Most product managers I know are optimistic realists. I am both — a former product manager and an optimistic realist. So call me biased. You could say it is their nature, but I think it comes from the job. Product managers plan thoroughly and vigorously for a future that is better than today. But getting there requires a certain confidence.
Do you like to focus on the big picture — or get down in the details? It is true that our brains tend to favor one side or the other. But if you are a product manager your answer to this question should be “both.” Growing a successful product requires both top-down and bottom-up planning.
I care about product managers. A lot. This should not be a surprise. If you have been reading this blog for some time, then you know that I once was one. Product managers are special because they sit at the epicenter of everything. They communicate ideas, set strategy, and lead cross-functional teams to create products that delight customers. But there is something else that may be a surprise.
Woosh. 2017 was intense. So much happened in current events and business and everywhere else. We saw product managers take on a more critical role within companies than ever before. Yet amid all the topsy-turvy there was one thing that did not waver — the power of the written word.
Are you panicking yet? It is that time of year. Last-minute gift shopping. Maybe you are rushing off to the mall or paying extra for overnight shipping. Or, if you celebrate Hanukkah, you are now just late. We get it — you want to give the people you care about the absolute perfect gift. Our team at Aha! feels this way all the time. But our gift-giving looks a little different.
I do not envy substitute teachers. While most of the class will follow the new leader, there are always a few kids who misbehave in ways they would not dare with the “regular” teacher. It is a job with lots of responsibility yet limited authority. Product managers can probably relate.
There are certain phrases that make a product manager cringe. For me, it is when customers refer to the process of submitting feedback as throwing ideas into a “black hole.” Ouch. I never want a customer to feel this way. This is one reason why our team at Aha! created a new goal this year: zero unreviewed customer ideas. Seriously.
I was looking for some inspiration. This was back in October 2016 and we were in planning mode. Our product teams at WhiteHat Security had spent most of the year struggling to stay true to one annual roadmap. But as we looked back, it was clear that what we had said we would do and what we were delivering simply were not the same. Why?
I have some bad news. And it will not be surprising for most product managers. Our job frequently involves telling people things they do not want to hear. In fact, I would say the job of a product manager involves more difficult conversations than most. Even communicating what some would consider very bad news.
“What is the difference between a product manager and a …?” You can fill in the rest of that question with more than a half dozen job titles — engineering manager, scrum master, project manager, business analyst, and more. Lots of aspiring product managers want to know the answer to these questions. It makes sense that people are curious about the overlap between different job titles. Why?
It was my first week as a new product manager. There were already a ton of feature requests coming in from different teams. Most were partially defined and very few were prioritized. I was drowning in requests. There was also a pile of customer ideas that needed review, release timelines to plan, the list went on. Where to start?
Imagine that your job is to sell pencils. Number 2 pencils, to be specific. Your sales pitch is basic. “Classic wooden pencils! You can sharpen, write, and erase!” There is not much else to say. Sure, there is beauty in the pencil’s simplicity and utility, but some days it is a struggle to get excited about moving those units.
Public speaking. I have learned to really enjoy it and consider it an honor. I have done a lot of it over the last ten years. Although I do understand the anxiety some people feel looking at all those expectant faces. The nervous jitters or pressure to put on a show. But the audience is not that scary. They are just people like us. No, there is something else you should be afraid of that is related to presentations — it might surprise you at first.
“I cannot believe it is almost 2018.” You will be hearing this from your family and friends pretty soon. But if you are a product manager you can believe it. This is because you have been in 2018 planning (hopefully) for weeks now — already making plans for next year.
I want to talk about a recurring meeting. You know, the one that makes you cringe. It pops up on your calendar and makes you wish you could quietly hit “decline.” Many years ago, I often had these meetings. Unfortunately, little was accomplished except an invite to the next one to discuss the same topic all over again. But there was one type that was worse than the others — the ongoing product backlog grooming session. Read more…