While having a broad range of skills is important for product managers, we all need to find an area of expertise that we can “own.” The question becomes – which one do you choose? Most importantly, how does your T-shaped profile affect where you choose to build depth? To provide context, there’s a quote from Elon Musk that sums it up well.
It is important to view knowledge as some sort of a semantic tree – make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on.
Along these lines, I’m going to take you back to college for a moment. Do you remember studying the Socratic Method? This is a model that Socrates developed to get at the truth within an argument. Said differently, it’s all about figuring out the source for disagreement or ambiguity.
From a leadership perspective, this is a critical skill that allows you to empathize with your own team and customers alike. As a result, you’re able to understand your product much more deeply from a variety of angles and come up with informed solutions.
To give you an example from my time at Vimeo, I decided to take the lead on launching Vimeo Live. Prior to starting the project, I had never worked with live video before. So, I kicked off the project by talking to experts at Twitch. My colleagues’ T-shaped skills were completely different than mine.
As a result, I added depth to my own skill set by leveraging the T-shaped strengths and skills of others. On another note, you can also add depth by acquiring other companies! In the case of Vimeo Live, we acquired Livestream to ensure that we used the best technology in our product.
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About the speaker
Christophe is the Chief Product Officer at Skillshare - where he runs product, design and engineering. Prior to joining Skillshare, Christophe was GM & Head of Product at Vimeo, where he led the product vision for the overall brand experience and development for Vimeo’s creator platform tools. In addition, Christophe has held product roles at eBay, Fan.TV, Adap.tv and iPreo.