PRODUCTHEAD: Dear younger me …
PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.
a product at the door
every PRODUCTHEAD edition is online for you to refer back to
This week Ken Norton published a lovely article and video about his advice for aspiring product managers. In particular I admire that he calls out his own privilege and exhorts everyone to ‘hold the door open’ for others, to actively encourage greater diversity in our profession.
In 2014 I wrote a book to share the main lessons I’d learnt about being a product manager. Honestly, it was written primarily to remind myself to avoid all the mistakes I’d made along the way. Happily for the success of the book, it just so happened that I wasn’t the only one making them.
In the years since, I’ve managed to make bigger and ‘better’ mistakes, which in turn probably means I should write another book recommending several other things not to do.
Mind the pronouns
There was the dawning realisation that I needed to be far more mindful about my lazy and imprecise use of gendered language, something I’m grateful my colleagues politely alerted me to, particularly those in the UK’s Civil Service.
And I now know to curb my tendency to explain everything from first principles. Most of the time the other person has at least as much experience as I do, and so what I was actually doing was mansplaining. In fact I’d do this regardless of gender, which is either slightly better or worse depending on your perspective. (It’s worse. I know that.)
I’m not as funny as I think I am
I also now know not to trust how witty things sound in my inner monologue before saying them out loud. In my head, I’m Noël Coward. In reality, not so much. See also: inappropriate ad libs during talks.
True empathy is almost impossible
Ironically for a product manager whose mantra has been about empathy for the user, I’m also far more aware that I can never truly empathise with people whose life experience is vastly different to mine (namely everyone). If anything, this is a stronger argument in favour of more in-person user research to test out assumptions and mitigate unconscious biases.
In short, I’ve learnt that I’ve been wrong, ignorant and not very mindful about many things. Now at least I know what to look out for and can actively work on improving myself. So I’m hopeful I’m not a complete lost cause :-)
Speak to you soon,
P.S. Don’t forget that you still have the chance to win tickets to Product School’s #ProductCon in November. Details below!
what to think about this week
A few weeks ago, I spoke at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference about the lessons I’ve learned that might be useful for other product leaders. I offer this advice with full recognition that I’m usually the first to argue that advice can be problematic. So please take it for what it is: one person’s opinion.
[KEN NORTON / BRING THE DONUTS]
April Underwood has been Director of Product at Twitter and Chief Product Officer at Slack. In this interview with The NFX Podcast, she shares her wealth of experience, including her advice to her younger self at the end of the episode.
“If you have the opportunity to work on something that sits at the intersection of a technological or even a business innovation, and also a cultural one, then run, don’t walk. And I’ve had the opportunity to do that twice.”
[APRIL UNDERWOOD / NFX]
Whether you’re new to product management or have been a product manager for years, a coaching session can help you to step up your career.
We’ve coached people wanting to get into product management, product people with nobody in their organisation to manage them, and experienced product managers preparing to apply for a promotion.
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Recently people all seem to be encountering the same problem. Their engineering teams are choosing to work on projects that make them look busy, but which don’t actually move things forward. What they’re usually working on is a convoluted — and arguably doomed — attempt to replatform a legacy ‘cash cow’ product.
[I MANAGE PRODUCTS]
A recent tweet by John Cutler provoked some interesting reactions. It got me thinking about whether there are unifying principles of product management that apply in all contexts.
[I MANAGE PRODUCTS]
When companies set out to improve a service or redesign a product, the results can sometimes be underwhelming. Instead of delivering service transformation, the team recommends only minor efficiency tweaks. If this has been happening to you, there can be many underlying causes. I’ve identified a few common problems and what you can you do about them.
[I MANAGE PRODUCTS]
upcoming talks and events
18th November 2021 – 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM (PST)
Organized by Product School and structured around the hottest topics in Product Management, ProductCon takes place online four times per year, and gathers over 15,000 product professionals from all over the world.
ProductCon is hosted on the cutting-edge virtual event platform, Hopin. Recreating the look and feel of an in-person event without the hassle or travel, you’ll be able to watch presentations, access slides, interact with speakers, network with fellow attendees, and even collect goodies from the virtual booths.
Introduce a friend to PRODUCTHEAD and you could win a VIP ticket to #ProductCon Online
VIP ticket holders receive:
✔️ 20% discount on Product School merch
✔️ Access to the main stage
✔️ Access to networking
✔️ Immediate access to presentations
✔️ Access to recordings
✔️ Exclusive Q&A with ProductCon speakers
✔️ Library of product templates
✔️ Exclusive tools
✔️ Certificate of completion
Product School’s online conference is on Thursday November 18, 2021 from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM (PST).
What you need to do – easy as 1…2…3
❶ Get one of your fellow product people to subscribe to this lovely PRODUCTHEAD newsletter (imanageproducts.com/subscribe).
❷ Then (with their consent) let me know the email addresses they’ve used to subscribe.
❸ If they confirm their subscription, then I’ll let you know you’re in the draw to win a free VIP ticket.
I’ll select 9 winners at random on Thursday November 4, 2021.
Terms and conditions apply to this prize draw, please read them below before you enter.
Prize draw terms and conditions
- This prize draw is operated by Product People Limited (“we“, “us“, “our“).
- We will select the winners at random on 4 November 2021 at 16:00 GMT. We will accept no entries after that time.
- We will contact each winner individually after the draw and will publish a list of the winners’ names with their consent in the following PRODUCTHEAD newsletter and on our website.
- You must be an active subscriber to this PRODUCTHEAD newsletter to participate in the prize draw.
- We will accept only one entry into the prize draw per person.
- You must be 18+ years old to enter.
- No purchase is required to enter.
- Each of the 9 winners will receive 1 VIP ticket to #ProductCon Online (November 18, 2021), which is run by Product School Inc.
- You must seek the consent of each email address owner before sharing their personal information with us.
- To qualify for entry into the prize draw:
- with their consent, get 1 person to subscribe to this PRODUCTHEAD newsletter at imanageproducts.com/subscribe ;
- you need to reply to this email or contact us to let us know the email address of the person you have referred;
- the person you refer will receive an email asking them to confirm their subscription to PRODUCTHEAD, which they must accept;
- the person you refer must remain an active subscriber to PRODUCTHEAD until the winners of the prize draw are selected.
- The retail price of 1 VIP ticket (as at 22 October 2021) is USD$228.
- Prizes may not be exchanged for their monetary value.
- Should #ProductCon Online 2021 be cancelled for any reason, we will offer each winner instead access free of charge to our current pre-recorded training catalogue of 4 courses (worth USD$260).
can we help you?
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PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from a dawning realisation of one’s own cringe factor.
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Read more from Jock
The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management
by Jock Busuttil
“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”— Lyndsay Denton