Product Management encompasses a wide range of responsibilities and means different things to different organizations. It involves understanding your customers’ current and potential needs then creating a product that solves these problems.
In our first Product Management series, we hosted a webinar featuring industry leaders in the field. Rachel Steinberg (ex-CPO @ Shortlist), Ravijot Chugh (co-founder, ex-Head of Product @ upGrad), and Deepak Singh (Group PM @ Flipkart) shared insights they have garnered throughout their journeys on what it takes to be a kick-ass Product Manager.
Here are their top 10 tips on how you can rock Product Management:
Think of your product as a little person:
Your goal is to have your users have an ongoing relationship with your product, so think about it as an actual person. Consider what your product’s “personality” is and stay true to your “character” in every aspect of your product.
Takeaway: If you’re building a comfort food delivery app, you want your product to ooze “home cooking” and perhaps be a little grandma-like. Having a 404 page with gibberish code (no matter how funny) would be totally out of character for grandma 😉. Stuck on how to go about it, check out Rachel’s blog on making your product tiny humans.
Product management is a dialogue:
If your product is a person, getting your users to the right place is a matter of dialogue – and you’re the scriptwriter. Make it easy for your users to understand what your product is saying (use “text and animations” as body language cues) and don’t forget to LISTEN!
Takeaway: If you’re a Product Manager for a fitness app, don’t ask a returning user if they like to stay healthy or exercise – instead, listen if that’s something they do often by understanding their activity. It would be a bit like a gym trainer asking a regular client whether they like to lift weights when that’s what they’ve been doing for ages! LISTEN.
Ruthless prioritization is your superpower:
In any situation with more requirements than available resources (which, let’s face it, is one faced by nearly every product team ever), doing the right things and avoiding distractions is your biggest superpower. As a Product Manager, the table you don’t sit at is more important than the table you sit at. Opportunities are everywhere and you need to be careful to not get lost in unnecessary tasks.
Takeaway: If you have 3 engineers and 1 designer at your disposal and you’re tasked with growth and engagement, don’t waste your resources worrying about improving your overflow menu or contact us flow. Instead, focus all your time on building things that increase your number of users and ensure your users keep coming back, such as your content and reminder notifications.
Take feedback – you’ll get lots of it:
You’ll always get feedback from people in your company and your users. It’s very easy to get defensive and become immune to this feedback – don’t fall into that trap. While you will sometimes have people who think they know your product better than you, It’s important that you learn to filter through the noise and pick out what information is important to you and your users.
Takeaway: You’ll always hear from people about how a certain feature should work – rather than thinking your user is an idiot who doesn’t know how to use your product, be empathetic, understand their mindset, and find the signals from the noise.
Never say “I don’t know tech”:
You’ll be surprised how often Product Managers say this. Don’t fall into this trap, whether you’re speaking with your engineers, leadership team, or in an interview – it’s the quickest way of losing the other person’s respect. On the flip side, don’t pretend you know things that you’re not familiar with, either. No one expects you to be a coder but you are expected to know how to speak to your engineers and problem solve. Interview tip: If you don’t know, don’t have a hands-off attitude to things you don’t know. Show that you are willing to learn
Takeaway: If you don’t know something about the tech stack or architecture your engineering team is working with, acknowledge that you haven’t worked with that specific kind of technology before, sit with your engineers to understand it better, and maybe even ask for time to go do your own research before coming back to engage in the conversation
Manage products, not projects:
It’s about context, not control. Your job as a Product Manager is to set the product vision and then unclog problems for your team, rather than simply managing timelines and workflows. It’s your job to do whatever it takes to make the team capable of delivering on time. Your role is to figure out what is blocking your team from achieving your goals.
Takeaway: Whenever you’re launching a new product or feature, ensure your team is clear on what and why they need to build something. Then get out of their way and let them deliver. Avoid focusing your time in daily catch-ups on whether a specific task was done or not. Instead, understand what is blocking your team from doing it and try to unblock. Book recommendation to help you get started; Good PM/Bad PM – Ben Horowitz
Listen to customer needs, not requests:
As Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said, “faster horses”. Take your customer feedback and de-construct if to get to the root of the problem (their need).
Takeaway: Always talk to your customers, but don’t necessarily build the solutions they ask for. Figure out what they’re saying implicitly and solve the problem.
In product management, measure outcomes, not activities:
Many Product Managers fall into the trap of measuring things like meetings, features shipped, and other input measures. These are, of course, not the true measure of success for your product.
Takeaway: Focus on the things that matter most for your business. What metric are you trying to get to? Does that mean user growth? Retention? More efficient/cheaper customer acquisition? It depends on the outcomes you need your business to achieve.
You get what you write:
When speaking, it’s easy to jump from Point A to C in a narrative because you expect the listener to follow along. When you’re writing, taking shortcuts is not nearly as persuasive. Build a writing habit. This not only helps you structure your thinking but also builds organizational knowledge for why something was or was not done. Writing makes everyone accountable as you articulate your flow and the next steps better.
Takeaway: DO THE WORK ahead of time to structure and clarify your thinking in writing. Moreover, make it crisp and clear because no one wants to read a lot. Book recommendation: High Output Management – Andy Grove
Give credit, always!
In the words of Reid Hoffman (founder of LinkedIn) – “Make everyone a hero of their own story.” This builds psychological safety and helps your team perform.
Takeaway: As a PM, there is no faster way to lose your team than when you take credit for achievements but share blame for things that go wrong. Use more of ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ when sharing success stories. But when taking accountability, take it all upon yourself.
Interview tips for aspiring Product Managers:
Do your basic homework on:
- What does the company do?
- How do you fit into the organization?
- Why should they hire you?/ What do you bring to the table?
- What is the role is about? Do you know the details?
More interview prep tips? Check out our Interview series.
You can listen to the full webinar recording on our youtube channel, and check out more reading recommendations from the team below:
- Growth Catalyst – Deepak’s Newsletter
- Some great videos on Product Management by Ravi
- How to write a painless PRD – Jerry Cao
- How Superhuman built an engine to Find Product/Market Fit – First Round Review
- Harvard CS50 – Intro to Computer Science (Start here!)
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