Product School hosted Josh Pincus, Product Manager at Minted, for a #AskMeAnything session. Josh answered questions about breaking into Product tips on how to communicate and prioritize features, his favorite products, and fears as a PM!
Joshua is a cross-functional Product Manager, driving results across engineering, UX, and business teams, and leading product launches and feature improvements for B2B, B2C and direct-to-consumer, e-commerce, web and mobile, and SaaS products. Today, he is a product manager at Minted — an e-commerce company that sells greeting cards and
fine art crowdsourced through continuous design challenges from a global and truly world-class community of artists — where he oversees and builds features that grow and support the artist community as well as builds e-commerce and marketing engineering products.
What’s your favorite product?
My favorite product right now is probably Instagram. With work from home, I have been craving connection with others. The feature I have been loving lately is their Stories where you can choose to share with your close friends. I find it a really efficient way to keep in touch in a meaningful way.
How many years have been working as a PM?
I have been working as a product manager for close to 7 years at this point. Most of that experience has been building tools for small businesses. But 2.5 years ago I took a leap and joined Minted, an e-commerce company. I really love the fast paced nature of e-commerce.
Any tips for building features suggested by engineers and prioritizing them?
This is a great question, and one that I face a dilemma on many times per month. The first thing I will say is that great ideas can come from anywhere and anyone. So whatever process you use to prioritize features from other stakeholders, you should follow that process with the ideas surfaced from your engineering team. And I think one of the most important things we can do is if we end up not moving forward with building their suggestions, be open and honest to them about why.
What do you love most about product management? Do you foresee yourself diving back into a vertical after years of PM?
I think my favorite aspect of being a PM is the true variety of problems I get to solve. It almost always feels like when I’m getting bored of what I’m working on, it ends up launching and I get to move on to my next challenge. At the moment, I want to continue down the product management track. I really love being a generalist and surrounding myself with specialists who I can partner with to build innovative products.
I am an aspiring product manager with marketing and fashion experience. What advice would you give regarding the approach for Associate PM roles?
Without knowing much about you, I’d definitely start with looking at PM roles in industries you have knowledge in. Like – maybe you really love working in fashion, and so you could make a great PM at a fashion e-commerce company, and even be a more attractive choice than someone with no background in fashion with a few years PM experience, for example.
You might be interesting in: Transitioning to Product Management from ANY Background
When working on developing new features how do you try and validate the solution you have in mind?
Definitely don’t validate every new thing I build with customers or artists (since I build products now for both sides of the marketplace at Minted). I’d say for some of the bigger initiatives I work on, we surely will do deep user research. But a lot of the times, we don’t have the time to do that. In my experience, about half of the decisions I make are purely based on gut instinct and “product intuition.” This becomes easier the longer you are at a company or serving in a specific role. So if you are proposing solutions, ask yourself “Does it solve the initial problem?.” Something I do a lot of at Minted is a/b test things when they go live. So at least you can evaluate the impact of your work later…and refine that gut instinct of yours.
Would you recommend junior product managers to focus within a broad space say enterprise security or broaden their horizons across B2B, consumer apps etc?
That’s a hard question to answer. I’d say you should focus in the space that is most interesting and exciting to you. If you love the space you’re in, and what you’re working on, you surely will have a lot more fun and build better products.
How do you break into PM without a technical background?
This is a common question a lot of my friends ask too. I will share the general framework of how I think you could break into PM.
- Transition into a PM role at a company you already work at. Start to pick up work and projects outside of your job to learn more about product management. When a position opens up at your company on the Product team, your company will be more likely to consider you since they already know you / your strengths.
- There are a number of 2-year programs where you rotate between different product teams. When I worked at Intuit, they had one of these programs.
- Look/apply for Associate PM roles
- Focus on companies in an industry you have a lot of knowledge or experience in. This can help give you leverage over other candidates as there may need to be less ramp-up time.
Keep your head up and good luck!
What’s your biggest work-related fear?
My biggest fear is probably launching a feature that ends up breaking the website, or causing a horrible experience for customers. I tend to move quickly and work on a lot at once, so every once in a while we miss something in QA and it’s a real “shake my head” sort of moment. But I’d say I have more fears outside of work than inside work. Top one there is probably a fear of heights (like you will never find me skydiving).
How do you say ‘No’ to difficult stakeholders? What’s your communication style in those situations and how do you reason with them?
I think the best way to say no or deliver bad news, in general, is to do it in an empathetic way. Like “I think your idea is a really great way to improve the customer experience. At the moment, we are focused on a number of other priorities, and cannot work on this right now. I will add this to my list to consider in the future. Thank you!” Also share some context of how you arrived at that decision, so the takeaway from the other person won’t be “Josh always says no to me” but rather “Josh always listens to my ideas, and while he can’t often work on them, I know he’s working on many things to move our company forward.”
Do you have any final advice for aspiring Product Managers
The final piece of advice: I know it’s really hard to get that first role as a product manager. I’d recommend only interviewing and pursuing companies whose mission and product that gets you excited. If you love the product before you start, imagine how fun it will be to innovate for that company? And it will likely lead to much more career growth and success. Best of luck and please reach out on LinkedIn if I can help with anything.
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