This thriving position brings together engineering, design, and business

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The often winding path to product manager. Photo: @dnevozhai via Unsplash

If you’re interested in the elusive and rewarding field of product management but unclear about how to land a position, you’re not alone. Each component of product management—design, engineering, and business—offers ample opportunities for formal education. Few degree programs, however, show people how to bring all three areas together, and none that I’ve seen is a B.S. program. The paths that produce the best product managers build empathy for and awareness of the functional areas they work with.

Most people find their way into product management after gaining professional experience in and exposure to design, engineering, and business. Exposure is key; you don’t necessarily need cold, hard experience in all three areas. …

These 9 simple tips can make a huge difference in money management

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Image: Roy Scott/Ikon Images/Getty Images

The role of a product manager is, generally, to manage the development of a product and then maximize the revenue and profit margins that product generates for the company.

As a product manager, I tend to approach a lot of things in life the same way I would managing a product. Things like maintaining a calendar, tracking my stats on hikes and backpacking trips, and even the articles I post every week—all governed by methodical organization and efficiency (at least in theory).

So it’s no surprise that, over time, I’ve implemented some tricks of the trade to better manage my personal finances. After years of managing products, my head’s geared this way, but you don’t have to be a product manager to apply these concepts to your own personal finances. …

What works here doesn’t always work everywhere else

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Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

How adaptable is the “Silicon Valley approach” in foreign markets?

Well, the approach(es) are plenty adaptable. The real question is — How adaptive are the people employing it?

The business practices developed in Silicon Valley are revolutionary, but they’re no silver bullet. Strategies tried and true in one market are worth nothing in another, if those implementing them don’t consider the cultural nuances that may affect them.

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While living in China that summer I made sure to travel the country

Back in the early 2000’s, while working at eBay, I learned this firsthand while trying to aid the company’s failing efforts in China.

Our CTO sent a number of us Product and UX Design leads over to live in Shanghai for the summer (2005) to see if we could figure out what was going on, and how we might turn things around. That summer ended up serving as a masterclass in how to lose the Chinese market as a US company. …

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My wife and I taking delivery at Tesla’s Fremont Factory in 2015

I’ve been driving a Tesla Model S for three years now and I simply love it. It’s the first vehicle I’ve owned that gets better with age. With every software update, a new set of tricks and features appear at my disposal. It’s hard to imagine commuting and driving along winding roads now without features like AutoPilot and Forward Collision Warnings (features that were automatically added to my car after I had already bought it).

Naturally, as a product person, spending several hours commuting in my Tesla everyday, I dream up some feature ideas of my own from time to time. And I’ve decided to share some of them here. …

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Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

At what point in facing a challenge should we resort to asking for help?

The trick here is the word “resort.”

In spite of our better judgments, most of us wait until we’re stuck in the quicksand of a problem before we turn to someone for advice or counsel. But why wait until we’re desperate to seek out assistance? Why let ourselves get to a point of anxiety and frustration when it’s often altogether unneeded?

Why not, instead, make asking for help a built-in part of our work process?

There’s a metaphor in a book by Stephen Covey I read a while back about the importance of sharpening a saw between cuts so that the saw doesn’t get stuck in the wood it’s working…

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Commute traffic in the SF Bay Area. Photo: thomashawk via flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

A few years ago my Bay Area commute was really getting to me.

One and a half to two hours behind the wheel. Home around seven thirty in the evenings. Never in time for dinner with my family. My little ones already in bed, having also missed them in the morning as I headed off to work early. It was depressing.

Not what I wanted for my life.

Eventually, I worked it out that I’d stay late at the office two nights a week (bringing leftovers for dinner). Then I’d leave early two days a week, so I could be home by five thirty. …

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Elizabeth II struggled to find her authentic self in her early reigning years [Photo of Claire Foy in Netflix’s The Crown]

What is a leader supposed to look like?

How do they act? How do they dress? What shows are they watching? Do they watch TV? What’s their workout routine? Beard or no?

Am I meditating hard enough???

Having the opportunity to lead within an organization is a privilege, but that privilege can be accompanied by uncomfortable pressures and expectations — real or imagined. Some of these pressures and expectations are concrete, while some are obscure. Some expectations should certainly be met, while some would be better challenged, and others even ignored altogether. …

Notes on protecting your baby tiger

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New ideas are like “baby tigers” that need your protection. Photo: tambako via flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

It feels counterintuitive to keep ideas secret at work — and yet, we’ve all seen situations where organizations kill really good ideas. Organizations with and without models for disruptive innovation in place, doesn’t matter. If an idea is perceived to distract from the current top-down directives, it’s likely to face insurmountable opposition.

You can’t get the green light to build an idea without some sort of proof. And paradoxically, you often can’t get proof without building something.

So what do you do?

Give up?

Not if your idea is a baby tiger, you don’t.

Baby Tiger Ideas

Tigers may be an apex predator, but baby tigers need protecting until they’re more developed and able to fend for themselves in the wild. The baby tigers are those ideas that could be unstoppable, if only someone would see their potential and protect them. …

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What makes a good product?

Best-in-market technology? Stellar user reviews? Right time of entry? Each of these factors indicates potential, but in truth, a product could have all three of these items going for it and still tank-it in the market. Just ask any of the 75% of venture-backed companies who fail to return their cash to investors.

So what’s happening?

Turns out, a lot of times, people are just focusing too much on quality.

The Difference Between Quality and Product-Fit

Focusing too much on quality. Sounds strange, right? But it’s true. …

Know Your Game Plan before Stepping into a New Locker-room

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Billy Bean in 2011 Film MoneyBall leading his team (via Filmofilia)

The Dos and Don’ts of Leading Inherited Product Teams

How do you Product Manage teams that know more about a product than you do?

When Product Managers inherit pre-existing products (whether it’s a change of company or an internal re-org) there are a lot of factors that need to be locked-down. Team Dynamics. Product Strategy. Performance Assessment Timelines.

Having a clear game plan in these situations can help you stay on the offensive, and not just feel you’re digging your product out of a hole. Below are some dos and don’ts I’ve picked up along the way after going through this process a number of times myself.

Game plans often need adjustments, but some truths remain constant and can be used to guide decisions as you move forward. …


Preston Smalley

Product & Tech Leader for digital TV entertainment, two-sided marketplaces and mobile apps used every day by millions of people.

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