A former Google executive will speak in New York City in January, exploring what managing and building product teams mean in different environments and how it can lead to more successful products.
The speaker, Alex Diaz, says that the term ‘product manager’ is possibly the most misleading title in the tech sector. He believes that it has little to do with managing or product, and more to do with building product teams.
Instead, Diaz believes the title focuses on making teams more effective, mostly through communication and process, which leads to better products for the end-user.
“A [product manager] can have a multiplicative impact on a team in a way few others can,” Diaz said. “But we need to agree on what the job is, and isn’t, about.”
His talk will take place on Jan. 15 from 7-9 p.m. at Etsy. Tickets range from $16 to $25 and can be purchased online.
Diaz is a former Google product leader. He spent more than seven years at the company, before a shorter stint as Vice President of Product Management at Yahoo! He is also recently the former Vice President of Product at Jetty.
Jetty, according to its website, “offers a new kind of renters insurance, designed to help people get the protection they actually need at a price they can afford. Our mission is to protect our Members from setbacks of all kinds, from fire and theft to wasted time and money.”
In advance of his talk, Diaz answered a few questions related to his product-development experiences.
What is Your Favorite Product and Why?
Given the many tech-savvy products on the market, Diaz said his favorite is Sonos. The company is known for its smart speakers that allow music to play simultaneously in multiple rooms.
“Having Sonos throughout my apartment is the closest I’ve come to the future we were promised,” Diaz said. “When I make breakfast, shower, or go from room to room telling the walls what to play—I feel like Bill Gates.”
What Makes a Great Product?
Certainly for Diaz as a consumer, Sonos is a great product. However, the seasoned product executive said that “A great product solves a hair-on-fire problem in a unique, better way.”
What Makes a Great Product Manager?
What makes a great product manager is subjective. The standard definition is one who is responsible for developing products with the team, and in part, creating the strategy behind the item.
“The very best product managers don’t work on ‘the product,’ but on making their team more effective—which almost always has to do with communication,” Diaz said. “A great PM is, first and foremost, a great communicator.”
To help product managers, Diaz recommends the book “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die,” by Dan Heath and Chip Heath and articles on the website First Round Review.
Diaz has more than a decade of experience in the product management field at companies such as Google and Yahoo! and as an intern with Microsoft and IBM. He has also worked with early-stage companies to help them hone-in on their product vision and mentor junior product managers.
He graduated from Stanford University with a Masters in Education for Communication and a Bachelor of Science for Computer Science.
About the speaker
Alex Diaz has more than a decade of experience in Product Management, with some of the biggest names around on his resume. He recently served as the VP of Product at Jetty, which is a new financial services company for everyday renters. Alex has also worked with several early-stage companies helping to clarify their product vision, improve internal processes, mentor junior PMs, interview candidates and more. He also put in time as the VP of Product Management for Yahoo and served as a Senior Product Manager at Google.