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The Biggest Challenge With Building Products is Uncertainty

I was recently asked to share my views on three questions around product management for the UsabilityTools blog. My answers are now published along with thoughts from 46 other product managers and I thought I’d share my response here as well.

The questions were good ones and were worth thinking about. In general, I’ve found that building new things is all about creating clarity and alignment and dealing with the uncertainty.

What is the most important quality a good product manager should have?

The ability to think across disciplines and both understand and communicate needs + priorities between business, technology, design, research, users and other stakeholders.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

The ultimate challenge of building products is that it is hard to know what will work. You can have an incredibly well engineered, beautiful, and user centered product and it can still fail. Running a good process is how you steady a team’s morale – keeping it up when things don’t work, and not getting cocky when it succeeds wildly.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

The most important measure of productivity is time my team spends working in alignment, with a clear understanding of expectation and goals, on efforts they believe will have major positive impact.

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Thinking Out Loud about Product Management: Early Observations as a PM on the Demo

When I moved to New York City a year ago, I had a plan to become a product manager in a technology firm. After interviewing for PM roles at Pivotal Labs and Meetup, I met with Noah, the CEO of Percolate. He told me that they didn’t have a PM function and but that he was looking for hackers on the marketing team.

I jumped in with two feet — producing blog posts, case studies, white papers, webinars, films, and independent research — and learned a ton about marketing enterprise software. But I continued be passionate about directly building technology products. And in 2015, I finally got my chance to do it. Continue reading…

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My Reading Notes on How Google Works

This is Day 4 of the #WkofBks series I’m doing as part of the Your Turn Challenge. Today, I’m sharing thoughts from the book How Google Works, which I read over Audible.

how-google-worksAbout the Book in a Nutshell: Technology (including the internet and the smartphone) has dramatically reshaped the way business operates, both internally and externally, and what make Google successful was its relentless focus on hiring “smart creatives” and then giving them a lot of room to move fast, make decisions, and focus improving outcomes for the user.

About the Authors: Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg are two long-time executives at Google. Eric was formerly the CEO of a technology company called Novell before serving as CEO of Google from 2001 to 2011 while Jonathan Rosenberg was hired into Google in 2002 (after twice declining an offer to work there) and as SVP of Product, worked on Ads, Gmail, Android, and Chrome before stepping down in 2011 as SVP of Product. Continue reading…

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You Had One Job…

A few months ago, Rick Webb, co-founder of The Barbarian Group, joined my company Percolate as VP of People Operations. Rick is a top candidate for being the most interesting man in the world, particularly because he’s had a ton of different jobs. 82 different ones to be exact. It’s fascinating to think of this person you know as operating in such a wide variety of roles. And it’s not just Rick. My coworker Monik made his own list, 25 Years, 25 Jobs, that’s pretty neat as well. Continue reading…

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How Startup Ideas Can Be Modeled Like Chemical Reactions

I’m sometimes envious of people who studied subjects in college that correspond to their actual careers. Finance majors who become bankers. Computer Science majors who become software engineers. Must be nice to actually *use* the knowledge you spent four or more years studying. As a guy with two biology degrees, a career in marketing and (non biotech), startups is a fairly orthogonal direction.

However, I have discovered a few ideas from my academic studies that come in handy when thinking about startups. One of them is how a chemical reaction is a great model for a startup idea. But let’s first take a step back.

The Four Key Points Needed to Discuss a Startup Idea

I was recently in a conversation with a coworker about some of her startup ideas. She had one idea around revitalizing musicals that, while not her main startup idea, got me thinking about the best way intelligently discuss these types of ideas. [1] It boils down to four major questions / answers. Continue reading…