Growing as a Product Manager in Secondary Startup Markets — Part I

With most of my usual newsletters and bloggers taking the final week of 2016 off, I spent the last week of the year reviewing the blogs, podcasts, and books that had the most influence on my thinking. One of those posts was Fred Wilson’s Second and Third Tier Markets And Beyond in which Fred discussed the challenges founders and investors face in markets outside of Silicon Valley.

This post and the conversation around it, led me to start thinking about the other roles in startup ecosystems differ drastically depending on their environment. Naturally, I settled on examining what it is like to become a PM outside of the Valley. Hint: it’s tough, luck plays a large role, you need a supportive team and you have to love to hustle.

As I began digging into the differences between product management in locations where the mentorship and resources run deep and emerging startup ecosystems, I became reflective on my evolution from the very first days to how I think about managing a product today.

Given that the Product Manager and Product Marketing Manager roles are so prevalent in the Valley, I figured more decorated PM’s than I had written on what they had learned. My assumption was correct. In this search I came across 50 Things I’ve Learned About Product Management by John Cutler on Medium. While I highly recommend you read the entire list, point number 6 stuck with me:

The best way to get people off your back is to deliver value continuously (with data to back it up). Real results (and a proud team) eat everything for breakfast.

I was, and in some ways still am, green as a product manager, but by far the easiest way to get buy-in from your team is to produce results using the skill-set you have at your disposal. However, what is even more crucial that you never stop growing the skill-set you have at your disposal so you are able to continuously deliver value and insight.

Product management is one of the most desired startup jobs in the Bay Area, and as the entrepreneurial culture begins to spread to other metros, the competition for these jobs will be fierce. There will always be someone more experienced and better qualified but if you enjoy the grind of learning, success will find you.

With that point in mind, over the next few weeks I hope to deliver some insight into how I evolved as a PM outside of Silicon Valley. In this series, I’ll work through some of the lessons I’ve learned as a PMM, why I believe strategy and business knowledge are just as important as the technical skill, and the resources I leveraged to become a more effective PMM.


Originally published at kevindstevens.com on January 9, 2017.