“Do you know anything about Scrum?”-What my lead of product asked during my first interview
As you might have guessed, my answer is “no”. I do not know anything about scrum let alone product management. Heck, I didn’t know what I’m supposed to do if this company accepts me as their product manager. I was just a fresh graduate from Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Major, looking for a job.
But as the interview went on, I realize that product management is not something that you can learn from a book. This field was so ill-defined back then, you can ask two different people and you won’t have the same answer. Why?
Because product management is a way of thinking, it’s about how we perceive someone else’s problem and finding a way to solve it.
Simply put, everyone will have a different answer because every single person on this planet will have different problems, and they will perceive each of those problems differently than others would.
By this point, the interview went on for about two hours. Two days later I got a call, they offered me a job as a Junior Product Manager (similar to an Associate Product Manager), then two days after that I started my first day.
And it was a hell of a ride… here’s why
1. Lost in Translation
By this time, you’ve already known that I don’t have any IT background whatsoever and I am supposed to give directions to the engineering team. It was a challenge indeed because they’re talking on another level. I didn’t even know what product managers do on the daily basis.
They talk about APIs, integration, data management, and a whole lot more that I didn’t understand at that time. I wasn’t planning to be lost in translation forever, so I take an initiative and decided to learn it by myself. I started to learn how to inspect the page in a website, up until to a point I decided to learn Python earlier this year.
Then I realize, being a product manager doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to understand codes. Being a product manager is about how you can effectively communicate the business requirements to stakeholders (re: engineering) so that they can create a better product. Learning how to code will give me an advantage at a certain point, but making a decision on why we make it – that is a completely different one. So don’t worry about your major, think about what you can bring to the table.
2. Jack of All Trades, Master of None
If you’re already a taken up a role of a product manager, you must’ve heard this expression a lot. If you haven’t, this sentence refers to that being a product manager means that you have to understand every single aspect of your business at a basic level. This is obvious because you are required to make a product that makes every person’s life in the room much easier. A basic business understanding is needed if you want to be a product manager.
This being said, it doesn’t matter what your major is in college or what kind of degree that you have under your name, as long as you are eager to learn about the business, you’re on the right path of being a product manager. Whether you want to be a generalist or specialist along the way, it is completely your decision to make.
3. Stay Curious, Become Visionary
Many of you would have heard that as a product manager means you are becoming the mini CEO of your product. You will do everything that you can in your power to ensure your product is successful upon launch or updates.
Well, this is true to such an extent where product managers and CEO shared the same traits: being visionary. Sometimes, being a product manager is so much more than solving a problem. Being a product manager means we are able to create new demands. Imagine Steve Jobs when he founded Apple. No one asked for an iPhone, or an iPod. But he made it anyway, and it was a huge hit. The same goes for a product manager. You are entitled to create something new,
Again, it doesn’t matter what your background is. All you need is a curious mind that searches for answers, an obsession of the customer’s pain points, and the will to actually make a difference.
4. Care Like a Mother Would
Three months in as a product manager, I found my way into a problem. I created a feature without running it through the stakeholders first. Then, my CEO called me to his office. This is what he said to me in that room. As I sat in the room, sweating like it’s 100 degrees, my CEO said this straight to my face:
“I don’t need a smart PM, I need the one who cares, just like a mother would to her children”
I didn’t expect those words from him. I was sure that I was done for. A rookie PM, creating a feature that could ruin the product. By asking that question, he asked me to ask myself these questions: “Does this feature actually solve an actual problem?”, “Does this feature actually create a better version of the customers?”, “Is this feature a must or nice to have?”
At that exact moment, I knew that he was teaching me a valuable lesson. Being a product manager doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to become the smartest person in the room, being a good product manager means that you are the most caring person. Just like a mother would.
5. Experiment, Experiment, Experiment
I could not stress this enough for those of you who just started your journey as a product manager. You won’t know whether a product or feature will work if you don’t test it.
With that being said, along your journey, you will encounter many moments of mistakes or failures. You will find yourself sunsetting your own feature because it turned out to be a flop.
Hey but that’s okay!
I have made dozens if not hundreds of mistakes these past 2 years. But I didn’t regret any of them because I was doing it with the spirit of experimentation. I would create features with different versions, do A/B testing to find out which feature works the best. And what happens along the way? I failed, I made mistakes, and I’d be happy to do it all over again.
Making mistakes doesn’t make you a failure. It means that you still have a lot to learn. What you can do in the future is to minimize the failure. As a product manager, you can do that by looking at the data before you’re creating a feature or product. Use tools such as Google Analytics or Firebase to determine your winning product. This way, you could minimize the error and actually come up with a winning product on your own.
Product Management Role is unique compared to other roles out there, especially in the tech industry. I have become a product manager for 2 years when I wrote this article. I’ve come to an understanding that it doesn’t matter what your background is. Being a product manager is so much more than just a job, it’s your way of thinking, it’s the way you care about others, and it’s the way how you can communicate clearly and effectively. We all have that product manager spirit in ourselves, it’s up to us whether we want to put it to good use or not.
In this blog, you’ll learn so much more about how to become a good product manager. Starting from development, until the go-to-market strategy. What I tell you today was just the tip of an iceberg. See you at the next post!