Takeaways #2

On being a good product manager, dope excel feature: conditional formatting, and product crush of the week: Brain.fm

Lake Merritt, Oakland

Celebrating and sharing the things I learned this week.


Being a good product manager

“Product communication is more than just being the router of information. You need to be the DNS as well. Decide who needs to be communicated, when and how.”

I’ve been more and more enamored by the responsibilities and skills that Product Managers have to sharpen in order to do their job well. I had a great conversation with a PM this week where we explored the following questions:

What are good PM traits that I have observed within my company?

Good traits from work:

  • Providing market value insights — In my company, PMs are ready to back up their product ideas with explicit and implicit data on why they think a new feature would enhance user experience.
  • Reachable via Slack or 1:1 — PMs are usually available via Slack and it helps that the dev team sits close to the PMs devs are able to ask questions to clarify requirements.
  • Sales and customer focused — PMs are constantly on the phone talking to customers and providing demos of new product features. This allows for constant feedback.

Bad traits from work:

  • Blaming — As a ScrumMaster, I have been part of conversations with PMs who blame other stakeholders for an unsuccessful release instead of providing solutions on how we can better improve.
“Why is the team’s velocity so low? If the devs worked harder, we wouldn’t be in this situation?”
  • Poor Acceptance Criteria — Some stories are poorly defined which causes confusion and devs are less motivated to pick up the story because they don’t see the overall impact.
  • Constant last minute changes to product requirements — I believe this happens frequently because PMs do not have a good understanding of what are the expected requirements until they see an actual demo of the feature…
  • Unable to provide thorough product feature expectations —I find myself in product demo meetings where a PM realizes that what is being demo’d is not what is expected and makes last minute changes. What I don’t understand is why they didn’t catch the issues earlier during the sprint when the user story was completed
  • Frequently do not provide KPIs — KPIs are driven by development teams.

I also immediately remembered the famous ‘Good Product Manager, Bad Product Manager’ article that Ben Horowitz wrote a few years back. It’s an oldie, but a goodie.

Good product managers understand (or seek guidance on) overall company goals and set product strategy in that context. Good product managers also understand the capabilities and limitations of their overall company

I also came across this spider web diagram of the different facets of generalized expertise that good PMs typically have. Personally, I have engineering skills, communication & empathy, and process down. I find it difficult to become a domain expertise at one thing, but I’m passionate about becoming an expert on machine learning and AI and how that can contribute to a better ecommerce experience.

2. How would you get buy-in from other stakeholders?

From my last Takeaways, I read this informative article about getting buy-in. Basically, the article mentions these action items and I can’t agree any further!

3. What would you do if there was a last minute new product enhancement for a feature?

  • Provide implicit and explicit data that provides insight on how impactful the idea is
  • Go back to the overall team/company/product vision and explain how the new product idea complements that overarching goal.
  • Take the time to facilitate empathy interviews with a few stakeholders and understand what are their concerns about the product idea.
  • Provide a user persona analysis and wireframes — It’s easier to gain buy in from people if they are provided visuals of how the product would look like and which users we are targeting and what we are solving for them. I found that this was the most successful step when I was helping Hack the Hood implement their Salesforce platform. I provided them a prototype of how Salesforce would look like and they were immediately captivated to the idea.

Dope Google Excel features

My mind was blown this week when I was using google excel for work to develop an analysis of all the different types of bugs my team had to fix this release. In excel, there is a feature called conditional formatting which can be used to generate queries to trigger an action such as to change the color of the rows. Simply specify the range and what values should a specific row should have in order to change the color of the row. This is especially helpful for people who like their excel spreadsheets to captivate readers with the different illuminating rows of colors. Plus, it’s just damn pretty.

Product Crush of the Week: Brain.FM

I am completely in love with this and find myself focusing better and getting less distracted at work. After all, it is the music for the brain! Brain.FM boasts to be the best AI composer, “combining music and auditory neuroscience to produce a non-invasive digital therapy application for users”. Check out their research:

I’ve found that this is better than listening to classical music, binaural beats, or the deep focus Spotify playlist because the waves change according to where you are in your focus state. I have 2 free trials left before getting the subscription, but I’m definitely going to subscribe once my trial is over. I highly recommend giving it a try and see if it works for you.

Personal Development Quotes of the Week

Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job — Tony Robbins
The most powerful investment that anyone can make, is an investment in himself -Warren Buffet

Celebrating Accomplishments

  1. Being consistent with my facial routine and recording my progress —After a week of following the facial routine I wrote about here, I am noticing that my face is looking more vibrant.
  2. Half way done with the Money Master the Game book! I also found it incredibly empowering to talk to my mom about how she can invest smartly and consulted with her on how to manage her 401k. She also just bought the book and finding it to be very informative.
  3. Practice Situation Behavior Impact and prepare for a meeting using the tips from above this week at work — currently devising a plan on how to do this at work. TBC.