5 Things I’m Going to Teach You About Product

TL;DR: Finnish man approaching early middle age starts “blogging” (2004 flashback!) about product management, culture, process and other super interesting stuff like that and you should get excited about it too.

📸: Cristina Forsstrom

Yikes, this is more intimidating than I thought.

I’ve always believed in making bold public statements that commit a person to following through with something. This is me committing, and I want each and every one of you to hold me accountable if I fall short of this promise:

Throughout this summer, I will produce one post here weekly.

Every Tuesday from here on out, at 9am ET, I will publish a new post covering the art and craft of product management for digital products.

Why Should You Care?

Curiosity? Schadenfreude? Public shaming?

There’s also the off chance that after 20 years of playing many different roles in the creation of many digital products, I’ve learned a few things (usually through countless failures) and I may be able to help you avoid some pitfalls and improve your process. I hope to provide a new point-of-view for you to consider.

I’ve been a developer, a project manager, an independent record label owner, a CTO, a “Senior Technical Product Manager” (whatever that is), and I’m currently the Vice President of Product Management at Shutterstock, Inc. I’ve worked at / for companies ranging from two people to 10,000+ people, and I’ve worked on projects with budgets from can we pay you with exposure? to millions of dollars.

I’ve been based in Helsinki, New York and Montreal, working with teams across the globe. I’ve managed teams, teams of teams, across functions, resourced, sold, coached, consulted, organized, operationalized, streamlined and a whole lot more.

Some things I’ve been a part of have been successes, others less than.

Through it all, I’ve learned a ton about our industry, the types of people who operate within it, the processes and also the solutions.

But most of all, I’ve learned about myself — and how I can best be an asset to those who hire and trust me to help them to build amazing things.

Why Am I Doing This?

I have stock photos and I’m not afraid to use them

I have a fundamental belief that the most important skills for a person in any function in our industry are reading, writing, speaking and listening. The latter possibly being the most important.

One day I realized that I hadn’t written consistently in public since I moved from Finland to the US in 2012. This profoundly disappointed me. So I immediately decided I needed to jump back on the horse.

I also believe in paying it forward. I’ve been lucky enough to have an endless number of amazing mentors, colleagues, friends and sparring partners around me in my career. Thanks to them, I’ve accumulated a wealth of wisdom that I want to share.

I am not doing this as a representative of my employer nor anyone else. I’m not trying to sell you anything.

I am simply open sourcing parts of my brain.

All I want in return is for you to make this interactive. Argue with me. Tell me I’m wrong. I’ll return the favor at times… Steel sharpens steel.

And if you like what I write, please share it. This is open source, creative commons, $0, freebird.

Who Is This For?

You’ll probably get the most out of my posts if you’re in one of these groups:

  • A junior to mid-level product person wanting to get better;
  • A developer, designer, data analyst or someone else wanting to understand what these product people actually even do;
  • Somebody wanting to explore product as a new career path;
  • A manager of humans; or
  • A hater wanting to knock me down a peg.

I still reserve the right to be interesting to people outside of these groups too. But if you identify with one of these, you have a better chance of your fancy being tickled.

Ok, So What Will I Be Blogging About?

I’m overzealous with planning, so of course I already have an editorial calendar lined up. But I also want to let the road guide me as I travel.

Here are some topics you will surely bump into here:

  • Scrum, Agile, Lean and all sorts of buzzwords of yesteryear. But with a heavy focus on 10+ years of executing these things in practice. 
    Articles: #1 Reason to go Agile, Delivery Date Management
  • Culture. The only thing that beats amazing humans are amazing groups of humans. Sowing the seeds of good culture (yes, there will be gardening references!) and nurturing it is one of the hardest and most discipline-requiring things in our industry. It’s tedious, difficult and doesn’t allow for bad days. But nothing pays off like having a healthy culture.
    Articles: Squads and Guilds Prerequisites, Leading Humans
  • Organizations / Process. Eeeek! These are scary and terrifying words. Bear with me, I’ll try to make this stuff fun and palatable. People often think that structure and process are the enemy of good culture, but I believe I can persuade you to think otherwise.
    Articles: Squads and Guilds, Squads and Guilds prerequisites, Scaling Agile Orgs
  • Management. I’ve had direct reports for most of my career. For me, this is the biggest responsibility of all and I approach it with the appropriate humility. When you manage someone, you’re directly responsible for their well-being, career development and ability to be their best self. HUGE STUFF.
    Articles: Leading Humans, Having Awesome Career Development Chats
  • Traditional PM stuff. Honestly, the internet is already quite full of great writing about stuff like qual vs quant, roadmapping, A/B, ROI, MVP etc., but I don’t think I’ll be able to resist the temptation to offer my take on some of these big ideas. 
    Articles: Product’s Role, Outcome Thinking, Sweating the Details, 3 out of 3 on MVPs, Poker for Product Managers

Most topics will fit into these buckets. Some won’t.

I told you I have stock photos. Also, this image is BS, but I’ll get to that later.

Did I Catch Your Fancy?

Great! I’d love to have you with me on this journey.

Here are a few things you can do to hop aboard this train:

  • Follow me on Twitter.
  • Follow me on Medium. (RSS for fellow old schoolers)
  • Join my Email Gang (one email per week for bonus insight).

Most importantly: Comment! Write a long rebuttal on Medium! Cuss me out on Twitter! Email me to tell me how insightful I am! Whatever you do, don’t sit there quietly. This is our journey; I’m just the one making noise and starting trouble.

That’s it. Too late to cancel this project now. I’m all in.

Adult professional type person in urban environment stock photo. #tie-tuesday 📸: Cristina Forsstrom

P.S. I’m also available for speaking engagements at product-related events and children’s parties. Hit me up.

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