Having multi-faceted experiences in various domains adds immense value to your growth as a Product Manager.
Using your creative background, creating opportunities for yourself and understanding what customers want, go a long way in helping you become an effective Product Manager.
Greg Smith is a Senior Product Manager at Twitch, a live streaming social video platform for millions of gamers, acquired by Amazon in 2014. Prior to working at Twitch, Greg worked for non-technical industries spanning across jewelry and filmmaking where he leveraged his unique background to differentiate from the rest as a Product Manager in the field of technology. At Twitch, he works for Extensions where he helps developers build interactive real-time experiences for users leveraging Twitch APIs.
Greg reflects back on his journey and consolidates his rich experiences into a set of 5 effective lessons learned in the field of Product Management.
In case you haven’t heard about Twitch yet, it’s a site that allows people to stream all kinds of stuff while doing a number of activities for an audience of more than hundreds of thousands. Twitch helps people share real-time experiences and is most famous for streaming games. Twitch also allows its users to add goofiness and memes thereby allowing its broadcasters to be more creative.
Twitch 2017 Year in Review
- Over 15 million Daily Active Users
- Over 2 million Monthly Broadcasters
- Over 27000 Product Streamers
- Over 15000 Affiliate Streamers
Smith is currently managing Extension products. These extensions are Web Apps connected to a broadcaster’s channel that allow the audience to interact. Greg’s role at Twitch is to help developers build these interactive experiences using Twitch APIs.
The Path to Product Management
With a multifaceted path towards Product Management, Greg worked in different industries. Below is a short timeline of his journey towards Product Management.
- Jurassic Park Model – His journey to Product Management started at the age of 7 when he built his very own Jurassic Park model keeping in mind the customer requirements.
- Filmmaking – Greg’s interest in drama got him into filmmaking while in college.
- Apple Store – He built upon his technical skills while working at an Apple Store where he had to teach people how to use computers.
- Beliza Design – Greg joined a startup in Vegas called Beliza Design which was into jewelry. Although he didn’t know anything about jewelry, he learned a lot about sales, marketing, and account management.
- University of Pennsylvania – Greg earned a dual Masters degree in Computer Information Technology and Computer Graphics & Game Technology from the University of Pennsylvania.
- Internship at Xbox – He was hired to intern at Xbox where he learned how to build experiences where communities connect with each other and work together. In his 3rd year, he worked for BEAM which was Microsoft’s video streaming company and there he learned how to make people interact and participate in different activities.
5 Stories from Greg’s Journey and Key Takeaways
- Diamonds are hard
- Greg acknowledges that moving to a jewelry company, Belize Design, was a very good move even though he didn’t know anything about jewelry.
- He got a chance to learn about sales, marketing, and account-management which proved crucial to his role as a Product Manager.
- Key Takeaway – Lateral moves can move you up.
- What do you want in life?
- Drawing a vision board and working backward from your destination works wonders.
- For example, if you want to help children learn, you have to work backward on this goal. Realize that the first step to achieving it is to learn skills (Learn skills <- Build Skills <- Help Children Learn).
- Key Takeaway – Find your destination and work backward.
- Interim Project
- When Greg interned at Xbox his role was not what he expected but nevertheless, he created opportunities for himself where he learned how to welcome people and make them a part of the company’s experience.
- Key Takeaway – Make opportunities for yourself.
- The Failure of Contextual Search
- Knowing what your real customers want before building a solution, is very important.
- In case you fail to produce a good solution, you need to change your strategy and move in the right direction.
- Key Takeaway – Embrace failure with a growth mindset.
- Using Your Secret Weapons
- When Greg got his Drama Major, many companies did not take him seriously because they thought it added no value.
- However, he realized that it was not a weight but a secret weapon, because he was able to leverage his ability to talk in front of the audience and give great presentations.
- Key Takeaway – Use your background to your advantage.
Ways to Apply These Now — If You’re Not a Product Manager
- Look at opportunities outside of work to build your skillset. Build an app, volunteer with a non-profit to work on a product for them.
- Look at your own background and journey for things to bring to your advantage.
- If you’re struggling, write about how you’re feeling. It comes in handy later in your career to refer back to.
Have you ever used your secret weapons? Comment below!