This week, Product School hosted Johnny Chang, Principal Product Manager at Lyft, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Jonny answered questions on the shifting into a product mindset and gave insights on what it means to be a PM.
Johnny is currently a Principal Product Manager at Lyft, formerly Senior Product Manager at Netflix and Linkedin. 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.
Make sure to follow him on his blog where he blogs about his experiences and tips to help people at scale!
What would you do first when you’re responsible for a product mindset change at a company?
I would do both “show” and “tell”. Show them how product (management) works and how the org can benefit by doing it yourself. “tell” being continuous education about product management and how we should incorporate such role in the company.
Between Linkedin, Netflix, and Lyft, you’ve spanned quite a few different industries. Do you have any advice for people looking to transition to a different industry, that you don’t have experience in?
- Learn as much about the industry online/offline as you can – this also helps you to confirm you’re interested before you step in.
- Always carry a beginner’s mindset wherever you go. Be prepared to learn new space and new things. Even across different roles/projects in the same in.
How do you see the role of product managers changing over the next 10 years?
I guess it’ll be even more diversified background and types of roles as software is expanding onto new domains. The role will focus further in being more strategic side of things as operational tasks will be replaced by software or other lower level (cheaper) roles.
How should one overcome cognitive bias while working on a product?
- Acknowledge the bias
- Use empathy and be in your users shoe
- Get broad opinions/feedback to counter your own bias
I’ve always heard that the best way to prepare for a PM role is by building and launching a product, what does that mean?
PM role is so broad in responsibility so there are plenty of ways to “practice” in addition to building a software product from scratch. Communicate with people, think about product strategy on an existing product on the market, using your current role to execute on a project etc. Or if you want to build a “product” , what about starting a website or a blog or podcast. It’s the same, you want to make it successful by measures you define.
How many A/B tests do you recommend running?
There’s no right answer to this. It’s not about the number of tests you run. It’s about what you want to learn and structure your a/b test to get exactly that. It can be one test, it can be multiple as needed.
Should PO attend daily ceremonies? What the best practice in Lyft?
Not a binary answer either. Join when you have the time or need visibility or have specific questions to ask the team. You might end up prioritizing some other meetings and that’s fine. I’d usually try hard to at least be a part of sprint planning.
Any words of wisdom for someone building 0 to 1 a consumer/social product, and still in the process of finding product-market fit?
- Revisit and revisit problem space to make sure you get the targeted problem right, or does your understanding need to be updated?
- Focus on a niche and nail it. Do all you can to understand the niche and be the best in that niche
How does the PM role change as you move from an entry-level PM to a principal PM
Broader scope, from execution-focused to be more strategic, responsible for leading and creating a good culture within the teams (x-functional), be responsible for growing your junior team member/peers.
Working as a PM in an HCM product-based company how can one move to a consumer-based company like Amazon and Lyft?
These big “consumer-focused” companies you listed here, have lots of enterprise/internal/technical/platform products too! Are you interested in working on consumer products, or are you interested in working in these big brand companies? depending on your goal your strategy will be different.
I’d suggest to look for roles that are closest to your background and existing experience. Once you get your foot in the door, you can look for internal transfer
You might be interesting in Transitioning to Product Management from ANY Background
Can you shed some light on the different product management frameworks you’ve found useful across the different PM roles you’ve worked in?
You might not like it but honestly, the best frameworks are the frameworks you come up with based on the situation. By that, I meant always have a structure in mind when approaching problems, but not shoehorn existing rigid frameworks into the problems. Have the flexibility, but be structured. There’s a difference.
What resources or advice would you give someone transitioning from Engineering to Product
Super broad, I’d really encourage you to visit my blog where I share my own transition and tips (I also came from engineering!)
Do you think PMs can’t grow without a technical background?
the answer is of course not. But even without tech background it’s important to learn about technical as much as you can in the role, (or as much as needed to accomplish your job well as a PM)
What would you say the biggest gaps are between project management and product management for anyone trying to make that shift?
I’d say 1) more direct business exposure, 2) more strategic thinking (vs execution / get things done), 3) more user empathy/thinking