PRODUCTHEAD: Dear younger me …

PRODUCTHEAD: Dear younger me …

PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.

anyone can manage products

tl;dr #

In product management, people matter most

Diverse teams build better products

A mentor or coach can be like a north star for your career

Care for the craft and remember to pay it forward

a favour: please share this with other product people

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.

Stop mansplaining

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

Reflecting on a career in product management

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.

Here’s to the next 20 years


The product thinking that built Slack & Twitter, with April Underwood

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.”

The only way to be a PM is to build and ship product


Product Management Coaching

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.

We can help you prepare for your product manager interview, including mock interviews.

“Jock has been instrumental in my personal growth as a product leader but also as a person.”

Ludovic Lacay

Ludovic Lacay
Co-founder & Chief Product Officer, Napo

A proportion of the fees from every coaching session is donated to charity. Just reply to this email if you’re interested in finding out more.

recent posts

Replatforming the cash cow

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.

A strong signal to discover the replacement product


The unifying principles of product management

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.

Become one with everything


What to do when service transformation goes wrong

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.

Change means doing things differently, not just a rebrand


upcoming talks and events

18th November 2021 – 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM (PST) 

Win tickets to #ProductCon

ProductCon conference

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 (

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

  1. This prize draw is operated by Product People Limited (“we“, “us“, “our“).
  2. We will select the winners at random on 4 November 2021 at 16:00 GMT. We will accept no entries after that time.
  3. 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.
  4. You must be an active subscriber to this PRODUCTHEAD newsletter to participate in the prize draw.
  5. We will accept only one entry into the prize draw per person.
  6. You must be 18+ years old to enter.
  7. No purchase is required to enter.
  8. Each of the 9 winners will receive 1 VIP ticket to #ProductCon Online (November 18, 2021), which is run by Product School Inc.
  9. You must seek the consent of each email address owner before sharing their personal information with us.
  10. To qualify for entry into the prize draw:
    1. with their consent, get 1 person to subscribe to this PRODUCTHEAD newsletter at ;
    2. you need to reply to this email or contact us to let us know the email address of the person you have referred;
    3. the person you refer will receive an email asking them to confirm their subscription to PRODUCTHEAD, which they must accept;
    4. the person you refer must remain an active subscriber to PRODUCTHEAD until the winners of the prize draw are selected.
  11. The retail price of 1 VIP ticket (as at 22 October 2021) is USD$228.
  12. Prizes may not be exchanged for their monetary value.
  13. 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?

Product People is a product management services company. We can help you through consultancy, training and coaching. Just contact us if you need our help!

Product People Limited logo

Helping people build better products, more successfully, since 2012.

PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from a dawning realisation of one’s own cringe factor.

Read more from Jock

The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

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

Jock Busuttil is a freelance head of product, product management coach and author. He has spent over two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, which provides product management consultancy, coaching and training. Its clients include BBC, University of Cambridge, Ometria, Prolific and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). Jock holds a master’s degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of the popular book The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management, which was published in January 2015 by Grand Central Publishing in the US and Piatkus in the UK. He writes the blog I Manage Products and weekly product management newsletter PRODUCTHEAD. You can find him on Mastodon, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *