This week Product School hosted Derek Jamieson, current Senior Product Manager at Salesforce for an #AskMeAnything session. Derek shared his recommendations for Aspiring Product Managers with different backgrounds, the behind the scenes at Salesforce and more.
Meet Derek Jamieson
Derek is a Senior Product Manager at Salesforce. He leads product strategy, innovation, and delivery for Salesforce Maps Territory Planning, giving companies a way to quickly design, collaborate on, and optimize the perfect territories for each of their field reps by eliminating guesswork and ensuring territory alignment to the most important business goals. Prior to joining the Salesforce Maps team, Derek was the Senior Director of Product and User Experience at Netsolace, a division of Edible Brands, and was responsible for building a wide range of platforms/products that serve the Franchising Industry.
How involved do you get in sprint planning/backlog grooming? What role do you play in the development lifecycle?
I believe that both of these concepts are the most important responsibilities of a PM, and as such, I have alternating weekly meetings with my team for each of these ceremonies. Specifically, regarding backlog grooming, this is something that I keep an eye on daily and I solicit feedback from my engineering team at least every other week.
As it relates to the development lifecycle, I am the initiator. What I mean by that is that I coordinate long term planning workshops, release planning sessions, and stakeholder feedback, all leading up to a fully planned out development calendar for each product milestone.
If you had to pick, what is the one ingredient that makes a cross-functional team successful?
Transparency and Humility are everything. As a PM it is easy to become somewhat of a work dictator, but this will only be effective for a short period of time. Instead, it’s important to share your thoughts as to why you are making the decisions you are making and to be honest when you take the team down the wrong path. These qualities result in improved trust and buy-in and can translate to some of the most effective teams across Product, Engineering, User Experience, Customer Success, and Sales.
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Can you elaborate on a Product Manager’s role in marketing a new product to its audience and how do you go about building those skills?
Great question and something that I have first-hand experience with as the result of my latest product, Salesforce Maps Territory Planning. I think it is crucial that a PM carves out the time to communicate the vision and passion that has resulted in the new product. This can look like customer-facing product/feature previews, internal enablement sessions with sales and support teams, and even appearances on product community platforms, such as Product School. It’s very important to be involved in the messaging to both ensure it is received appropriately by new customers but also to protect your team and business from improper assumptions related to what the new product can or should do.
In terms of building those skills, shadow as many people as possible, whether internal or external to your company. I find that the best education is a first-hand experience.
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What are some top channels that you collect feedback from? Also, how does behind the scenes in salesforce looks like?
This is a very important topic for a PM, regardless of which platforms/services you have access to, customer and stakeholder feedback are key to the success of a product. At Salesforce we utilize a combination of internal and third-party tools to collect customer feedback and sentiment. We serve these questions up to customers using in-app pop-ups, emails, and post-event surveys. As it relates to putting this feedback into action, I have integrated it directly into my team’s roadmap, sprint planning, and backlog grooming ceremonies so that there is always the presence of the customer in all things that we do.
Different Paths to Product
Has the major in Psychology benefitted in understanding your users and in overall better Product Management?
Absolutely! My education has been the greatest blessing to my career as a PM and UX leader. I regularly lean on my understanding of behaviorism and perception when forecasting new features. Additionally, having a broad and deep understanding of human psychology has enabled me to better empathize with users across all disciplines.
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What are the top 3 mistakes that a new Product Managers makes?
Great question! When I think about the modern PM, I recognize that there can be a significant difference in the expected responsibilities of a PM across different businesses and industries. This is the result of the discipline evolving organically over the last 30 years rather than being established on the back end of formal education. With that being said, here are my top 3 mistakes/pointers:
- Do not assume that your new PM role is going to match a textbook definition
- Do shadow as many different departments as possible when first onboarding to developing a holistic understanding of the business, customers, and problems
- Do put your pride and ego aside, as it takes failure and mistakes to properly learn how to grow and build a successful product
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How do you weigh a Bootcamp vs an MBA?
I honestly favor Bootcamps over an MBA, as they typically indicate that the “student” has been exposed to other careers/disciplines which can translate to a more grounded PM.
If someone wants to switch from an engineering role to a Product role, what is the best skill that he/she should have to be more outstanding than other candidates?
Great question! In my opinion, developing a solid understanding of User Experience (whether design or just the principles) will most easily help an engineer stand out when trying to transition to a PM role. I believe this because it will help to facilitate an inquisitive mindset that can put the customer/user first. Additionally, it makes you very capable in regards to designing features and requirements (one of the most complex aspects of the PM role).
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Any final advice for aspiring Product Managers?
The best advice I can give you all is to find ways to connect the entirety of your working experience to your current or future role as a PM. At the end of the day, a PM is a professional problem solver, so think back to any time in which you had to dig deep to solve a problem because there is most likely something you can take with you there. Let your background be the differentiator, even if it is unconventional!
Join us next week for another #AskMeAnything Session for more insights from Product Managers around the world!