How to pick a Product Manager you can Trust ?

HelloMeets recently conducted a workshop on “Product Management for Startups”. Lakshay Pandey who is a Product Manager at team hike & has previously worked with Jabong, Zomato and Paytm, shared his insights on how early stage startups should go about hiring a Product Manager.

**This blog will be helpful for startup founders looking to hire a PM & for aspiring PMs.

Before we go ahead with discussing the hiring process, lets understand who a Product Manager is.

— Product managers are considered to be people with strong technical background, UX experts and also having excellent Statistical and Data Analysis skills.

For a more detailed explanation you can read the following:

>>So you want to manage a product? By Rohini Vibha — Business Designer @IDEO and Columnist @Inc

Some companies even describe them as Mini CEOs in the job description!!

On the basis of ground realities, the role of a PM comprises of the following:

  • Understanding the user needs and complaints
  • Understanding constraints and need to be able to build in the given constraints
  • Logging, viewing and utilising data
  • Keeping maniac focus on the priority and ignoring the noise
  • Helping coordinate between functions of different departments like Operations Team, Marketing team, Tech team etc.
  • Helping move the product forward by keeping a constant check on the feedback of users and working of different departments

The important question that a Startup founder needs to answer is — When do I really need to hire a product manager?

In the early stages of a startup, founders usually juggle the role of a Product Manager. Also — maximum startups have fewer funds because of which they do not want to hire a separate person to manage their product.
So the need to hire the first product manager comes up when the team/product is large enough to need dedicated focus.

As a founder, some questions to ask yourself before you hire a Product Manager are —

  • Am I unable to keep track of the details now?
  • Am I the bottle neck for the product being built?
  • Am I caught up with one particular aspect of the business?

After answering the above questions the Main considerations while hiring your first Product Manager are-

1. Technical/Domain expertise

  • We usually quantify based on engineering background
  • Need to judge what is the main pain point for your product
  • While nice to have but technical knowledge for product management is not a boundation in most products

2. Internal or External

  • For your first hire, there is always a choice between internal transfer or external hire
  • Internal transfers guarantee the respect of the team and cohesion with the founders
  • External hires bring in a new view point and experience

3. Tactical & Strategic or Delivery oriented

  • Do you need a Product Manager to own the product or a product manager to just handle launch and release?
  • For the second case, it is better hiring Engineering Managers or Project Managers
  • Be aware of different skill sets and treat candidates accordingly
Suggested Reads: Hiring Your First Product Manager -Steven Sinofsky
When should you hire your first PM? -Ken Norton

Finding your Product Manager

As there are different kinds of Designers (UI/Creative/UX) or Engineers(Backend/mobile/frontend), there are different types of PMs.

But they are not based on domain knowledge or product manifestation, rather they are classified by suitability of scale.

Product Manager Types:

Ken Norton (Google Ventures Partner), defines them as —

  • Gold: accountable, thorough, and detailed. Great for places needing process and order
  • Orange: push product teams to think bigger, to try crazy new ideas, and to be even more
  • Blue: Invaluable for keeping their finger on the pulse of a team, flagging discord, and playing peacekeeper
  • Green: The engines that keep product teams grounded in reality, building and inventing clever systems

Sachin Rekhi (ex Linkedin Head of Product), defines types as

  • Builders: People best at taking an existing stable product and pushing out a cohesive wholesome roadmap
  • Tuners: Great for specific scenarios with a focus on a single north star metric and improving that metric
  • Innovators: People best at fast paced building and evaluating. Great at validating ideas with experiments and finding a product market fit.

Hiring A Product Manager

  • If you are a startup, most likely things are a mess and a new person has to come in, take control, clean the mess and drive the company forward. So you have to think about how you will enable them to do that.
  • Interviewing a Product Manager is about open-ended skills. This requires some preparation by the interviewer.
  • Keep in mind the main tasks of a Product Manager, don’t look for coding background and marketing plans.

**For perspective on how much preparation is enough, you can read the book — ‘Work Rules’ by Laszlo Bock (ex HR head of Google).

BASIC DO’S ANS DONT’S OF FOR INTERVIEWING A PRODUCT MANAGER

DOs

• Introduce you and the Company

• Respect Time

• Build Context

• Understand profile of Candidate

• Understand how they handle conflicts in different teams

• Discuss a use case — not generic questions, walk through on solving cases

• Look for technical understanding, not an engineering degree

• Look for jack of all trades

DONTs

• Get into domain specific questions

• Start proving the candidate wrong, counter-productive for all

• Make it an engineering interview

• Make it a marketing interview

• Make it a data science interview

You can also read: — How to Hire a Product Manager by Ken Norton
— How To Ace Your Product Management Interview by Sachin Rekhi

Wait a minute !! Lakshay also gave some Tips for aspiring Product Managers —

  • Since there is no formal education for a Product Manager, make your own
  • Read everything that enhances your knowledge — there are varied thoughts on the internet on building products
  • Try to judge, assimilate and experiment
  • Learn to resolve conflicts amicably without resentment
  • Document everything. It’s a pain but the pros outweigh the cons
  • You are not the mini-CEO. It’s a farce to entice you
  • The business people seem evil, but they just might not be
  • Build a connection with your engineers — they will help you out more than you help them

Some helpful books for Founders and aspiring PM’s:

Some of our upcoming events at HelloMeets:

Blog credits: Naman Goel, Event Coordinator, HelloMeets Edited by: Ayushi Mohindra, Marketing, HelloMeets

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