Being an Introvert in Product Management with Google Product Leader

This week, Product School hosted Johnny Chang, Product Manager at Google, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Johnny talks about what it’s like to be an introvert in Product Management, how he’s grown so quickly in his career, and how to build a trusting relationship with your engineers.

Meet Johnny

Johnny Chang, Product Manager at Google

Johnny is currently a Product Manager at Google. He previously worked as a Product Lead at Lyft. Before that, he was a Principal Product Manager there and formerly was Senior Product Manager at Netflix and Linkedin.

He originally transitioned from an engineering background with 10+ years of successful product experience in these major tech companies, he’s uniquely positioned to share his experience to help those who desire to transition into and succeed in product management, which he’s also passionate about. You may also follow him on https://IntrovertInProduct.com where he blogs about his experiences and tips to help people at scale.

Is being an introvert in Product Management a negative?

Not negative at all. It’s just a personality trait. I’d argue that introverts have some unique strengths as well – listening well, thinking deeply before speaking etc. which I write about at length in my blog.

Read next: Why Human Skills Are Increasing in Value

What are the best strategies to establish a relationship with your engineering team to get buy-in to your ideas?

  1. Bring them along the journey (all the way from understanding the users and the problems, through vision definition, through prioritization etc.)
  2. Seeing is believing: expose your engineering team to see how users use our products and what their painpoints are.
  3. Showing data

Another great read: How Product Managers Build A Data Story

group of people talking in a formal setting

How are OKRs set at Google and what are some of the techniques you utilize to build trust with Engineering in the first 30-60-90 days?

I highly recommend reading the book “Measure What Matters”. It tells you all about Google’s OKR process. I’ve kind of answered the engineering relationship above, but in addition,

  1. Listen and understand their needs
  2. Do whatever that helps
  3. Strive for quick wins to show your value

For more on this, read: Every Product Manager’s First 90 Days

How was your experience at Netflix different from that at other companies?

Every company is different. Netflix has very unique culture for sure – high transparency and trust in employees, freedom to make decisions but hold us responsible for them, highly collaborative, and on the flip side, high pressure to perform, fast-moving etc.

You’ve had a considerable amount of growth and transition in your career thus far. What, in your view, has helped you achieve this growth? A self-quality? A habit or ritual?

LOL it’d be bragging if I say “self-quality.” I’m a big fan of growth mindset. Most qualities are learned/developed not born with. I think the most important thing I attributed to is to constantly learn from the mistake and improve iteratively.

side view of person working at a table

What’s the difference in being a PM for an enterprise product vs B2C? How easy is it to switch between the two?

Customers are different and the nature of the products being different, both end up creating many more downstream differences, including the user understanding, prioritization, how we roll things out, the key internal cross-functional partners you need to work with. Having that said, the fundamentals are all the same, and the one skill a good generalist PM needs to possess is—to learn new things fast! So I wouldn’t say it’s a lot of effort to transition, unless you’ve already rooted in one space for a long time.

If you were to start a business tomorrow, what would you tackle in the first month?

“Start with why” :cara_ligeramente_sonriente: See Simon Sinek’s book.

I’m curious about the open source strategy Google tends to take with so many products like Android, Chromium, Kubernetes etc. How does that strategy work at a high level?

In general it’s about the pros and cons of open source vs closed. Scale vs full control.

How would you plan and show progress for OKRs in long projects (long development before first metrics)?

Break it down into milestones and manage to define measurable KRs for each milestone. Some of the KRs might not necessarily be user/business impacts yet, accomplishing something tangibly can be a good milestone KR as well.

Check out: The Difference: OKRs vs KPIs

What would you say is the most important tool to use as a PM?

By tool you mean actual software tool? Or more like skills? I’m on the camp of “tools don’t matter” :cara_ligeramente_sonriente: Whatever gets the job done. On skills, there’s a lot, communication, leadership, technical understanding, logical thinking, etc.

group of people talking in business setting

What is your advice for transitioning from an engineering role in a start-up to a PM role in a FAANG company?

I’ve also written about this at length in my newsletter (newsletter.introvertinproduct.com). But basically, as an engineer, observe how your PM operates, look for opportunities to help them out, take ownership, lead projects, etc. All will help prepare you to be a PM.

What do you value the most in the PO+PM relationship?

Not all companies have Product Owners vs Product Managers (most I worked for don’t).

What’s the best way to design your CV if you are just starting out?

Highlight “relevant” experience even without the title. E.g. what products have you played a critical part in launching? What is the business impact?

bird's eye view of person looking at digital resume

What does product discovery look like at an established company?I’m at a startup and it’s a bit of modestly managed madness.

Good question but it also depends on the product :cara_ligeramente_sonriente: Product Managers should take ownership in identifying the right problems to solve, and in an established company there are usually cross-functional partners you might be able to work with – e.g. user researchers, sales on the field, business development etc.

Read next: The Difference: Being a PM at a Small company vs a Large Company

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