The Modern Product Manager Monitors

The Modern Product Manager monitors the development cycle intensely. They look for opportunities to remove inefficiencies and they are always searching for products to help their developers to help their company.

Pull Panda: Slow Pull Request reviews can cripple your throughput and dramatically reduce your team’s velocity. Pull Panda provides a suite of simple to use tools that integrate with both Slack and Github to keep reviews moving quickly and efficiently. From customizable notifications to review “leaderboards” to auto PR review assignment, Pull Panda’s suite of features are incredible.

GitPrime: Similar in some ways to Pull Panda, GitPrime provides leaders visibility into and insights from your development process. Used by companies from PayPal to Splunk to Atlassian, GitPrime helps you understand how each member of your development team contributes to the overall team success and helps you track trends over time, both positive ones to encourage and negative to address.

Trello/JIRA: While these recommendations (both Atlassian companies!) are sure to drive a ton of negative comments, I simply haven’t found better ticket tracking tools than Trello and JIRA. Trello is great for team brainstorms and visual exercises while JIRA simply is the power ticket tracking tool with an almost unlimited feature set.

The Modern Product Manager Communicates

The Modern Product Manager Communicates with their teams, their co-workers on other teams, and their companies clearly, consistently, and efficiently.

Slack (duh): If you’re still using Gchat to communicate with your team, you’re doing it wrong. From startups to enterprises, Slack owns the messaging space and while other tools have grown over the past few years, go with the best. It’s that simple. Plus it’s free for small startups.

Intercom (duh): Over just a few short years, Intercom has gone from being a new way for founders to communicate with site and app visitors to the defacto standard for in-app communication. It’s almost weird now when I don’t see an Intercom bubble in the bottom right corner of a tech app. Nowadays, Intercom is about more than just chat, the product can power customer acquisition, retention, email, and more. Hook up Intercom, and manage your customer relationships in one place.

HeyTaco: The Modern Product Manager recognizes that communication isn’t only important between you and your customers. It’s important to use tools like HeyTaco to recognize the big and small things your team is doing.

Install this Slack widget and after the initial WTF-factor wears off, you’ll find that your team is thanking each other each and every day in a public way. HeyTaco works incredibly well for remote teams like mine at ICX Media and when paired with a monthly “Taco Winner” prize, really starts to bring the team together.

The Modern Product Manager Learns

The Modern Product Manager is a learning machine. If they see a weakness in their skillset, they fill it.

· Don’t know the difference between Javascript and Java?

· Aren’t familiar with SQL and database queries?

· Not sure how to do multivariate testing?

The Modern Product Manager doesn’t know everything, but they attack their shortcomings at the right time to deliver the right decisions for the right product.

Product School: The Product School is a great digital and physical (in some cities) place to build not only your Product Management skills, but also to level up your technology, analytics, marketing, and design skills.

Start by understanding what type of Product Manager you are (or want to be) and find the right Product School course to help you level up.

Does the Modern Product Manager need an MBA? Early in my Product Management career, I spent 2.5 years getting my MBA from George Washington University in D.C. Check out my post below for my answer and perspective on the above question:

My Millennial MBA: A Retrospective

You don’t have to go to Product School or get your MBA to learn as a Modern Product Manager. You can learn by simply going to coffees or drinks with Product leaders in your city.

Read my post below to learn how you can be prepared for these meetings and get the most out of them:

My Secret Leveling-Up Weapon: Coffee

The Modern Product Manager Teaches

In addition to learning all they possibly can, The Modern Product Manager teaches others however and whenever they can. This includes both the Product Managers they work with (and often, even the PMs they work for) along with other people on their teams.

AMAs: Join the Product School Slack and check out their #ama channel. Almost each and every day there is a fascinating Product leader hanging around for a 30 minute AMA. You can do these AMAs too! Simply reach out to Product School, schedule a time, and share what you know and what you’ve learned!

Blog Posts: I write more than most Modern Product Managers because I enjoy it so much. But even if writing doesn’t come as easy to you, push yourself to write about what you know and areas of Product Management you’re passionate about. By sharing your knowledge and teaching others through your posts, you’ll find that you will unlock opportunities you didn’t even know existed.

Quora: Head over to quora right now and search Product Management. Better yet, just click this link, I saved you the typing! You’ll quickly see that there are hundreds of people looking to learn about Product Management. As a Product Manager, you have the opportunity to teach them. It only takes a few minutes.

The Modern Product Manager Invests

The Modern Product Manager realizes that it’s not all about what they do in their day job. They invest in others, they invest in game-changing ideas, they invest to diversify.

Robinhood: Robinhood has graduated from the “free trades app” to the technology leader disrupting Wall Street. Use them to invest in the latest public IPOs, cryptocurrencies, and more.

Motif Investing is a do-it-yourself builder for theme-based investments. In addition to AI, you can find many different related fields/themes. With Motif, you gain diversification across a wide range of companies, you can build your own Motif the way you want, you can buy/own fractions of stocks, and more.

AngelList: AngelList offers an impressive number of syndicates for accredited investors to buy stakes in still-private startups. Since its founding, $1.1B has been invested on AngelList into 3,350 startups with $11B in follow-on funding. Check out their list of syndicates and diversify your investing here: AngelList Syndicates.

All of this a little too much for you? Check out my post on the 5 Do’s and Don’ts of Investing for more of an Investing 101.

5 Simple Do's and 5 Don'ts of Investing

The Modern Product Manager Writes

The Modern Product Manager writes often. They write to share what they’ve learned, they write to start a conversation, they write to help others, they write to share what their team has accomplished.

Write a Book: It’s easier than ever with Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon Companies) to create your own book and publish it to Amazon. I used both of these services for my first book Building Digital Products and while it was a lot of effort writing and editing BDP, the publishing, pricing, and distribution through these tools was surprisingly easy.

ACX (Amazon Audiobooks): Recently, I tapped into another one of Amazon’s suite of companies (ACX) to release an audiobook for Building Digital Products. Similar to Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing, ACX made it simple to get free spoken samples of my book from professionals, select the one I liked most, and create an audiobook (in less than 2 weeks!).

The Modern Product Manager Side Hustles

In addition to investing in impactful ideas on sites like Motif Investing and AngelList, The Modern Product Manager Side Hustles. They have jobs separate from their day jobs because these activities help them develop their creativity, see connections between industries, and diversify their knowledge.

Learn about a few of my side hustles and how you can easily add a side hustle of your own (if you don’t have one yet!):

Never Stop (Side) Hustling.

Modern Product Managers, What Else Do You Do?

Thank you for reading! I’m sure I missed a few tools that every Modern Product Manager should know about. Let me know what I missed in the comments on Twitter at @amitch5903

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