Updated: April 12, 2023 - 11 min read
November is coming to a close, and that means it’s time for our monthly AMA roundup! This month we hosted 3 Slack AMA sessions with these lovely Product People:
Harsh Gupta, Product Leader at Google
Melanie Aley, Product Leader at Google
Lawrence Leung, Former Senior Product Manager at Amazon
This month we asked about Product Strategy, and they told us their go-to frameworks. Each of them gave a very distinct answer, which goes to show that part of being a great PM is discovering your own style.
Bonus: they also touch on topics like breaking into Product, tips for aspiring PMs, tips for early career PMs, leading teams, problem statements, and user research.
”What is your go-to Product Strategy framework?”
For any long-term strategy formulation, I generally use a modified version of the BCG 2*2 matrix, with one axis representing user segments (existing vs. new) and one axis representing new markets/geos (existing vs new) along with an existing product SWOT analysis.
This helps in understanding opportunities with existing and new user segments, and in existing/new markets.
I almost never using any framework as written—I take it as more of a starting point. I suppose my most common go-to for product validation is the classic Feasibility/Viability/Desirability, although I tend to add operational viability as a fourth category (and sometimes “political desirability” if I’m working with clients…!)
Love this question. I like using the Weighted Goals framework and the MoSCoW framework. Weighted Goals helps assign metrics to business objectives and help quantify the ROI. MoSCoW helps with feature prioritization for think big/greenfield product opportunities.
Breaking Into Product
”How can someone from non-Product roles transition into the field?”
If you work in a Product org, the best path would be to take additional responsibility beyond your core role. Assist PMs in feature discovery through data, or take up new Product Discovery by conducting user & data research. Some companies also offer rotation programs which are a great way to experience PM and showcase your PM skills.
Students with little/no PM experience can stand out by showcasing hobby-projects that showcase product skills or by taking on additional product-related work in your current job.
”As an aspiring PM I’m getting rejected by many companies for not having 2-4 + years proven experience, especially Google. Any advice?”
I don’t think you’ll likely to get a job at Google, or most companies, without several years of PM experience. The only ‘new to role’ PMs are on the APM track, which seems to be for new grads. Sorry to be so honest. Could you try moving sideways in your own organisation first? That’s generally easier.
”Is engineering experience helpful in starting a career in PM?”
Having an engineering background, though not necessary for you to succeed in a PM career, is definitely an advantage as you are able to make better product decisions keeping engineering tradeoffs/feasibility/cost in mind.
Check out: Transitioning to Product Management From ANY Background
For Early Career Product Managers
”What is the one thing that you would advise a junior Product Manager on their first day in office?”
There are many things to focus on when you first start. This can’t be done in the first day (maybe over the course of a couple of months), but focus on building relationships with your team and stakeholders so you can influence without authority.
”What was most difficult about your transition into a lead/senior PM role?”
I would say the most difficult part is, from a timing perspective, to build a strong rapport and trust with my stakeholders across Engineering, Analytics, Marketing, Program, etc. teams. It does require a lot of time as PM to build these relationships as you work on Product Discovery to ideation to shipping and iterating your products. But once you build that momentum with your teams, you naturally will become the single-threaded owner of your products/features, gain the support of your team, and expand your ownership/scope to get to the lead/senior level.
”How would you suggest a new PM learn and grow their skills in a company where the Product culture is not prominent, and the manager is not an active mentor?”
Find sponsors outside of your team or management chain who can support you in growing as a PM
Find opportunities that are top of the mind for the company – this way you can get support of senior leaders
Build a community of all PMs and product folks in the company for cross-learning
”Any book recommendations to become more familiar with concepts in the very first months of the PM career?”
Inspired – Marty Cagan
Design of Everyday Things – Don Norman
Hooked – Nir Eyal
These books are a good place to start. Following Product Leaders on social media (Shreyas Doshi) and reading popular newsletters (Lenny, Stratechery, etc.) are also great learning resources.
”What textbook strategies for PMs do you not recommend or deprioritize?”
This is situational. It depends on what field and industry you’re in.
For example, a Data Platform PM versus a Growth PM. Your strategy for growing your product as a Growth PM will be focused on market development and customer growth/expansion stages. This may require more intensive market competitor research, customer meetings, etc. to inform your roadmap priorities. While a Data Platform PM, they may be working in a later stage in the product life cycle (maturity) and will be focused engineering/system design and finding solutions to expand infra capabilities to lower cost/maximize efficiency.
”What are some of your favorite tools to manage the Product Roadmap? We tried Miro, Trello, Asana. While all of them are great in some aspects, I think there could be a better product that checks all the boxes. Looking at the big picture, good UX, great for following tasks etc.”
I’ve tried most of these tools, and, unfortunately, no tool is perfect because PMing, in general, is done differently across different teams, orgs, industries etc.
I’ve usually found a mix of spreadsheets, docs and a wireframing tool (like Balsamiq, Figma etc) good enough for me to do my job well
Check our collection of the best tools for Product Managers
”I’m trying to find Product-Market Fit for a two-sided platform between users and content creators. What are good metrics to track other than DAU, MAU?”
I’m not an expert here, although I did do an interesting ‘post-mortem’ on a failed marketplace. Generally, your typical Product Metrics go out the door for a marketplace. My colleagues at DV who have done this more than I generally talk about ‘inventory’ available for matching and successful match ratios on both times.
It’s also very much about balance between supply and demand—although don’t be afraid to artificially add supply if you need to (i.e. buy it elsewhere… ever heard Zappos origins story?). Focus heavily on your conversion funnel. Also, focus on the QUALITY of a match—how satisfied were they (vs. other channels?). Be clear on your value proposition to both sides, and really measure that.
And one of my favourite metrics—cost of SUCCESSFUL ‘match’. Take the total cost of acquisition on both sides, and divide it by matches that went well (however you measure that).
Leading Teams & Stakeholder Management
”How do you resolve conflicting product requirements? There’s often conflicting priorities between increasing revenues (from wider stakeholders) and increasing interactivity/engagement on the app. ”
There are different priorities, that’s cool, but you need to be on the same page on overall strategy upwards wherever it converges – e.g., company level, business unit level, etc.
You need to very clearly draw the relationship between interaction/engagement and revenue. Assuming you don’t work for a non-profit, today’s interaction = tomorrow’s revenue, right? Are you crystal clear on your customer funnel?
I’ve personally found that Pirate Metrics are useful when making a case for engagement in the past.
”Having founded your own company previously, and now a leader at a major company how do you coach your team to have the same entrepreneur mindset of trying a new way of thinking to solve an issue for your users? ”
A lot of this is grounded in building a strong creative / experimental culture in your teams, and of course, it’s easier said than done. I usually try to accomplish this culture in the following ways:
Have a strong long-term vision, strategy & goals
Chart incremental steps to reach the long-term goals
Set expectations with leadership on both strategy and the iterative execution
Make sure you have a data-backed approach to measuring impact of each experiment and how the results are a logical transition to the next steps
”How does one convince stakeholders and sponsors that the dev team needs to spend time on technical debt? It won’t provide visible value to the end customer, but it IS important for the upkeep and health of the overall system.”
Ha, I feel your pain. Here’s what I learned the hard way: NEVER try to sell tech debt. It won’t work. Just set aside X% (usually 10-20%) of your capacity for tech debt, and just do it.
”Does your work always come in the format of a problem statement? Could give some examples of problem statements that you have worked on? ”
Some examples of problem statements:
How can we increase the product purchase conversion rate for this user segment?
How can we build more trust with our users during the onboarding journey on the app?
I wish work always came in the format of a problem statement, but usually, it does.
Sometimes, however, PMs grapple with very open-ended problem statements which fall under what I call ‘unknown unknown’ where even the problem statement is open-ended
”How do you approach a broad problem statement like: ‘grow the monetization revenue from the platform by introducing new initiatives or products’?”
This question needs 30 mins for itself, but let me try to summarize some key questions you’d wanna ask to build the strategy for such a broad problem statement:
Are my users paying for my product today? If yes, why are they willing pay, for which features?
Can I extend these features to a different user segment?
Can I find adjacent problems to solve with the product?
”Any guidelines or frameworks that you would use to assess and quantify customer feedback?”
General guidelines or frameworks:
Define the hypothesis of what you’re validating and make sure you test both the factual and counterfactual. This helps avoid confirmation bias.
General rule of thumb is to not guide the users too much while conducting user research—this helps in understanding how a user would use the product on their own.
User research should generally be used to derive insights to influence product decision making rather than take decisions directly. User research should be coupled with data, beta testing to confirm user feedback.
”In a case where your instincts/gut feeling is pointing in a direction different from the data approach, which will you choose? ”
I am personally a firm believer in the concept of ‘gut’ in Product decision-making. However, for gut to trump hard evidence (like data), the gut feeling has to be explainable in some way, either through user research, interviews, industry insights, anecdotal evidence, etc.
”How do you create products or features in an existing product that caters to millions of people?”
Existing product feature discovery generally stems from the following sources:
Existing user behavior and usage data
Explicit user feature asks (through in-app feedback, app store ratings, social media, etc.)
”Any final tips for aspiring Product Managers?”
My advice for aspiring PMs:
Understand what the PM role entails, the skill sets needed, and the nature of work—
and whether it’s a good fit for you. PMing can seem like a very glorious job from the outside, but it’s a challenging role to succeed at.
Consider your path to becoming a PM as a learning experience—it will teach you a different way to look at products, design, and business and hopefully build a strong mental model to solve human problems.
Yes! No matter where you are on your Product Management journey, I would advise you to focus on delivering results. Taking a page out of Amazon’s Leadership Principles: To deliver results you have to be right a lot. To be right a lot, you have to be customer obsessed and insist on the highest standards, which in turn requires you to dive deep and invent and simplify.
Updated: April 12, 2023