What Makes A Great Product Manager
We asked the product executives, that drive our networks product conversation, what they think makes a great product manager. Here is what they had to say.
GetUpside CEO Alex Kinnier: “Curiosity, ownership, humility and selflessness.”
Modern Fertility CEO Afton Vechery: “I think it’s really being able to put yourself in the shoes of many different types of users and see the world through their eyes. In a close second it’s being really an analytical thinker through all of those decisions, and having the balance between the two. Ultimately I think that creates the right gut instincts about the way that you should be solving the million decisions you have to make every day to keep the product on track.”
Pivotal Labs fmr Product Lead Michael Fisher: “I think another big thing that PM’s have to do is be able to think in terms of big picture strategy, and then more longterm. Then also think in terms of tactics. Being able to break down big ambitious goals, but figure out what can we be doing today or this week to help get us closer to those goals. So, being able to think of the big picture, and being able to break that down and think in terms of basically executing a vision. Then aligning on the “why”. I think a lot of leaders or PMs kind of miss out on this- make sure there’s alignment on the “why” we’re doing this. ”
Instagram Product Lead Alex Plutzer: “The two biggest things are empathy and being able to put yourself in other people’s shoes – including your team members. You need to understand what motivates people just like your end users. Put yourself in their shoes and feel their pain- understand what is really bugging them. These are the best people to solve the problem or at least articulate the problem they have. The second is communication. If you have this idea in your head that you can’t get it out there, socialize it, and articulate it -then you don’t have the risk of being misinterpreted.”
SpotHero Product Lead Jenny Wanger: “I think the most important thing that a product manager needs to be able to do is really get to the root of problems. Focus on being really good at that. Understand the issues that you’re trying to solve, not just at a superficial level, but deep down as you possibly can. We were talking earlier about hiring associate product managers, and that was the skill that we actually were hiring for more than anything else- can they understand a problem quickly and empathize well so that they can get to the heart of it fast and come up with a solution as a result.”
Google Product Lead Dacheng Zhao: “Do not just look at the current story, but look at the users. look at their experiences, and look at their environment. How are they coming to this product, what are they doing, and talk to them.”
Venmo Product Lead Ashley Phillips: “I think great PM’s need to have incredible communication skills. I think great PM’s need to have an appetite for problem solving and be willing to dig into the details- just do what needs to be done. You’re not going to be a great PM if you come in and say things like that’s not my job or I’m above that in some way. You also have to be credible. You need to be trustworthy and I think that’s something you build by being a really good communicator. Everyone has to trust you. Your engineers have to trust you. Your leadership team has to trust you. Your users have to trust you. You have to build a product that the users know they can trust.”
“I think really owning it. So you are the person who owns the product in the end.People should be looking at you as the person who ultimately is responsible for the experience of the customer and for everything that that product is from top to bottom.”
Hinge CPO Tim MacGougan: “We need to be a generalist within our own jurisdictions. You have to know enough about everybody really well. Contribute to the product by being a collaborator and not a requester. You need to be able to help the engineers- discuss what the appropriate architecture for this new feature might be. And obviously they’re going to know a lot more about that than you, but you should be a voice in that discussion because certainly you have a perspective to it.
Ovia Co-Founder Gina Nebesar: “Being incredibly comfortable with the unknown, and being able to thrive in situations or atmospheres where you will not know the answer, and you won’t know the answer until you actually launch that product or get it out there. I also think it’s somebody who truly cares about their users and will absolutely invest the time to understand their users and their problems to the nth degree. We live for our user, but you need to fight for them too.”
Acorns Product Director Paige Conrad: “You have to have vision. You have to be able to tell a story. You have to build really strong relationships. You have to be able to figure out what’s gonna be valuable to your customers. You have to be able to understand what’s going to be compelling to them. You have to be able to inspire people to want to build that thing with you. You know ultimately things are going to get tough and you have to have trust, and able to have people to want to follow you when things are really hard. They need to trust that you’re going to help them figure it out. So I think it all comes back to storytelling and really strong relationships.”