Laura Burkhauser discusses her top tips for product managers. Laura is the director of consumer products for the popular online designer dress and accessory rental company, Rent the Runway. She is also an integral part of the 2020 Product Awards.

Recently, she discussed her role as a member of Products That Count’s Awards Advisory Board. She also provides insight and tips about being a great product manager.

Chaos Is Not Always A Negative

As product managers, a lot of the time the first iteration of thought is a concrete idea of what we want to build. However, we should really spend some time in the problem-space and let things get chaotic. I know as product managers, we usually don’t want chaos. We’re always trying to turn chaos into order and into a clear set of acceptance criteria.

I think in this early stage, it’s important to just be open that your first idea could be far away from the thing that you actually want to build.

From Management Consultant to Product Manager

As a Management Consultant, I built 90-page PowerPoint decks, incredibly fulfilling work. I was asked to work on a new type of project. The hypothesis was that there might be an opportunity to reach a broader audience of executive leaders who couldn’t engage with us in a traditional way.

Maybe we could put together our intellectual property in a way that anyone could access an online learning platform. I put together a deck about what the strategy for this could be.

When I was doing this, I started to read a lot about lean startup and going from zero to one and design thinking and became enamored of it. When I was finished, I came back and said, “OK, here’s a strategy for how we could build this.” 

I think we could start with something lean, do a soft launch, get some feedback from friendly faces, and how we want to build this. This was approved even though it was outside the DNA of what our consultant firm traditionally did.

We launched a scrappy version of what this could look like and got incredible feedback. I put my email address at the end of the YouTube videos that I made and people started emailing me. Customers who had found this video on the Internet were coming to me. They were saying, “Hey, this was helpful. I have a question about this. Have you thought about developing this?”

They were requesting features and critiquing our work. I just became addicted to it. After that first round of customer feedback, I knew I could never go back to a pure strategy role.

I ended up going to business school to learn about building things on the Internet. I wanted to make sure that is what I did all of the time. 

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Fmr Rent The Runway Product Director on The 2020 Product Awards and Product Insights (Part 2)

There are a few key traits that Laura Burkhauser, Fmr Rent the Runway Product Director, tends to look for in a great product manager.

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