Q&A for product management

Red Canary's Shop Talk offers several perspectives on product management from some top minds in the Toronto area. Read the post at http://www.redcanary.ca/?p=648

The questions:
1. Tell us about the best product you’ve ever encountered? Why do you like it?
2. How do you know a great product manager when you meet one?
3. What’s your favorite interview question?
4. When is the best time for a start-up to hire a product manager?
5. What has been the defining moment in your career?
6. Mistakes. What was your biggest?

My answers:
1. Best product: I like all of Apple's products and I love my Kindle but the best? Right now I'd have to say my Kensington presenter's remote. It has five features—next slide, last slide, turn off the slides, laser pointer plus a memory stick to hold your presentations. It must've been a nightmare getting the developers to NOT add additional features.
2. Great product manager: A great product manager sees patterns. We're not looking for one request, one story, one mistake, one data point; great product managers see the patterns in the aggregate. Like watching the game film on Monday morning, you can see what really happened from an overall perspective.
3. Interview question: What's your favorite Microsoft Office program? Your answer tells me how you organize your thoughts and where you fit in the product management triad. (And no one has yet said Microsoft Project). Learn more about the product management triad.
4. When to hire?: Just before your first failure. A founder has a great idea for a product. He quits his day job and starts a company. Success! (Of course, we don't often think about the 99 others who didn't have success). But then, what's the next product? And the one after that? That's when you need a product manager, to bring market facts and patterns from the world as it is now, not how the founder saw it a decade ago, not how the developers imagine it to be, and not what the sales people can sell once to a deal they're working.
5. Defining moment: I had the joy of working at a really well-run company as my first vendor job. It took me years to realize that they were the anomaly. The book I'll write some day is titled "Everything I thought everybody already knew about running a software company."
6. Mistake: Letting my people teach me to micro-manage them. I promised myself I wouldn't yet they were so used to being second-guessed, they tried to get me to continue my predecessor's bad behavior. It took me a few weeks to figure out that they took my opinion as a mandate. Once I understood, I assured them that I wouldn’t question their decisions if they were grounded in company strategy and market facts.

How would you answer?

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.


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