Qubole former SVP and current Apple Head of Products, Mohit Bhatnagar, shared about how great PMs are polymaths and so much more about the product mindset you need to be in to be a successful product manager. You can view the full presentation above. Otherwise, the highlights are detailed below.

On product managers as polymaths

Move over, Donald Glover. There are new polymaths in town.

“I believe that successful product managers are the new polymaths who shatter the specialization myth on a daily basis. I’ve been fortunate to work with product managers who shine across a whole bunch of different things. These are the people who can sit down and analyze the heck out of the ecosystem in a very complex space such as machine learning and cloud and data analytics. But then, they also have the skills to go at a wireframe level and help design the user interface, and then look into the JIRAs.” 

What is the product mindset of polymathic PMs?

What does it mean to be a polymath as a product manager?

  • They’re curious. It’s OK to have a lot of itches. “Go ahead and be curious. And don’t be just about curious about learning that new technology. It’s okay to be curious about a musical instrument, or that crossword puzzle or a new language or that trip you wanted to do or the food you want to make. I am sure you will find the connections that will create inspiration for you!”
  • Deeply cares about the customers. “Expand the definition of the customers to not be the only people who are paying for your product or the people who are actually using the product. Design your product so that the support folks love it. And the solution architects and the sellers love it. And the channel loves it.”
  • Understands the whole value chain. “There is a value chain that exists which starts from an idea, to creation of the product, to testing of the product, to launching it, through marketing activities, to selling it to a whole myriad of channels, and supporting it and the cycle continues. Understand the whole value chain. Think about your product within the context of that value chain. Understand and know where are the touchpoints that you care about?”
  • Constantly builds new skills – soft & hard. “I’ve been working at it for almost all my life and it’s amazing how many gaps I have. Focus on both soft and hard skills.”
  • Comfortable with discomfort. “Chances are that you will struggle. So be very comfortable with discomfort.”
  • Can do a lot but able to focus on one thing. “Here is the trick that I have found to solve this dilemma. Because you CAN DO a lot,  you have to FOCUS ON ONE thing. Take care of that one thing that you want to work on. Sometimes, that one thing could be done in matter of chunks of one hour. Or sometimes it could be a sprint over a week where you’re focusing on customer interviews or maybe you’re building quantitative models for market sizing. Focus on that one thing so as to take it to the completion.” 

The three key factors of the product mindset that is required for greatness

According to Mohit, there are three elements of the product mindset that can help a PM be great:

  1. Think and act like a CEO!
  2. Invest in being a polymath.
  3. Fail fast!!
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