What Got You Hooked on Building Products?
It didn’t happen for me until after school. If there’s anybody in college doing something else and is concerned, I didn’t know anything about technology when I was an undergrad. I was focused on science and the work that I was doing.
Building products happened for me afterward, when I started to realize how multifaceted it was. That got me excited because I felt like I could be fully engaged in trying to solve problems.
I have a great day at work when I show up and feel like I’m being challenged on all fronts—as a product manager, I’ve got to bring my whole self and push myself toward the limits of what I feel I can do.
Solving problems in the product domain does that because I have to empathize, I have to think critically about the business, and think about the technology.
Once I realized I got a taste of life that way as compared to being in a lab, I’ve been hooked ever since.
Staying Motivated Today
It’s the challenge, I’m a competitive guy and I find building products is challenging. It’s humbling because you build something and you think it’s the best thing in the world. It also requires me to learn all the time. The business landscape is always changing and if you’re not improving you’re dying.
I find that there’s no shortage of new things happening, especially when you think about technology and the different domains that it’s moving into. There is always new inspiration you can glean from different areas.
What Makes a Great Product?
I think a great product is a sort of service at scale. If you think about paying someone to do a job and they provide a great service it makes you feel like that was excellent, and you feel great afterward.
For me, a great product is trying to build that service into this creation and that ultimately can reach a lot of people, and that’s where scaling comes in.
When you do it well and you’ve got a whole mechanism to deliver that product to the people out there who want it, they get that service from the product, you walk away feeling understood, you feel accomplished. It’s a great feeling.
What Makes a Great Product Manager?
One aspect of being a great product manager is being able to navigate the sensitive balance between exploring versus exploit. It’s about knowing when it’s OK to think about more ideas.
When you think you’ve got some good leads, then you have to go deep, you have to figure out how to take this thing across the finish line, and to build a good solution. However, you’re going to have a ton of roadblocks as you try to do that, the setbacks and you’ll have to work with the team to create something else.
Knowing how to navigate that balance of exploring and exploiting and then having the focus to do the exploit part when you need to go deep and also the open-mindedness, creativity to do more of the exploration phase, are key characteristics.
Advice for Product Managers?
As a product manager, our heart has to be with the customers. The people you’re serving are the guiding light. That’s the North Star with this stuff—trying to align yourself with where your joy comes from, the experience that they’re going to have that you’re creating. If you just keep yourself right there, you’re representing them well and at the same time doing it on behalf of your company.
It’s easy, I think when you’re back in the building to get caught up with the multitude of problems daily. However, keep in mind the customer and always try to put yourself back out there and in their shoes.