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A few people suggested topics around getting your first product management job or being new to the field. We asked them to team up and viola – a panel on breaking into Product Management was the result!
Faciliated by our very own MC – Steve Bauer.
Q: How did you get into product management?
- Nadia Gishen became a domain expert in recruitment when working in non-product roles. She initially became interested in moving into product when she joined PageUp where she was able to gain an understanding of what was involved. She’s currently a Product Owner at PageUp.
- Elena Kelareva was a software engineer and wanted a more business focused design role. She started at Google via a graduate internship which enabled her to learn about the Product Manager role and go for internal interviews. She’s currently a product manager at Google.
- Darren Duarte’s background is in Mechanical Engineering and Psychology working with race cars, the aerospace industry & lean manufacturing. To move to his current role, he completed a product management course and emphasised the crossover skills he had from previous roles (hypothesis testing & project management). He’s currently an agile consultant at Elabor8. Darren sees his current role as a stepping stone to a Product Manager role. As a consultant he gets to see how the PM role works with other roles across different organisations.
Q: Why did they choose to go into Product Management and not UX Design.
Darren felt his strengths were more inline with what was needed for Product Management. Part of being a Product Manager is also recognising where others are the experts to create strong teams – this is one of those cases.
Both Elena & Nadia are working with their strengths and like to pair with a UX Designer to work through user flows and journey mapping.
Q: What is required to be successful when applying for Product Manager roles?
It seems that “everyone wants a different thing” and needed skills can range across technical, UX & business. Job descriptions don’t provide enough information about what is actually required.
Elena found it really useful to do practice interviews with Product Managers in Google. However, it was very confusing when she provided the same answer to the same mock question at two different mock interviews and one interviewer liked her answer while the other didn’t.
Darren found that interviewers favoured candidates with a BA skill set.
The panelists recommended using a reverse interview technique (a two way interview) to understand not only what is needed by the interviewer but to gauge how well the role fits you and whether it is a good career move.
Q: How is a Product Owner role different from a Product Manager role?
Panelists observed that organisations may not have both roles.
Product Owner generally makes the final say in Agile story estimations, delivery and resourcing. They general work on the daily story management.
The Product Managers take a more strategic view, forecast product delivery based on understanding customer requirements. They may also be managing a product budget and look at product pricing and market positioning.
There was also general agreement that the Product Manager chooses WHAT gets done while the Product Owner focuses on HOW it gets done.
Some teams may also have Project Managers. There is a crossover between the Project Manager and Product Owner as both focus on HOW. There was a view that typically the Product Managers and Product Owners are closer to the voice of the customer than a Project Manager plus POs may also be familiar with how to conduct evidence based research (e.g. hypothesis testing).
Other things that came up in discussion
- In some organisations the Product Owner role is a combination of a BA and Product Manager
- Some organisations separate the role into Technical Product Manager and Product Manager
- Sometimes there is a Product Strategy Manager role that sits outside the development team.
- Brand Manager is another title that may be used to encompass the role of a Product Manager – it depends on the industry
- Facilitation skills are crucial as a Product Manager or Product Owner as you rarely have line manager control of a project.
- Look at becoming known as a problem solver who facilitates discussions across teams from different disciplines.
- Commercial knowledge is very important.
- The panelists have noticed a shift to needing technical knowledge about how the product is produced. This knowledge doesn’t need to be deep or specific but it needs to be enough to know what is involved as it assists with making commercial decisions.
Looking for more? Our panelists recommended:
What do dev teams need from their product managers? Product and Tech work very closely with each other but not always very well.
Daniel Kinal, Senior Product Manager at MYOB, talked about how we can improve that working relationship.
— floyd fanatic (@salimdotkhan) August 20, 2016
Building trust with your team members is a big one. They need to trust you as well as you trust them. Having that trust helps your team work more effectively and autonomously.
The HR people at Google put a diagram together after doing some investigation into what makes a Google team effective and Daniel suggested that, as product managers, we should look at how we can contribute to all 5 of these elements as, not only do they help build trust, but they also directly help developers build better products more efficiently.
The HR team determined that there are five key dimensions that make successful teams stand out at Google:
- Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
- Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time?
- Structure & clarity: Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear?
- Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
- Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters?
— Rebecca Jackson (@_rebeccajackson) August 20, 2016
A discussion with the wider group talked about how product managers can directly affect each of these areas. We are particularly well suited to helping with the last 3 as we can translate the strategic and tactical reasons for our development efforts to our team and also articulate the customer benefits. That said, it is also incredibly valuable to let developers view customer behaviour (e.g. through viewing UX testing sessions) to see how their handiwork impacts users directly.
— Kelly Jepsen (@krjepsen) August 20, 2016
How can you build trust?
- Share the vision! Tech teams need to know where the product is headed in order to be thinking of the future when developing
- Be transparent! Let them know if there’s an issue. They might be able to help or at least now know why X is like that.
- Connect them to customers! NOTHING is better than seeing someone using the code you wrote to understand what works & what doesn’t. Understanding the customer’s problem before they even write a single line of code will also aid in development.
Daniel Neville, who runs the Prototypes and Popcorn Meetup, ran this session. The topic was perfect to follow Shawn Callahan’s keynote on storytelling.
Daniel reminded us that anyone can sketch – even though people often think they can not. Simple sketches also mean it can be easy to understand.
He recommended the book “Understanding Comics” by Scott McCloud as a great resource. It’s a comic book that explains creating comics.
What does comics have to do with product management? Daniel encouraged us to use a visual narrative framework to illustrate the customer’s interaction with our products.
— Sarah Pan (@sarahpannz) August 20, 2016
We talked about the 6 types of comic narrative grammar (framing) from the “Understanding Comics” (below). Referencing those 6, Daniel encouraged us to use a narrative structure to sketch out our own product stories or the customer journey map scenarios.
If visual iconography is the vocabulary of comics closure [framing] is its grammar
- Moment to moment – illustrating specific emotional element e.g. as the customer moves through ordering a product.
- Action to action – specific touchpoints with the actions involved
- Subject to subject – different actors in a transaction e.g. B2B2C
- Scene to scene – showing the passage of time and different stages in a journey map
- Aspect to aspect – focusing on different perspectives withing a scene e.g. what is in the customers environment when they are completing a transaction, the types of distractions that may exist.
It was great to see some of the ideas that emerged out of this quick introduction to the principles of comics and narrative grammar.
— Zinzi Bianca (@zinzibianca) August 20, 2016
Craig Rees has been in digital product management since early 2000. Working across retail, media, technology and financial services sectors in both Europe and Asia. Originally from the UK but now based in Australia he has been involved with organisations such as BBC, Sensis, Atlassian, SKY, Vodafone and BCG Digital Ventures (A division of the Boston Consulting Group) where he has built up and led teams that have been at the forefront of modern product development and innovation practices including agile, lean and design thinking.
His belief is that organisational agility will be the difference between the companies that succeed and those that don’t. His driving passion is that there has to be a better way, to bring new products to market, to build software platforms and to innovate beyond the constraints of your organisation whoever they may be or what they may do.
Craig has recently taken on the role of Chief Product Officer at Unlockd a startup in the adtech space based in Melbourne, New York and London.
We will be running a speaker workshop on the 20th of July to share more info about what ProductCamp is all about, give you insight and tips about our audience and provide some prep tips and tools for presenting and facilitating.
Our fellow ProductCamp organiser Adrienne Tan from Brainmates will take you through the session. Adrienne is the co-founder of Brainmates, a Product Management training and consulting practice. She has been spruiking Product Management since 2004. Finally, companies have heard her message and are now realising that Product Management is a vital function in any healthy business. In her spare time, she keeps a number of loyal clients happy by helping them develop robust Product Management processes, solid product strategies and usable roadmaps. Her favourite project has been working on the Gov.au alpha prototoype and making a video (with help from a video dude) for Malcolm Turnbull.
Thanks to Level3 and Stax for hosting.
Stax shines a light on everything enterprises need to know to be confident in cloud by taking out the guesswork and providing visibility, automated risk assessments, compliance and maturity, and recommendations for achieving best practice.
Level 3 is all about bringing the creativity back to technology, by generating conversation within the tech community and facilitating introductions between start-ups and enterprises. At Level 3, ideas come to life.
We’re excited to announce Shawn Callahan as a Product Camp keynote this August!
Shawn will talk about how to build your ability to share stories to influence your stakeholders. This will be a practical session where you will learn some new skills to find and tell effective oral stories.
He helps leaders find and tell the story of their strategy, change, their company & values – and also the story of their product or service.
Anecdote works with companies such as Mars, Danone, Allianz, SAP, Tesco and Shell and delivers training for leaders in 20 countries and in 6 languages. Shawn has been working with organisational stories for close on 20 years and is regarded as a world leader in his field.
A couple people at this year’s Product Camp Melbourne suggested topics around getting into product management, getting hired into their first product management job and wanting to know more about the role. We combined them all into one session, got a few people to be on the panel (which morphed into a round table discussion) and away we went.
One of the attendees, Darren Duarte, has provided the following session notes:
A morning round-table session had a great turnout from people wanting to get into Product Management and those wishing to share their experiences. It was a natural two way conversation from both perspectives.
Getting into the role – perspective from someone who has hired:
The first step in the recruitment process – getting through HR or a recruitment consultant – is the most difficult. To have the best chance of getting through this 1st stage, your resume & cover letter should focus on the transferable skills & experiences which are similar to Product Management responsibilities. Your resume should also tell the reader what value you can bring.
Building your network through events like Product Camp and Product Anonymous makes it easier through this first stage. It also shows you are interested in learning.
Many hiring managers know that Product Managers come from diverse backgrounds and that’s ok (e.g. Coding, Business, Science, Project Management, Engineering, etc.). Experiences doesn’t necessarily need to come from the same industry.
Words of wisdom from the group:
One person was previously a Project Manager who identified gaps in tasks that needed to be done in the organisation. They naturally went ahead & completed those tasks. It was only later that they realised they were doing a Product Management role. Having worked in the organisation and previously done the work meant becoming a ‘product manager’ didn’t feel to different.
Maybe you have identified the need for a Product Manager in your organisation? If so, have a conversation with management about the value the product manager role brings to the organisation. When structuring a new Product Management position in an organisation, it should be at the right level of influence to support the products.
Thanks to Amanda Ralph, Chris Duncan, Marie Phillips, Liz Blink and all others who contributed to the conversation.
It’s hard to believe the 6th annual Product Camp Melbourne was 2 weeks ago!
After months of organisation, the day happens in a flash & then a flurry of getting wrap-up posts together (THIS never happens as quickly as we hope!).
Thanks all who attended! And thanks for your great feedback! Many of you said you thought this one was the best yet so THANK YOU for making it a great day!
Caffeined up and ready to talk product stuffs #pcampmelb
— Tim Newbold (@timnwbld) August 21, 2015
— Elizabeth Ebeli (@ElizabethEbeli) August 21, 2015
Huge turn out at #pcampmelb It’s gonna be an awesome day 🙂
— Laura Cardinal (@LauraCardinalAu) August 21, 2015
— Jock Busuttil (@jockbu) August 21, 2015
Product Camp is an un-conference so all talks are participant lead & driven with the exception of the keynotes. Before the day, we ask those interested in leading a topic to add their idea to the Camp Uservoice. You can still add topics right up to the last second before voting begins though. This year we had a range – some great prepared presentations as well as round table discussions on a specific topic.
Everyone who puts up a topic idea, gives a explanation & then the voting begins.
— Product Camp Melb (@pcampmelb) August 22, 2015
— Rebecca Jackson (@_rebeccajackson) August 22, 2015
Something we’ve been doing the last few years is a speed networking session. This gives you the chance to meet several people really quickly – and allows Liz to have a reason to stand on a table and have a whistle 🙂
Product Camp Talks
Whether you missed the day or want to revisit some of the talks, we’ve pulled together the following notes:
- Keynote: Megan Fisher – Transformation
- Keynote: Amanda Ralph – Product Finance
- Morning sessions on roadmaps, explaining your product & managing people
- Morning sessions on Product Mgr or Product Owner, Service design thinking & #prodmgmt newbies
- Afternoon sessions on JBTD, Customer feedback & (bad) Business cases
- Afternoon session with Georgina Laidlaw – Narrative UX
- Storify – catch up on all the tweets from the day (Thanks Rebecca!)
- Rebecca Jackson’s post about the day
- Photos from camp on Flickr
- Davidson ITCom
- Design100 App awards
- Jock Busuttil provided copies of The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management
- Sportsbet crew – who were amazing before the event and all during the day looking after us all – Sarah and Adam, Geoff + crew
- Adrienne from Brainmates – who locks in the sponsors and just in general provides wonderful energy and support in the preparation process
- Jen – she might be in China, but gets the tweets out there, helps with the planning, writes all the copy and flys in especially to attend the day!
- Rebecca Jackson – for wonderful sketches and social account support
- Elizabeth Chow & Darren Duarte for helping with set-up on the day. Thanks for your cheery morning assistance
- Nadia is a star for all her fabulous help with the pre-event set-up and for greeting everyone as they arrived on Saturday
- Steve for the pre-event set-up, including ensuring keynote presentations were ready to go + excellent MC skills & technical checks :-)/li>
- Keynoters – Megan + Amanda – superstars. thank you
- Presenters – to all of you that volunteered a topic and those who presented on the day and made it a delightful day for your community. THANK YOU!
If you’ve posted about Product Camp Melbourne, let us know & we’ll link to you.
A huge thanks to our sponsors! Without them, the day would never happen (or we’d get very hungry and probably be in a park somewhere trying to organise with bullhorns).
Thanks so much for your contributions, which put big smiles on the faces of those who were lucky enough to be drawn from the jar:-)
— Rebecca Jackson (@_rebeccajackson) August 21, 2015
All of us involved in organising camp are volunteering. We’d like to send a HUGE thanks to the folks who helped out during the day & the rest of the year! (ed. note from Liz: if your name isn’t here, it isn’t because I didn’t appreciate your efforts, I just have early onset dementia!! I still heart you.)
— Brainmates (@brainmates) August 22, 2015
After Camp Drinks
Thanks Sportsbet for not only hosting camp but also sponsoring the drinks afterward!
Want more product management community?
Attend a Product Anonymous session! Join us once a month for product management goodness and a beverage. Up next is a discussion on scaling your product team (or hiring the 1st product manager). RSVP for September’s session. Attend Leading the Product, a day long product management conference on October 15th. Your intrepid organisers & volunteers…
— Laura Cardinal (@LauraCardinalAu) August 22, 2015
We started the day with a keynote from Megan Fisher from Sensis talking about her move from product management to corporate transformation.
Megan wasn’t sure this role was for her when she was approached about it. She was product, not transformation! It’s only after she started getting into it that she realised transformation is just a big scale product management role.
- Develop your Principles
- Sponsorship & Ownership
- Test & Learn
- Create the right decision making framework
- Do Showcases
Develop your Principles
Megan presented the principles they have been using in their transformation project. These need to be appropriate to your business so develop your own list for your transformation or product management area. These agreed principles will help not only yourself guide what should end up on your roadmap or backlog, but will assist others in knowing what to focus on when you aren’t able to be in every discussion. In their case, along with test & learn, easy upgrade path, success milestones, and DIY focus, being able to simplify the product, process and technology were key.
Sponsorship & Ownership
Have a sponsor that suits the change. You need someone who’s advocating the change. As a product manager you are always a change advocate, but you need support beyond just yourself. Your line manager might not be the right person for doing this. Make sure your stakeholders are involved early and involved in creating the requirements. They should also have accountability.
Test and Learn
While you should take the time to try to get it right – be aware that won’t always be the case – especially the first time. Building a test & learn approach from the beginning is a great way to approach this. Having a user group (internal or external) so you can talk with users is recommended. This might seem obvious when using agile practices in the product development world, however we often forget to plan time to go back and apply the learnings! If every iteration, next release plan is booked up before you’ve gotten feedback from the previous release then you aren’t really using a test and learn approach.
Enjoy the transformation. Don’t run away because as a product person, this is where you really get to learn
Understand when your company is comfortable with making decisions – including how much analysis is needed and how much discussion is required. Understanding how to make better decisions is also something to consider and that can include who needs to be involved as well as how to get the information out there that a decision has been made (Yammer? Forums?).
Showcases are great for many reasons – they show what you already delivered, they create buy-in & engagement and help everyone be transparent with both mistakes and success. Showcases can also help people get accustomed to change. Megan found this was a great way of getting involvement. Their showcases involved up to 100 people for 3-5 hours. They would start in a big group & then have smaller break out sessions. Remember – we product people can see the future for our product but not everyone can. Some of our audience isn’t used to looking into the future so showcases can help them begin to see & make adjustments. In Megan’s case the showcase would start with an intro to the whole forum & then breakout into small groups. The key strategy in creating engagement was to get the business owner stream leads and the future users of the new functionality to do the talking. Not just the “product” people. These smaller sessions were no more than 30m for each topic demo and no more than 20 people in the group so that people could see and felt able to ask questions.
Division btwn decision makers and those providing info. Comittee decision never good. Understand the escalation path.