Note: The following piece was originally published in a few months ago in FastCompany’s Leadership section, where I also have a new post on maintaining strong relationships called The Networking Secret That Only Requires Writing Four Emails A Year

Last summer I was interviewing for product-manager jobs in New York City. My last job had left me feeling cornered into a specialist role at an enterprise marketing-software firm, and there wasn’t a path for me to grow into or room to move up. So I started putting out feelers. I spoke to startups, big companies, and a few in the middle. The two companies I was most excited to interview at were Google and Etsy. Continue reading

As you probably have heard, Nintendo has partnered with game developer Niantic to launch a wildly popular game for iOS and Android called Pokémon GO. The game has already reached over 21M daily active users, dominated the in-game purchasing market, and players are spending more time in the game than on Facebook. It even stopped traffic in Central Park as players abandoned their cars to chase after a rare water Pokémon that had appeared in the vicinity.. Continue reading

Volkswagen has been eviscerated after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in September that VW had installed “defeat devices” to cheat on their emissions testing.

It turns out least 500,000 diesel cars made by VW were rigged with software that would reduce engine emissions to meet standards, but then turn off to achieve higher fuel mileage. When not in testing mode, the engines released nitrous oxide chemicals at levels up to 38x times greater than allowed by the Clean Air Act. Continue reading

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.

I’ve noticed a pattern when it comes to the growth of certain popular products — both physical and media [1]. The pattern looks like this:

Company develops a breakthrough product

A unique product hits the market. It looks or operates in a way that feels distinct in an important way. It’s aggressively different from other things on the market.

  • iPod: bigger, heavier and more expensive than the tiny mp3 players on the market, but has a solid battery life and a massive amount of storage
  • Vibrams: shoes that look like gorilla feet, but some people swear it gets rid of their knee pain / plantar fasciitis
  • Marvel’s X-Men: a fictional team of superheros who are ordinary people with mutant abilities – depicted in comic books, tv shows, video games and movies

Continue reading