Product manager – the unsung hero

Posted: September 3, 2010 in Product

Marcus the Product managerTo a startup, a great product manager (PM) is worth her weight in gold.

Unfortunately, the skill list for a kick-ass PM is longer than War and Peace: He needs to have solid understanding on users, usability and design, in addition to being able to discuss, or even challenge, engineering decisions at least on the feature level. Prioritizing requirements, tuning the product roadmap, and resolving various conflicts (between users, sales, engineering, etc) are vital skills of a good PM. And that is not enough: he needs to have deep understanding of the industry, competitors and business in general. Basically, the PM really is “the CEO of her product”, even thought in many companies he has CEO-level responsibilities with intern-level empowerment.

For instance, at Google, PMs are an elite group of lovable scoundrels*, tirelessly pushing their products and ideas against the natural resistance of a large organization. This is very close to a startup CEO pushing his agenda against the status quo that incumbents try to maintain. Therefore, it’s no surprise that many of my former PM colleagues have been recruited as CEOs, and at least as many of them have founded their own companies.

*) My ex-colleagues would probably agree?

I believe that only companies that are truly product-centric can really value product managers. The reason for PMs being unsung heroes is that most of the companies are not truly product-centric, focusing instead on management, engineering, marketing, sales or even logistics; products are only things that need to be built to feed the awesome, revenue-generating management/marketing/logistics behemoth.

My last post was about JavaScript hackers and the near-desperate search for them. The same applies to PMs: most startups would kill for a great PM.

Speaking about PMs and startups**), Applifier, the World’s largest cross-promotion network for Facebook games, is looking for a rockstar PM to shuttle between Helsinki and San Francisco. Considering the incredible growth of the company, its backers, and the challenges success always creates, this is a unique opportunity for a passionate product person. If you’re one, please contact jussi ÄT or me (petteri ÄT and let’s chat.

**) I guess I can advertise on my own blog 🙂

Product managers, product managers, product managers, …”


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