What you should be looking for in a product person

Uri Haramati
Feb 23, 2017 · 6 min read

Ever since I left Life On Air a couple of months ago, the company I co-founded and headed the product for, I find myself serving as a hub for product people looking for their next move and companies looking for the right product person to join their team. And the roles are pretty broad: whether it’s a company looking for a PM, founders looking for their first product hire, or entrepreneurs looking for a product/ co-founder.

During this time I’ve found myself repeating something I’ve learned and since it seems to be useful for some, I decided to share it here.

The bottom line is the first question I ask:

“What are you missing in your product?”

The answer is not about the desired skills and strengths of the product person you are looking for, rather:

“What is his or her passion?”

In a world where companies see the product as the center of their offering, it becomes critical to hire the right product person. Since product people are like ducks (we’ll get to that), it’s hard to define what makes a product person the right one for your company.

Product people tend to come from incredibly varied backgrounds. And don’t require any unified pre-requisite to become a product person.

Most of us want them to be good at everything; we want them to have many specific skills, like triathletes…or ducks. They need to swim well, to run well and bike well (or fly well if it’s a duck). Take the best triathlete, for example: there will always be better swimmers, better runners and better cyclists, but the best triathlete should be the best at the intersection of all three. Every triathlete has a different level of passion for each of the sports (which doesn’t always align with his skill level in each of them).

Going back to the product people — assuming we are hiring the best people it’s important to understand where their passion lies. Then we can build a radar chart — or a spider web — that analyzes what we need.

I like to divide it to six types of passions: Technical, User experience, User psychology, Data, Project management and Wackiness. I try to look at the person and understand their passion, regardless of their background (which might give off false assumptions.)

1. Technical

2. User experience (UX/UI)

3. User psychology

4. Data

5. Project management

6. Wackiness

Now when you think about the six different passions, some of you might think that there are some areas missing. Other people might find some of them hypercritical while others are useless.

I believe that we need to think about what is missing in our product and then map these six passions. When I say “missing in the product”, I don’t just mean the product itself; rather, the whole product team, whether it’s founders looking for a product founder to join, hiring a VP of Product, adding a PM for a product team, or adding a PM to a multi-disciplinary squad.

Now, draw the radar of these six attributes for what is missing and then start doing so for everyone you have in mind to take this product position.

Assuming you hire the best people (and we all do), if their passion matches what you believe is missing, and your culture empowers people to make a change, they will influence the rest and take your product to where you want it to be.

I’m still trying to think of an easy, methodical way to rank these 6 attributes using some questionnaire or exercise. One way of doing so might be asking that person to divide 20 “points” between the six attributes according to what he or she enjoys the most. You can also get a better feeling about them from what they read, who they follow, and what has made an impact on them. If you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them.

UPDATE: 🙏 to Christian Montoya for creating a tool for the method https://montoya.github.io/product-person/

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Uri Haramati

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Love building stuff

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