WHY PRODUCT MANAGEMENT IS IMPORTANT
Product management is an organizational function that guides every step of a product’s lifecycle — from development to positioning and pricing — by focusing on the product and its customers first and foremost. To build the best possible product, product managers advocate for customers within the organization and make sure the voice of the market is heard and heeded.
Without a Product Manger, designs often reflect the technical knowledge of an engineer, the primary features built just to upsell rather than solve problems and no one knowing if the product is being used like expected.
The first website I wrote I used Notepad in 1999 and built the layout with tables. Those sites were as basic as they come but it gave me a platform unlike any other. When I look back on it now, while the technology has changed, the core has remained exactly the same: communication of vision.
In my time as a Product Manager I have come to realize that Product Management is Psychology. Our goal is to understand the minds of our customers, of our engineers, of our leadership team, of our marketing team and tie all those threads together towards a single vision.
This may take many forms:
Risk assessments - How do I communicate risk to leadership in a way they will listen
Design Sprints - How do I try to match my product’s look and feel to a customer’s intuition
Customer Journey Mapping - How do I demonstrate the customer’s state of mind when trying to do something in our product
Backlog refinement - As a customer what thing to fix or update is the most importa
WHY I DO IT
Like many Product Managers, I did not go to school for this role and when I started in Tech in 2010, it was not even a title I had heard of. I went through the roles of Customer Support, Brand Advisor, Account Manager, Account Optimizer and Insight Analyst to get here.
What I learned along the way built out my toolset of empathy. Do I know what it is like to try to talk to angry customers when their website is down? Yes I do. Do I know what it is like when a 300k custom software project has gotten delayed and scope reduced and the customer contact is hopping mad? Yes I do. Do I know what it is like to spend weeks crunching through data trying to understand that the metrics don’t make sense because the data is itself not correct? Sure do.
As a Product Manager you work with a broad set of teammates, each one under the pressure of their job requirements, their boss, their goals. Understanding what requests are actually possible is the only way to succeed.
So why do I do it? Because it is like conducting a symphony while falling backwards through time. It is immensely complicated and when it works, when customers are delighted, the team is proud of what they have done and Leadership gets why what you are doing is important, it is immensely gratifying. Bring a little of the right thing to your world.
In my exploration of the Product Manager role I feel like I have just started to touch on all the potential of the role. Here are a couple of interesting tools or methods:
Design Sprints - Week-long intensive processes to bring a team together to understand the problem, create a prototype and test them with users.
Early Access - Give a select group of customers an early taste for a feature, allow them to give you feedback as you see how it handles actual data and customer use.
User Analytics - Use whatever method you are most comfortable with, Google Analytics, Pendo, whatever, but taking your hypothesis (“Feature A is the most important and interesting thing to our customers”) and validate if that is actually true.
Team Cross Training - It is easy as a Product Manager to get sucked into training every new hire, instead develop specific people in the sales units that you train to help train others and act as a department Subject Matter Expert (SME)
Mission Statement - Create a mission statement that everyone from Support, Engineering, Sales, Customer Success can agree to and tie every feature to how it addresses this problem. Example of a mission statement template from the book, Radical Product Thinking:
Today, when [identified group] want to [desired outcome], they have to [current solution]. We envision a world where [shortcomings resolved]. We are bringing this world about through [basic technology/approach].
SENIOR PRODUCT MANAGER
Navigate360/ Social Sentinel
Senior Product Manager 2020 - Present
Lead product discovery, finding product-market fit and lead a launch strategy with a new cyber safety product
Work closely with key stakeholders to understand market needs, opportunity, and product features
Facilitate cross-functional team conversations to solve complex problems
Prioritize product features, manage roadmap including KPIs
Connect with end-users to conduct and lead interviews
Insight Analyst 2018-2020
Extracted and analyzed patterns in Social Media for language and patterns to prevent harmful acts
Understand the capabilities and limitations of 3rd party API and integrations
Explored cutting-edge advances in Natural Language Process Machine Learning
Collaborated with the Product Team and Data Science Teams to understand the needs of vulnerable communities
Built analytical reporting with Python and SQL to identify dependencies and risk
DATA INNOVATION FELLOW
VT Center for Geographic Information
Created and organized the first geospatial and data science conference
Collaborated on the VCGI website redesign project
Coordinated with HackVT to use Vermont Open Data
Gave geospatial data presentations at Code Camp & Burlington Data Scientist Meetups
CLIENT EXPERIENCE MANAGER
Identified analytics and methods for churn
Created accurate reporting on MRR and churn
Collaborated with teams on developing predictive A.I.
Collaborated with Project Managers to manage custom development projects
Identified new solutions for program growth and enhancements
Educated clients on best practices and processes to streamline future endeavors
Analyzed data and created reports for Strategic Accounts to drive increased efficiency and growth