Bigger Egos or Better Products

A little over half a decade ago I ‘stumbled upon’ a career choice that I think has spanned out to be one of the most sought after options nowadays — A Product Manager.

Back in 2010, there were not many established Internet giants like we have today in India. Startups were these cool companies with mostly youngsters and a bad looking product and almost all of them had a very faint idea of what Product Management really means. For me, a young naive management trainee, it was sheer happenstance that led me to work in a product oriented role. With inspiring colleagues and mentors who had some idea of what the product manager is supposed to do, the journey had an adventurous beginning.

The best part about it was that almost everybody, whether inside the organisation or outside was unsure of what Internet based businesses can help them achieve. To teach them what Google Ads are, what online marketing is and what lead generation means, was a lot of fun.

Over the next five odd years, building a product and team from scratch, while struggling with the hordes of online advice and forum topics about what is the ideal Product Management process there were a few truths that came out very strongly. As a product manager, I personally found these to be some very important qualities and aspects that helped scale a small 5 people business into a 150+ strong team and a portfolio of good products.

Kill That Ego

Often a Product manager comes from a slightly privileged academic background, which sort of makes them prone to have a sense of entitlement and ego. If you’re young and overconfident and stop listening to your users by getting your Ego in between, you’ve spelt doom for long term growth. Fellow PMs would agree on the fact that it is often quite tempting to stick to what you feel is right because you have the best context about a feature or tool in the product. However this attitude can be extremely carcinogenic and it is imperative that a Product person set their ego and bias aside while gathering insights and observing usage. A Bad PM would just end up correcting a user when they are unable to understand a product feature. Whereas a Good PM would just make that feature more idiot proof.

Missing out the Small Things

How often do we see an app with amazing design and cool features that promises all things great, but there are those few buttons or links or flows that just don’t work. Because the product team often misses out on what they see as ‘small things’ in the larger scope of the product. However that ‘small thing’ could be 70% of the scope that a user sees. Sending a release onto production with poorly tested apparent features or flows is a sign of a shoddy product job. It’s the small but apparent things that cause more harm than the big fat bugs. While the big fat bug gets addressed and corrected soon, the small issue lingers on battering the user experience with each click.

You’re not just driving a Product, You’re driving Company Culture

Product is a function that interacts with every team in the business and affects their daily work life. A sales person can face continuous flak if the prospective client is not getting his glitch fixed, or a finance manager can go wild trying to check online sales closures if the product is not tracking it correctly. The way a product team behaves, communicates and keeps people in the loop foretells the way the company culture will evolve. The difference between a well rounded great culture startup and a startup where everyone is bickering and complaining and unhappy could be linked back to the Product (assuming that the rest of the qualities in the business such as the founder, the vision etc. are genuine)

The way the product shapes up and how frequently it gives people a reason to celebrate and bond is significantly important in driving how the company shapes up — both financially and culturally. It is imperative that the Product team realises this early on and drives it consciously.

There are a gazillion things that a PM has to monitor and be on top of every single day, and in this daily routine the aspects highlighted above often take a beating. If you’re a PM or going to be one, then don’t let your overwhelming task set put these aspects on the back burner.

Better products over bigger egos…always!