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From defining product functions at startups to reimagining how people understand the human body, Vivian Chang is a product innovator with a keen understanding of building things from the ground up. Everyone’s path to becoming a product manager is a little bit different – and Vivian shares how she went from business analyst to product manager without even knowing what “product” was all about.

Product Management: Starting Out vs. Present Day

Like most of us, my career in product management started out in a completely different field. First, I worked at McKinsey as a business analyst. After a few years, I wanted to take a new path and ended up at Massive through a previous connection at McKinsey.

At the time, I didn’t know anything about product. But, the description of the opportunity to apply my prior acumen and develop new skills was very appealing. My boss at the time basically said, “you’re going to be sitting between business and engineering – and your background is perfect.” What’s interesting is that I was never officially hired as a product manager. At the time, I was the only employee who was tasked with performing “product tasks.”

When I came on, there wasn’t an established process for aligning engineering and business goals. No one on the executive team had ever owned this process. In my role, I was able to create a conduit between our engineers and sales team to fully understand their needs. As a result, these efforts effectively created the product management function at Massive. I’ve always enjoyed building things from scratch – and this certainly had a lot to do with me joining Tapad as its first employee.

Since I started in product management, the discipline has taken on a much more comprehensive focus. In the early days, most product teams operated as project management functions. For example, the team would identify single features and work with engineering to figure out if they would work. Today, product management takes a much more holistic view of a product. Instead of focusing on individual features, we look at products from top to bottom as a complete experience.

Ultimately, this evolution aligns with product management’s position as the glue between engineering and business functions. We’re not just responsible for creating features or hoping that sales figures out how to sell it. Instead, we have to think about the entire product lifecycle – both from an organizational view and most importantly, through the lens of your customers.

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Speaker: Vivian Chang

About the speaker
Vivian Chang Member
About the host
Mark Pydynowski

Mark has deep experience (1) bringing new B2B products to market, (2) leading early-stage sales and business development, and (3) conducting user research. He has conducted 1,200+ user interviews over the past 10+ years building and selling new products (software and hardware). Mark runs MondayKarma.com, a blog to help WashU students learn how to land their first job from alumni that have already landed theirs.

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