Clip from Audiobook Cracking the PM Interview

Profile photo for Jim Jackson
Not Yet Rated


A sample from the audiobook Cracking the PM Interview written by Gayle Laakmann McDowell that I narrated in 2021.

Vocal Characteristics



Voice Age

Middle Aged (35-54)


North American (General) North American (US General American - GenAM) North American (US Mid-Atlantic) North American (US Midwest- Chicago, Great Lakes)


Note: Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and may contain errors.
the product manager role. Chapter two. What is a p. m? A. P. M is responsible for making sure that a team ships a great product. Some people will say that the product manager sometimes called the program manager or project manager is like a mini ceo of their product. That's accurate in some ways. Since A PM takes holistic responsibility for the product from the little details to the big picture, the PM needs to set vision and strategy. The PM defines success and makes decisions, but in one of the most important ways the description of product manager as Ceo misses the boat. Product managers don't have direct authority over the people on their team. As a PM you'll need to learn to lead your team without authority influencing them with your vision and research. Product managers are highly respected at most companies but not more so than engineers. If you show up and start bossing people around, you'll probably find it hard to get things done after all engineers are the ones actually building the product, you need them on your side. One reason product management is such an appealing career is you get to sit at the intersection of technology business and design. You get to wear many hats and learn multiple points of view. As a product manager, you'll be the advocate for the consumer, you'll learn their needs and translate those needs into product goals and features. Then you'll make sure those features are built in a cohesive, well designed way that actually solves the customer's needs, you'll focus on everything from the big picture to the small details. One day you might brainstorm the three year vision for your team. Well the next day you work through the details of the buttons in a dialogue. Product management is a highly collaborative role. The product manager usually serves as a main liaison between the engineering's and other roles such as design, quality assurance, user research, data analysts, marketing sales, customer support, business development, legal content writers, other engineering teams and the executive team. It's usually the job of the product manager to identify times when one of those teams should be brought in and to fill in for them if they don't exist functions of a P. M. The day to day work of a product manager varies over the course of the product life cycle. At the beginning you'll be figuring out what to build in the middle, you'll help the team make progress at the end, you'll be preparing for the launch while the product life cycle varies by company and sometimes even by team, it usually follows a general pattern of research and plan, design, implement and test and release. Of course, these frequently overlap and feed back into each other. Some companies or teams split the product manager role across to people the more business focused person and the more engineering focused person. When companies make this split, they call the engineering focused person. The technical program manager or the Technical product manager TPM and they call the business focused person. The product manager PM. When a team has a TPM and a P. M. The product manager focuses on research and planning and release while the Technical Product manager is more focused on design and implement and test. For example, the product manager will research the market and define the requirements. The TPM will work with the PM to translate those requirements into the specific feature work required and then facilitate the engineering team as they build it. Research and planning all products and features start with research and planning. This is the time when the PM is starting to think about what to build next. The next idea may come from a customer request, competitive analysis, new technology, user research, the sales or marketing teams brainstorming or the big vision for the product depending on the scope of the role. A big part of the product manager's job in this phase is creating or proposing a road map. This means figuring out a cohesive long term plan for the team. The PM talks to all possible sources to create a large list of potential features or development work then based on factors like customer needs, the competitive landscape business needs and the team's expertise. He or she prioritizes the features and scenarios. Some companies such as Microsoft, Apple and amazon have a top down approval process where executives and directors get involved very early. Other companies such as google facebook and many startups have a more bottom up approach where the PM focuses on winning over the engineers. Once he or she has chosen a feature set, the product manager becomes the expert on them. He or she will think deeply about the problems he or she is trying to solve and the goals of the features in the coming phases, everyone on the team will have questions including why are we working on this and the PM will need to have answers. This is also the time when the PM starts defining success. He or she will envision what the world looks like if the team is successful. Many companies use the model of objectives and key results. Okay. Rs to communicate the most important goals of the team in this model. The PM works with a team to come up with measurable results that it can commit to design. Once the PM has formed agreement on what the team is going to build, it's time to design the product and features. Product design does not just mean user interface uI design or drawing out what the product will look like. Product design is defining the features and functionality of the product. The PM's role in product design very substantially between companies and teams on some teams, especially shipped software as opposed to online software teams at Microsoft, The PM will write out a detailed functional specifications aspect that includes things like goals, use cases, requirements, wire frames bullet points describing every possible state of the feature, internationalization security. The spec will then spend weeks being inspected, reviewed and iterated on by developers testers and other PMS on these teams. The PM is expected to make every user facing decision. Other teams have much looser specs and a more rapid design process. The PM might sit down with an interaction designer chat about the goals, brainstorm on a white board and then iterate by giving feedback on the designer's mock ups when the marks are ready, the PM might send them to the engineers with just a few sentences in an email on these teams. The engineers will generally make easy product decisions as they come up and call the PM over to ask about the more difficult ones. And for some teams, especially at Apple, the design is done mostly by a dedicated design team with minimal input from the PM on those teams, the PM might focus more on project management and fighting fires as they come up. Since the product managers role in product design can vary so much across teams, it's a great thing to ask about during your interview. Ask about who you'll be working with on your core and extended team, find out how much of your time will be spent writing specs and how much you'll be working with designers learn where the balance is between PMS designers and engineers in making product decisions, implement and test a PM's work isn't done once engineers start coding during the implementation stage. The product manager keeps track of how the project is going and makes adjustments during implementation. One of the most important parts of the job is helping engineers work efficiently. The product manager will check in regularly with his team and learn how things are going. Often an engineer will be blocked because she's waiting for work from another team. In this case the PM will need to find other tasks for the engineer and in the meantime work with the other team to get the work finished more promptly. Sometimes implementation of a feature will turn out to be harder than anticipated and the PM will look for ways to change the feature to make it easier to implement. If an engineer is running behind schedule, the product manager can review the schedule, work carefully and cut lower priority work during implementation. The product manager will also start gathering feedback and reporting bugs on the early versions of the product. Sometimes a feature that looked good during the design phase will not work as well as expected. Once it's used in the real world to find problems like this, teams will do usability studies, run experiments and do internal dog food. Dog food in comes from the term eat your own dog food and simply means using your own product yourself. For example, people at Microsoft run early versions of the next Windows release on their computers every day. Facebook employees use facebook groups to communicate. Sometimes teams need to be more creative to find ways to use their own products. For example, google gives employees an adwords budget and encourages people to create advertising campaigns to make sure they get enough dog food NG. Another way to find out if a product will work before it's launched is through usability studies. In a usability study, participants try out early prototypes of a new product or feature. Usually the participants are given a scenario or goal and then they'll try to use the prototype to accomplish the goal. Larger companies usually have a user research who develops and runs the study with some input from the product manager at smaller companies. The PM might run the studies in both cases by watching a handful of studies. PMS can see where people struggle and identify key usability issues While dog food NG and usability studies are great for getting qualitative feedback running experiments is a way to get quantitative feedback when you have online software. In an experiment, the new feature is turned on for a percentage of users, the experiment group while the rest of the users, the control group keep using the product without the new feature for online software, it's common for all new features to be launched gradually. As an experiment In an experiment, you can measure specific metrics for the new feature such as how many people click a new button you added as well as overall success metrics like user engagement retention and revenue by comparing the success metrics between the experiment and control groups, You can tell how successful the new feature is as feedback comes in through dog fuding usability studies and experiments. The PM identifies the most important issues and iterate on the feature design to find better solutions. Prioritization is one of the product managers most important functions at this point. If the team were to fix every bug and build every new feature idea, the product would never launch, the PM needs to consider all the new requests and decide if they should be prioritized for the current release or punted to a later time release. When the development process is finished, the product manager needs to make sure the launch goes smoothly. The launch process varies from team to team, but usually involves things like running through a launch checklist. There might be final approvals from key stakeholders like legal or coordination steps with teams like marketing and operations, making sure that the teams who will support the product going forward are prepared for a web product. This might be the customer service team for hardware product. It could be the manufacturing team for a service based product. It could be the operations team preparing for all the things that could go wrong as the release nears urgent issues inevitably pop up and the PM thinks on his or her feet to fight the fires after a successful launch. The PM usually announces the launch to the rest of the company celebrates with the team and then prepares to do it all over again. Depending on the team. The PM might continue to support the product after the launch, gathering metrics and iterating on user feedback or the product might be handed over to another team for operations and maintenance. How the type of product affects the PM job, The actual work a product manager does can depend a lot on what the product is. Software that ships on a DVD or in an app store is very different from online software that can be updated at any time. Additionally, being A PM on a mature product might be very different from being A PM on a new product shipped software shipped software refers to products like mobile apps that ship in the Apple app store or software that ships on D. V. D. S shipped software is unique because it's hard to update after launching with a web app. You can always release a new feature and quickly roll it back. If there are issues with ship software, it's important to get it right the first time. As a result, shipped software teams tend to have longer timelines and the products require more project management and coordination between teams. Specs are more important because features are more formal and need to serve more audiences. User research and internal dog fuding using early bills of the software are also very important since you need to know if the product is good before it's released. PMS who are good at project management and have good communication skills, do well. Working on shipped software, shipped software can also be great for people who want a good work slash life balance. Since there aren't usually urgent issues that need to be fixed within hours. Online software in online software being scrappy is very important. Product updates are relatively easy so things tend to move quickly instead of waiting for the product to be perfect. Teams will often launch something, see how it does and launch again. Most online software teams run A. B tests, also called multi variant testing or online experiments. In an A. B test, a new feature is released to a percentage of users. The behaviors of the experiment and control group are later compared to see if the new feature improves the experience. Because companies and online software collect more data. It's important that these p. M. S. Are skilled with data analysis and designing experiments. It's also important to work well under pressure as servers can fail at any time. And PMS often have to make quick decisions