Products That Count: Experian fmr Product Lead
Every month, Products That Count will bring you stories from each of our crew members across the country. Today, we’re excited to introduce you to Experian fmr Product Lead and current founder of a startup in stealth mode – Mark C. Pydynowski – who is one of our featured podcast hosts.
Introduce yourself to the Products That Count network – tell us who you are and what you’re up to as a product leader?
My name is Mark C. Pydynowski – and I recently left my product role at Experian, returned to founder life and am building a startup in the job search space. My fundamental hypothesis has two parts: (1) you want meaningful work and (2) you were not born to do a job search. I believe there is a gap between one’s actual capabilities and their ability to communicate their story, which results in them getting hired for a job that is below their capabilities. I think there is value in closing the gap. Recently, I left Experian where I was the Senior Director of Product. Specifically, we helped over 300 businesses protect their 60 million customers by building enterprise-level identity, credit, and data breach SaaS products in a white-label branded format.
How did you get involved with Products That Count?
First, I joined the podcast program as a host because I enjoy learning about product management as a craft. Just like the culinary arts or wood-working, our work as product managers is its own craft and I enjoy learning about its finer points. Furthermore, I love interviewing people. Over the past decade, I’ve interviewed over 1,200 users as a PM – and podcasting is a fun challenge in continuing to interview people.
Finally, I enjoy being a host – whether it’s a charity’s annual dinner or welcoming a new guest on the podcast. I host thematic-based series that focus on specific areas of product management. For example, my first series focused on the product life cycle. Specifically, the interviews range from problem validation to building prototypes to scaling products at various stages. My current series is Tech du Jour, which features guests who are at the forefront of AI/ML. Specifically, the episodes cover its present-day hype and potential – along with insights into where it’s going next.
In your opinion, what is the definition of a great product?
To me, there are three key characteristics of great products:
- It’s such a great product that it doesn’t need a lot of marketing. In short, the product almost sells itself. For example, I admire most of Atlassian’s products because they don’t have a traditional sales team and operate with minimal marketing. However, they’ve made it so easy to sign up with minimal friction during the trial period. As a result, they’re able to bring new customers into the mix and also incentivize their users to refer new customers along the way. Jira has an email notification spam problem, but that is a discussion for another day.
- The product solves a very clear problem. We all know the classic painkiller vs. vitamin analogy. While there are many great products that provide value on both fronts, I personally have an affinity for “painkiller” products.
- It anticipates the needs and wants of a user. I had a part-time job at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in college and the training stressed anticipating the needs of a guest. I think the same is true of great products. An example is AirBnB when planning a group trip – the way you can create a list of favorites, share the list, and then get thumbs up or down feedback from your friends is wonderfully intuitive. Simply put, you get the feeling that the product knows what you want to do next.
From your perspective, what makes a great product manager?
Regardless of the industry or product maturity, I think great product managers deeply understand their users and the user’s job to be done. Great PMs fight to make the user everyone’s number one priority
In addition, I think great product managers know how to use their personal intuition to make a decision without personal bias. Specifically, it’s difficult for anyone to have enough self-awareness to diagnose their own biases. In the case of making decisions as a PM, the great ones are able to compartmentalize these views and make a more balanced decision even when it conflicts with their personal bias.
What are some of your favorite resources – blogs/podcasts/books/etc.?
When it comes to PM resources, I tend to look at resources that go beyond working in product. Here are a few:
Principles (Ray Dalio)
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Robert Cialdini)
Stratechery (Ben Thompson)
Seeking Wisdom – from Darwin to Munger
Both Sides of the Table (Mark Suster)
AVC (Fred Wilson)