Technical Product Insights with Fmr Senior PM at PlayStation

This week Product School hosted Jonathan Farrow, a former Senior Product Manager at PlayStation, for an #AskMeAnything session. Jonathan talked about his journey into Product, advice for entry-level PMs, approaches to user insights, and more!

Meet Jonathan

Jonathan is a former Senior Product Manager at PlayStation. Prior to this, he was a Senior Product Manager at Nexmo, the Vonage API Platform. Before that, Jonathan was a Technical Product Manager of Controls Engineer at Rolls-Royce and a Technical Support Engineer at EUCHNER GmbH + Co. He earned his
Bachelor’s degree in Electric Engineering from Sheffield Hallam University and a Master of Science in Computer Science with AI from the University of York.

What do you use for product road mapping?

We used Jira for the tracking of a roadmap. Though we started to look at Prodpad as it is a tool made by Product managers for road mapping.

Check out: How to Create Your Product Roadmap in 2021 (5 Templates Included)

How does a large organization like Sony adapt to current trends?

So for product trends, it tends to come from product managers sharing these trends in internal forums and at regular product team meetups. Then the team discusses them and decides if we should try any of them out and then at the next meetup report if they think it is worth sharing with the wider product teams.

Do you have any advice for students who want to get into PM roles, especially ones in the gaming industry?

So getting the first PM role is always the hardest. My advice is to join a meetup group in the city/area you want to get the role. This will help meet the hiring managers. The next bit of advice is while studying try and build a small product that you can use as an example for your interviews.

It can help give structure but what finds the problems is the activities you do to fill the columns.  So customer interviewing or stakeholder discovery and data investigation will help identify problems that can be used to fill the canvas.

Here are 5 Excellent Ways To Create Your Own Product Management Portfolio

What’s your approach for gathering user insights about their experience with your product?

So my first thought is if I care why customers are interacting with a feature. What I mean by this is, I like to take a goal approach to build products. I then like to use customer/user journey mapping to map out their journey towards that goal. If that feature is along that path then I will look at it. There are no real shortcuts at this point if you want to understand the behavior of customers against a feature. Though once I have done Interviews ( this being the preferred method) then I map it out on the map. So yes it takes time but it’s only time invested in certain features/behaviors towards a goal.

I’m in a Technical PM role currently who went from writing code to being a PM. How much has your technical background helped you in your current position? How do you think about career trajectory in terms of technical role vs PM?

Being a Tech PM helps for deep tech and developer-focused products. In these companies, there is space to progress. Though something to consider is if the company has tech pm and pm roles sometimes it can be harder to move up as replacing tech PMs is hard. So it is worth looking to if the company has ahead of tech pm role or ask how many of the heads of PM came from the tech PM track.

Product Managers and Technical Skills…What’s The Deal?

How do you manage the different communication channels and messages when there is an update or new release? Do you think PMs should also do the messaging or do you believe this is a responsibility for a Go-to-market manager?

This really depends. I have worked with product marketing mangers before and they take care of this. I think this makes sense at larger companies and scale-ups. Otherwise, when i have had to manage this I have had a list of channels and categories them depending on ifs a new release or a minor update etc.

Which one is the best to work in, a large or small company?

This one really depends as they have different advantages. In the smaller companies, you have to take on a lot more responsibility and therefore work but you get to try a lot of different skills out.  In larger companies, you can really dig deep into a problem and have a large team of specialist help you. Though speed is often sacrificed in large companies you can often take on larger riskier problems.My advice is to try both and enjoy each of the aspects that they bring.  Enjoy the speed and broad pm skill set of smaller companies but go and try taking on large and risker problems with a big team at a larger company.

You might be interested in: The Difference between Startup & Big Corporation PMs

PlayStation has PO/BAs in addition to dedicated PMs, what do you think someone with PO experience should do to get to a PM position and what areas do you think might not be getting enough exposure in an organization such as PlayStation where both PM and PO roles exist? 

Hey, If you have experience as a PO then focusing on broader strategy and managing multiple products is an area to focus on.  A book I would recommend is HBR on strategy. As long as you have a good grasp on UX and how you prioritize features/goals and defining done then the move should not be that difficult.

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