Product School

Season 2 - Episode 6

Why Attitude Makes a Great Product Manager

As well as being a Product Manager at FinTech disruptor, N26, Alexander Hipp is also the co-founder of PM Library. You’ll get to learn what makes a Great Product Manager, the value of side projects, and how in Product it’s all about your attitude.

Alexander Hipp n26 the product podcast
Question [03:00] What does a typical day to day look like for you?

Question [03:04] Since I’m working on very central parts of N26, which require me to have a lot of sessions with stakeholders and get alignment across the whole business, I block most of my mornings for deeper work and collaboration work within my own team and I try to have the afternoons free for meetings. And since we’re also in the US, we have kind of a time difference. So afternoons are for meetings most of the time.

One thing I’m currently experimenting with actually is setting a daily highlight. Which is roughly one hour, or one hour and 30 minutes, where I try to completely be focused on one topic. And that’s something I have read in the book Make Time by Jake Knapp. Which helps immensely, like if you have a specific time of day where you only focus on one thing and nobody can disturb that time, you really get stuff done.

N26 Team
Question [06:17] What’s your take on certificate courses learning product management in outside of university or college?

Alex [06:31] For me personally, I was really lucky that actually most of the things I’ve learned in university, I could apply to being a product manager and I didn’t have to start at zero. So I had a lot of basis already of knowledge on how to develop products and stuff. If you’re coming from a different background and you’re transitioning into product management from marketing or tech or whatever, I believe they can be really helpful to get you into the basics. On the other side or the other hand, I would say product management is also a lot of common sense and the experience that comes with time. So nothing that can be taught to you in a course. So you get the basics in the course, but then it’s really doing the work on a daily basis and over a couple of months or years.

There might be specific situations where a course definitely makes sense. I can also give an example for when I worked at XING in Germany, I was working in a purely data science data engineering team and I was offered to do the Nanodegree to become a data scientist, to better understand what teams are actually talking about. So in these very specific cases, I would say it makes sense to broaden your horizon and to learn more. If you’re transitioning into product management, it definitely makes sense to get into a course and learn the basics to be honest.

Continuous product discovery talk
Question [08:41] Could you tell us a little bit more about what inspired you to create PM Library, and building off of that, what is the first book you’d recommend to a Product Manager?

Alex [09:00] My favorite topic! Roughly a year ago, my cofounder and girlfriend who is also a Product Manager, Lena…we were coming to a point after being in product management for a couple of years, that we actually finished all the must-read books on Product Management. So we were looking for new content to read. And to be honest, Amazon was not really helpful with that.

Finding new books and discovering new books that are being recommended by other people in the industry was just not possible. So PM Library today is a medium publication where we try to create and recommend books for product folks. But also people in general working in tech.

We have different formats like collections where we try to come up with like up to 10 books to a specific topic, like product discovery or books for product people regarding design, regarding economics, these kind of things.

But we also have what we call it On My Shelf articles, where people from the industry, recommend their favorite books. Because it’s not only us finding out what books are on the market currently, but also people working in the States or people from India…they might read completely different things. Which could also still be interesting for someone living in Spain, the UK or Germany. So today we are four editors. Two of our best friends, Shane and Josh, have joined us. One is a user researcher, the other one is as a tech lead. So we try to get more topics into our offer.

And we have actually roughly around 10,000 people viewing our content on a monthly basis.

If you want to have the first book I would recommend to any product person (and not mentioning the classics like Inspired by Marty Cagan or Product Leadership by Martin Erickson) for me personally, there are two books. Creativity Inc, which is the story of the founder of Pixar. And the second is The Trillion Dollar Coach by Eric Schmidt, which came out last year.

They don’t only tell you Product Management basics or things you can use to build better, but more likely they teach you on how to navigate modern companies and how to make the people around you better and therefore build better product. So I always recommend these two books to everyone who asks me that question.

Panel talk
Question [12:26] Can I ask if you’re reading anything good right now?

Alex: [12:29] Currently I’m reading two books actually. One is AI Superpower, about the challenge or the battle between the US, China, and Silicon Valley. And the other one is Irresistible I think it’s called. It’s pretty nice, like how you can shut down the tech we’re actually building on a daily basis and make the most use for your day, rather than just following every push notification and every alert.

Question [13:32] Besides literature, what resources would you recommend for people looking to increase their knowledge?

Alex [13:52] Personally, I’m actually a big fan of community building and sharing knowledge. So therefore I would encourage every Product Manager to go at least to one bigger product conference a year, or attend local meetups that usually happen in most of the major cities around the globe.

If you don’t have the budget to go there, I always recommend just watching the talks on YouTube or Vimeo because most of the bigger conferences, they actually record the talks. And by watching peers who have most of the same challenges and maybe already created solutions, that always helps to broaden your horizon and learn something new.

N26 office
Question [25:44] What advice would you have for someone starting from zero in Product Management?

Alex: (26:13) Product Management is clearly one of the hot jobs currently on the market across the world. And a lot of people want to work in tech as a PM. But next to this shiny outside, PM is mostly talking with other people and improving other people. Like you need to improve your team. You need to improve the way your users are dealing with problems and you’re improving something for stakeholders to some extent.

So I think everything a PM does, you can learn it. But if you don’t love to talk to people and build communities around you, I think it’s the wrong job. But if you love to talk to people and build these communities, I think it’s the best job in the world.

Thank you, Alex, for talking with us today!

We’ll be back next week with Kaarel Kuddu from Transferwise with even more of the latest insights from the Product Management world.

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