I take a controversial position on what to look for in hiring a product manager. I believe it is more important that you hire a good leader and communicator than a good technologist.
Am I one of those people who believes product managers are really just disguised marketing people, the kind who don’t really understand what they are selling? No.
But I do think that you can’t really understand market needs and craft a plan to meet them without the ability to listen, make decisions, and paint a picture of how people will benefit from your proposed solution. In my mind, these are the core aspects of leadership.
I profiled David Cancel in VentureFizz. Do you hate roadmaps as much as he does?
David Cancel, CEO of Drift, former Chief Product Officer at HubSpot, and serial entrepreneur hates product roadmaps. He says, “Either I’m going to disappoint you by giving you exactly what we thought six months ahead of time was the best solution when it’s not, or by changing course and having lied to you.” And yet David shares roadmap info with his key customers all the time. The trick, he says, is to focus on what he calls “themes” instead of features and dates.
But some customers are looking for what David calls "a paper promise." What to do?....
My friend Jason Scherschligt wrote one of my favorite product culture articles. Here's the money quote:
A project is an organizing construct for internal labor. A product is a thoughtful response to a human appetite. Customers aren’t delighted by your organizing construct. They don’t want your budget or timelines met. They want their problems solved, their needs satisfied, their lives improved....
Jason has tips on how to make this transition. Plus there are a bunch of pithy take-aways that should become mantras for product people, like “celebrate rather than bemoan a change in requirements: it means you know more."
In a lot of ways it was a terrific job. The pay was great, the benefits greater. I’d been promoted and I was gaining the respect of my peers in other departments. One conversation convinced me to leave, however, and join a company with a better culture -- a product culture.