Many organizations don’t start with a culture of product management. Sometimes there are unclear definitions of what it actually takes to manage products. How can PMs bring the fluidity of product processes to their companies? In this episode, Product Talk host and ALTR Product Lead, Neha Shah, interviews Metron Aviation Product Leader Marcus Lowther to discuss what it takes to transition to a product management culture in an established industry.

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On Product Management in the Aviation Industry

Marcus became interested in aviation while in middle school. He saw how slow the process was to create great products. He wanted to help fix it by creating a product management culture within the aviation industry.

“The constant challenge with aviation is there’s a chance that you’re going to have an accident. It’s just part of something that we’ve unfortunately come to accept. But, on a per-trip basis, aviation is almost 100 times safer in the number of fatalities per accident than ground transportation.

This is by design. Crashes, whether fatal or not, get lots of press, and people react. It’s scary. They are in a giant tube 1000s of feet in the air, and you don’t want anything to go wrong. So, the hardest part about aviation is that you have that background of safety is paramount. Building features on top of that takes longer. You have to have a little bit more checks in place. The air traffic control side can’t be sacrificed for the air traffic management side.

There’s a process that people call collaborative decision-making. Everyone in the room gets involved. Whether it’s airports, airlines, the government, the vendors, and anyone else that has a stake in the process.

On Product Management vs. Project Management

Within the aviation industry, there are a lot of projects where companies place bids to do something for the government or another industry. This is different from product builds. Marcus discussed the difference between the two, and how the industry is trying to shift to more product-focused.

“I see the difference as the product manager really sets the vision for where something is going. You may or may not have a project come along that aligns with that, and you have the flexibility.

[Product processes is] something that we struggle with day-to-day, and we’re in the process of formally transitioning to a product company. This means DevOps, daily releases, and just a lot more fluidity in how we release our products. The balance between product and project comes from the input on how those requirements for what you’re building get set from a product standpoint. If you influence the product process early on, you can avoid problems later.”

On Representation and Diversity In Tech

Marcus and host Neha also discussed diversity in tech. The industry has been called out more recently for not having wholesome, diverse representation.

“The biggest thing is to make it clear that you’re knowledgeable and you belong. It took me a little while to feel like that was something I could live up to. I needed to own it, and say ‘I’m here, I’m just as qualified, if not more qualified than other people in the room.’

About the speaker
Marcus Lowther Metron Aviation, Senior Analyst and Product Manager Member
About the host
Neha Shah Kaboo, Founder

My experience covers the trifecta of B2B Product Management, Sales, and Marketing. I also co-founded a B2C startup focused on family and education technology. I believe technology can be a creative and powerful driving force for change, and am passionate about building products that improve every day experiences.

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