From 6 product makers: what do you wish you had known?

  • 4 May 2022
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What's one piece of advice you wish you'd had when you started working in product?

Today we’re highlighting six answers to this question from our Product Makers community. The answers were pulled from our Featured Maker series, so be sure to explore the posts for more words of wisdom. 💡

 

Pieter Strouven

“Don't productize until you've walked a few miles in your customers' shoes. It's so tempting to fall in love with your first - abstract and technically beautiful - solution. Don't build it right away. There's no shame in acting like a service company until you've mastered the problem. Be a human solution first before engineering one. I guess this corresponds to Ries' fail fast mantra or some of Ash Maurya's teachings. A starting PM should look closely at those works.”

 

Gavin Guest

“Execution is far more important than ideas. As a young, new product designer, it seemed like everyone else in the world was making bad products because they simply didn’t have good ideas. Eventually, I realized that most companies in the same industry have many of the same ideas or even similar roadmaps. Ideas only matter when you and your team can execute them, refine the details and bring them to market. Building teams who can execute is far more impactful to the business than building a team of “idea people”.”

 

David Morgan

“Don't take everything personally. While it's great to get invested in the product that you're working on, not all decisions are personally "against" or "in favor" of you. Allow the users and data to guide your hand, but never feel slighted when things end up being against your initial belief.

 

Rachel Rubinstein

“Make sure to understand the "why" behind everything. Getting to the bottom of the "why" ensures you understand the reason things are done the way they're done and helps you make sure you're building the right things. Sometimes the historical context helps explain things, and sometimes asking the question of "why do we do things this way?" helps expose areas for improvement and opportunities to make things better. It can be easy to fall into the trap of accepting things as "the way we've always done it" but when you ask the deeper "why" questions, you find ways to make products even better than they have been!”

 

Andrew Fragias

“Take a minute to analyze the processes that already exist within the product team and also that overlap with the product team prior to you taking over a new Product. Then plan a collective update to all processes where required rather than stumbling across issues in processes as they occur.”

 

Darya Rosikhina

“Being comfortable in the silences and leaving plenty of space for brainstorming, uncertainty, and big ideas. As a PM early in one’s career, on a small team and a small company, it can be easy to constantly be in execution mode and looking ahead to the next steps and launches. However, I think if you can take a step back and leave more room for unanswered questions and ambiguous, grand ideas, your product can ultimately make a much bigger impact.”

Thanks to @pieter.strouven, @gavin, @david.morgan, @Rachel Rubinstein, @Andrew Fragias and @drosikhina for sharing their experiences through our Featured Maker series.

 

Now it’s your turn! What's one piece of advice you wish you'd had when you started working in product? 🔮

 


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I feel like David Morgan’s statement is the most important from me. I personally have the luck that my former professional background is exactly where our product targets at, but this often leads to situations where it gets difficult for me to understand and accept other customer/stakeholders opinions. So fellow producteers: Always stay open minded and self-reflect!

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I have experienced this as well, @dkirsten. When you are so closely connected to the product target it’s easy to get stuck in the feeling of, “well this is the way it should be done.” The way in which we work and live is changing so rapidly that it’s important to stay open minded to new ideas or we run the risk of missing the mark. Thanks for your comment @dkirsten and highlighting @david.morgan’s statement!

 

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I feel like David Morgan’s statement is the most important from me. I personally have the luck that my former professional background is exactly where our product targets at, but this often leads to situations where it gets difficult for me to understand and accept other customer/stakeholders opinions. So fellow producteers: Always stay open minded and self-reflect!

This is identical to how I got into Product Management, as a whole. Being in the seat, driving the product, yet hearing absolutely conflicting needs/wants from the users compared to my own needs/wants (as a once-user) took some getting used to. Exactly why this was my comment, when asked. 😅 

Glad it was taken as an important statement! Agreed: always stay open minded. We have to challenge our own assumptions and observations at times. 

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@david.morgan comment resonates a lot with me especially as someone who gets very invested in things easily 

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Personally, I think all of the Product Makers in the original post have made some very valuable comments. It all depends on where you are in the pipeline of product development and product operations. It boils down to the key attributes:

  1. Customer Empathy - @pieter.strouven 
  2. Product Execution v. Conceptualization - @gavin 
  3. Self (Ego) v. Product/User Needs - @david.morgan 
  4. The “Power of Why” - @Rachel Rubinstein 
  5. Identify Product Operations Processes - @Andrew Fragias 
  6. The Power of Feedback and Impact - @drosikhina 

All are key, pertinent, areas of Product Management and being a Product Maker. Thanks for putting all of our quotes together @michelle.fifis ✋

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Today, in most startups, a routine process with all kinds of frameworks has become a trend, and under all this data, the main idea, need and problem that needs to be solved gets lost.
The idea must be cooked. Get to know the audience whose needs you are going to solve by researching, and see if your idea is really their problem? Like an actor, put yourself in the shoes of the audience and walk in his shoes, put his glasses on your eyes; With the new world you will experience, you will find the main "problem" and "need". Start from here, there is no delay.
Remember, having thousands of fresh ideas is worthless until you start implementing them.

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@Andrew Fragias is spot on 100%.  I took over an existing product in Oct 2021 and 2 weeks into the role I was asked why are you looking at the process so closely and not jamming on getting the roadmap figured out.  My response “if I don’t know how the product planning and delivery has been before, I can’t “fix” the gaps in communication.  Successful product leaders look for cross functional changes not just a release plan.”