The Product Newb’s Survival Kit

Lately I’ve been fielding a number of questions about how I transitioned into product. The long story involves a windy path, a drive to solve big problems, a healthy (?) tension between idealism and practicality, and a bundle of other things that I’d be happy to chat about properly over a coffee sometime :)

The shorter and more practical story: I stole like an artist and practiced a lot. In the beginning, it’s a lot of blog-reading, podcast-listening, newsletter- subscribing, Meetup-attending and shamelessly stalking people on LinkedIn. Throughout this (still ongoing) process, I’ve been bookmarking, re-reading and now, by popular demand, sharing the resources that helped me through the tricky spots.

Treat this post is a curated mini-library of high-impact resources. It’s not intended to be a comprehensive list, but rather a sampling of bite-sized resources to help you efficiently ramp up your product repertoire and survive the many and varied “feels” of starting out in product.

All credit goes to the talented designers, developers, PMs, innovators, educators and writers who created this content! Thank you for doing high caliber work and for taking the time to share your insights with the world.

Tips, tricks & tuts for TFW….

…You need to take it back to the basics.

…You’re knee-deep in a product and feeling totally stuck.

…You wish you had studied HCI or computer science in college.

…You realize you need to learn to code.

  • I know, I know — I’m giving Udacity a lot of love. But seriously, their free courses and nanodegrees are some of the best self-guided learning resources I’ve come across. They strike a great balance between accountability/hand-holding, freedom to go at your own pace, and low price point.

…You’re experiencing acute symptoms of tool-overload.

For startup/small remote team work, this set has treated me well. It’s a good balance of industry standard + inexpensive. Start here and fill in the gaps as needed.

  • For user flows & wireframes: Draw.io (there are a ton of tools out there but this one tends to win-out because it’s free, Google-integrated and great for remote/asynchronous collaboration).
  • For mockups: Sketch (LevelUp Tuts Sketch App Tutorials is a great way to learn quickly).
  • Prototypes: Invision
  • Collaboration: Trello, Zeplin, Google Slides

…You realize how much an MDes or MFA actually costs.

…You are sick of pixel-pushing and need to just hack the UI elements.

…Imposter syndrome rears its ugly head.

…You want to know what life is like on the inside of a design team.


Don’t see your favorite resource? I’m all ears! Leave a comment with your suggestions.