Crowdsourcing: Getting started in product

  • 9 September 2022
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Userlevel 7
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Crowdsourcing for a friend. If you were new to product, where would you direct them to start their journey? What resources would you suggest? 


8 replies

Userlevel 5
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Besides devouring all the great books out there now … 

Do anything you can to be a part of building any kind of product.

Find a job that places you close to the product management/design/marketing work. Do business analysis for an overworked PM. Offer to pick up coffee and donuts for meetings so you can sit in on strategy and planning sessions. Learn from good software engineers (or whatever type of engineering aligns with your product interests). Pair up with someone in Finance to help them with spreadsheet grunt work. Whatever.

Being successful in product requires such a broad base of knowledge that everything you learn will help in the long run. 

Start-ups are a great place to start-up because they’re working out the hard product stuff and constantly learning from the market. There’s often someone involved who thinks deeply about product and business strategy. If you’re lucky, they have a defined or intuitive process for working through that early thinking. Watching the maturity process in action first-hand is gold. 

IME, larger organizations often just teach you about the misery of bureaucracy. I recommend steering clear of any org larger than 50 to 100 people for the first two or three years. There are exceptions where a sub-division still operates like a small and nimble org, but you have to know what to look for.

For what it’s worth, only HR people (and big org bureaucrats) care about degrees. School has nothing to do with effectiveness in product. Learning does.

Userlevel 7
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Awesome suggestions @plainclothes 

Userlevel 4
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Follow Diego Granados and Bart Jaworski on LinkedIn and do all the stuff they post about.

Userlevel 7
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Thanks for the suggestions @Mmcclain 

Userlevel 3
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Ooof tough question….. and as my favorite PM answer goes - it depends. And personally, I think it really depends on the background and seniority of the person in question.

I absolutely love the @plainclothes answer (and I would highly recommend going that path if you already have some experience under your belt) and yet, my career path was its exact opposite. I started in a corporation of 1200 people and I still live from that experience today. I definitely didn’t learn how to be a great product management there, but I was able to get closer to the product team and see how different roles interact and how software development lifecycle can look like. I made connections to people that these days work in dozen different companies (and can reach out to them). I saw how larger organization operates and what are the bureaucratic struggles there. On top of that, larger organizations are in general more forgiving when it comes to fails but at the cost of your impact being much smaller.

The whole experience provided me with something very important - it helped me to create a baseline. A baseline that I was later able to compare with what I saw in my next companies. I was able to understand companies I was building products for. I was able to explain how such organization operates to people who never worked in 50+people org. And I saw completely different product struggles. It was absolutely contrasting.  And that contrast is, in my opinion, is essential for PM growth - it triggers your thinking.  Is this organization doing things better than what I saw in my previous one? Why? How can I leverage my previous knowledge to make it even better? What could be the problems/risk/patterns/opportunities that we don’t see yet, but I’ve already have experience with?

I really believe that Product Management is art of experience. You won’t learn it from books. It’s the same with languages - you won’t be proficient in another language if you don’t actively speak it. And the best product managers I know understand that each organization and its product lifecycle is different, but they can leverage their experience to improve it.

So my tl;dr answer is: search for contrasts and experience whenever possible. Experience (not only) product building processes in different companies. Compare real-life problems and struggles with the theory in the books. Experience it, make 10.000 mistakes along the way and learn from it. But do it. Don’t expect to be a good product manager after you read Inspired.

Userlevel 7
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Fantastic points @martinmichalik — the apprenticeship model of product is totally the best way to learn. The gaps for many getting started is finding that place to hang their hat, and to practice that experience around others that demonstrate product excellence and customer-centricity. Love the advice of contrasts and embracing mistakes and that it doesn’t all happen overnight. ❤️

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I really like the book Inspired and Zero to One, and for Newsletters good to follow and also follow these folks on Twitter: 
https://www.productlessons.xyz/ 
https://www.lennysnewsletter.com/ 

Product management looks different at different sizes of companies and you learn by doing and practicing, do you want to learn about building a foundational PM team or process at a startup or go to a mature company and hone into execution more. It’s also about following your own curious to stay up to date. If you are curious about building PLG motions, Elena Verna at Amplitude is probably a great influencer to learn from and there are many podcast out there she is in to listen to. 

 

Userlevel 7
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Wonderful suggestions @hannahzhang. I always forget about Zero to One (it’s such a great book). Really appreciate the newsletter and podcast approach too.

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