Our Summer Series of podcasts is designed to introduce you to some of our most popular content and superstar product gurus from the last six years. This episode is one of the most popular podcasts we’ve produced. What would you ask of senior product managers if you could take training with them? Join these five seasoned product gurus for highlights on their perspectives on product management.
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On what makes a great product manager
As one of the original Silicon Valley product gurus, Marty Cagan has held executive product positions at eBay, Netscape, Continuus, and HP; start-ups and Fortune 500 companies. According to Marty, the top priority is making sure the team will be building a successful product.
“You have to really be good at understanding data, you have to really be good at getting to know customers testing products,” Marty said, “getting qualitative and quantitative feedback, understanding the techniques of product discovery, understanding how to apply technologies to solve new problems, understanding how to work with designers, how to work with stakeholders, how to work with engineers.”
On best practices for product discovery
Teresa Torres is an internationally acclaimed author, speaker, and coach. She teaches a structured and sustainable approach to continuous discovery that helps product teams infuse their daily product decisions with customer input.
According to Teresa, product discovery without access to customers and data requires a different approach. “You have to figure out how to get access to your customers. And I think the same is true for metrics. If your company doesn’t have a good culture of metrics, you have to take the time to instrument your products. And that means that you’re not going to release that next feature as fast as you might have. But what it does mean is when you do release that feature, and it doesn’t have the intended impact, you know it.”
On trilingual product managers
Rich Mironov is a seasoned tech executive and serial entrepreneur: the product guru at six start-ups including as CEO and VP Products/Marketing. Rich said successful product managers need a variety of skills, including being “trilingual.”
“They have to talk enough technology that the engineering team doesn’t lock them in the closet or shun them. They have to speak enough “real customer” to get down and dirty with the people who are going to use and buy their products and understand real value,” Rich said. “And they have to speak in finance, that the people who run the money in their company don’t shut down their project without good reason. So they have to really speak three radically different sets of languages.”
On comparing PMs to Spider Man
Dan Olsen is a product management consultant, coach, speaker, and author with a wealth of experience. A great product manager, Dan said, has three top-level qualities.
“One is customer understanding, and empathy. You’ve got to be able to put yourself in your customers’ shoes, and really understand what makes them tick, what they like and what they don’t like. A second one is the ability to work well across functions. The reality is that PMs don’t build the product; we have to work with developers and designers. And we’re responsible for getting it defined and built and launched, but none of those people report to us. And that reminds me, Spider Man has his motto: ‘With great power comes great responsibility,’ while the PM motto is: ‘With great responsibility comes no power.’ And, and so therefore we call it influencing without authority,” Dan said.
“And then the last point is the ability to prioritize—the ability to arrive at priorities using reasoning, like literally being able to come up with a mental model, even if it’s not perfect, of what’s going to create value for your customers.”
On what makes a great product manager
Product guru Jeff Gothelf helps organizations build better products and executives build the cultures that build better products. A great product manager, Jeff said, is a perpetually curious person who can straddle the worlds of business and customer.
“They have a sense of the problem that they’re solving for customers, how to best meet those needs, and then how to leverage the organization and the technology that drives that organization to deliver that particular solution or that experience to those customers. And I think that to successfully do that a great product manager has to be able to speak customer language, has to be able to speak user experience and design language, has to be able to speak business language, has to be able to speak tech language. I don’t think it’s an easy job.”
About the host
SC Moatti is a technology visionary, entrepreneur and investor. She is the founding partner of Mighty Capital, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, and Products That Count, one of the largest communities of product managers, leaders and founders in the world. Previously, she built products that billions of people use at Facebook, Nokia and Electronic Arts. She also serves on boards of both public and private companies, including mobile technology giant Opera Software (OPERA:Oslo). An award-winning bestselling author, Moatti frequently gives keynotes on business and technology, and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Business Review, and on NPR. She lectures at Stanford Graduate School of Business, where she earned her MBA and has a Master of Science in electrical engineering. Andrew Chen, one of Uber's top executives, called SC “a genius at making mobile products people love.” For more information, visit scmoatti.com.