This week, Product School hosted Lee Howard, Former Product Leader at Google, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Lee spoke about landing interviews at Google, getting buy-in as a new PM, and some of the skills needed in the role.
Lee Howard is a Product Leader who has launched a wide range of high-impact digital products. In her last role at Google, she worked on the Advanced Technology and Projects team working across platform and product to keep their app Jacquard innovative and user-friendly. Before that, she spent time as a Product Venture Lead at Shell working on their vehicle health service VehicleIQ. The product was aimed at empowering drivers to make smarter decisions by offering predictive insights about their vehicles.
How do you deal with peer rivals/competitors in the workplace?
This topic could take up many hours of discussion. All joking aside, this is a very interesting question. There will never be 100% harmony at work. I have found that Amy Gallo’s advice is helpful. Here is one of her videos. There will be times when no amount of relationship building, communication, stakeholder management, team building, etc. will improve relationships, but in my experience, it is worth working hard on these skills.
What books would you recommend reading in order to boost PM skills?
There are many good books out there. I would suggest something a bit unconventional and not directly related to PM, but to relationship building – a book called, “Never Eat Alone”.
What is the best way for PMs outside google to land an interview with Google Product teams?
A referral from a friend or colleague can work. Google recruiters are constantly on the lookout for candidates. External agencies are also on the lookout for contract workers. You should never hesitate to apply directly too.
How do you deal with experience vs growth trade-off?
I would think carefully about the manufactured growth triggers I am proposing to design in order to grow the top of the funnel and make sure they are also respecting a good user experience. You will need to experiment with the experience you are building. You want to invest in retention, which will drive more referrals and growth at the top of the funnel. You need to experiment with educated approaches.
What advice would you give to someone who is starting their career in Product Management or transitioning from Engineering?
If you are transitioning from Engineering to Product Management, you should think about the other aspects of the PM job. Usually, it is a blend of engineering, design, and business, so now it’s time for you to build up more knowledge in design and business. My advice is to read a lot about the role, of the tech business, and I would advise you to find your supporters and sponsors at work and see if you can volunteer your time with them doing some PM tasks. Another idea is for you to develop a side project or build a side business. You can also consider getting formal training. It’s not easy!
You might also be interested in: No Experience With PM Products? Teach Yourself With These DIY Projects
How would you get buy-in as a new Product Manager for your ideas both product and workflow?
You cannot pull a heavy cart over a weak bridge, so the important thing is to build some strong bridges before you make big or heavy proposals of your own. In the first 30-60 days, you want to leave the impression that you are a good listener, that you care very much about learning how things were decided and built in the past, and showing understanding and empathy, and respect for the past. Then when you have a strong point of view of your own, you can prepare your proposal. This video from Harvard Business Review could be helpful – it’s useful not just for disagreeing, but for making a new proposal.
How important is it to have experience to apply for Product Management Roles? What are some skills that can help if one does not have enough experience?
It is important to have some training or experience to apply for PM roles, just like it is important for any other job in the world. Some skills that can help are related to engineering, business, and product design because this is the blend of skills that are most often used by PMs!
Another great read: Product Managers and Technical Skills…What’s The Deal?
What’s the best way to steer the team away from low-priority topics during the grooming sessions without seeming dismissive?
I would caution that too many visual defects or bugs will contribute to a poor user experience. It could become death by a thousand paper cuts! However, it is absolutely the PM and Engineering Lead’s jobs to keep the team focused on high-impact priorities. If you struggle to steer your team, continue to work on your communication skills. One very easy trick that I use is to use the word “because” to add detail to and justification to what I am emphasizing. It has been shown that using the word “because” encourages compliance in people.
Do you have any final advice for aspiring Product Managers?
My final advice for aspiring Product Managers is to give this career 100% of your effort if you want to succeed.