General Skills to Succeed as a Product Manager

When I first decided I wanted to be a Product Manager, I was intimidated. Most Product Managers that I knew had some kind of technical background (Computer Science, Engineering, etc.,) and/or had an MBA. I have neither. And yet, I felt this natural fit with being a Product Manager. I knew that PMs were closer to the product, working with engineers and designers to build something. As a founder, I just know that I want to create and build something, but I wasn’t sure that I could pull it off, especially in a FAANG company. Today, I’m a Senior Product Manager in a FAANG company. The not-so-subtle truth: the only one that had doubts, was me. Everyone else around me took it for granted that I was a Product Manager leading Product Vision and Development – and that, in itself, has been the grand lesson.

I talk in more detail about the general skills that any Product Manager needs to excel, no matter their background, in this webinar with Product School. But for my own journey, I have learned to recognize my own capability to learn and excel as a Product Manager. The truth is, representation was one of the big helpers in me opening my eyes to my own skill. Mentoring was another major helper.

When I started to see PMs with non-technical education rise, I started to not feel alone and to actually believe that I could pull it off. I started seeing colleagues of mine, or PMs on LinkedIn working on a variety of companies and products who had majored in Business, Literature, Philosophy, Biology, etc. I would ask them if they would be open to chatting with me about their journey and how they got where they were. I then read books like Marty Cagan’s “Inspired” and “Empowered”, where he shares the stories of Product Managers he admires, none of which had an MBA (in Inspired), and came from different backgrounds (in both books). I started realizing two things: (1) I wasn’t alone, and (2) I can do this.

Now, when I interview Product Managers for open roles, some of them have non-tech backgrounds like mine. Some of them ask me if I think they would succeed since they don’t have the typical background (which, as a side note, asking your interviewer if they think you’ll be successful with your background is a bit weird, and depending on the interviewer, might make them pause about their consideration.) I know where they’re coming from. I now always answer, “I advise you not to feel intimidated. You have X years of experience growing and building things, it takes practice, and you can get there.”

“Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right.” Henry Ford

Cookie Partnerships

Recently I was talking to a friend about small start up companies. I clearly remember one of his remarks the most. He had a strong point by saying that when start ups get very successful very quickly, entrepreneurs get a little nervous. At that point, they start hiring more experienced executives to tell them what to do next. That would be their best hope to guide them through the gold rush before everything gets out of control. It made perfect sense at the time.

Now, it makes even more sense with Groupon’s new hire: Howard Schultz. Read more Although Mr. Schultz is CEO to Starbucks, a different industry as Groupon, marketing is his specialty and that’s what Groupon came short with at the Superbowl’s half time commercials. (Read about the ad

The ad was found offensive and confusing rather than compassionate and humorous as Groupon intended. This company is a little over two years old. As several other modern million-dollar (and sometimes billion-dollar) companies, Groupon started out to be a small idea employing less than 10 people back in November 2008 in the US. Today, its presence covers 30 countries around the world, bringing you an interesting coupon to your inbox every day at super low prices.

The strategy and business model is mind blowing. Imagine becoming a millionaire practically overnight thanks to a great idea in your mind. So rapidly, marketing strategies need to be perfectly aimed and constant. Thank heavens for Mr. Schultz in this scenario then.

Marketing’s Right Brain

I’ve mentioned  Daniel Pink’s “A Whole New Mind” a couple of times before on my blog. It has a purpose. After all, so many things involving marketing are to be thought through the right brain. I couldn’t say completely, but then again the book’s title is in fact “A Whole New Mind”.

The point of me bringing it up once again in this entry is because I’ve been exploring so many websites on different topics. On I discovered a channel called “Creative Mornings”. In so many ways, the concept is very similar to that of TED talks. The main differential here is the fact that these mini conferences are held at the Channel’s headquarters in New York City every morning at 830am before people go to work. What’s the point on having them at this particular time of the day? It opens up people’s minds. Fresh ideas can be pitched to colleagues or interested people who attend.

Anything goes. Having this as row model, we can pick it up in our offices (generally speaking, whomever would like to start practicing it). Have an informal meeting, just like a talk. Someone can step up and talk about their ideas. One person every morning. Have their talk and then a round of questions. Once the idea has been spread and talked about, then we can focus on work with a fresh perspective. I thought of it as a great idea and it could include all kinds of members from the staff. Why not try it out?

Censorship vs Expression

During the first decade of the Twenty First Century, the capitalist world seems to be growing and reaching goals towards the same direction in every sense. This included economy, technology & education for the most part. Of course, each country at its own pace or capability.

However, it’s been a few months now that censorship in certain areas of the world have become a major issue. While some countries are climbing exponentially towards more holistic connections between people and matters, others are going back to the middle ages.

Take Rupert Murdoch’s new exclusive news paper for iPads. This new release is a way for instant expression, news, etc. (although we’ve seen this for a while with social networks and other gadgets, but still it’s a breakthrough). Read more –>

Other countries however, are perhaps too attached to old way or too scared of the big changes. It’s human nature to be scared, but fear is only a tool to overcome obstacles. Getting stuck there, well, it just leaves you stuck.

Virtual Start Ups

Lately Entrepreneurship seems to be a synonym for technological start ups all over the place. I’ve seen it even as a recent graduate at the Campus’ start up incubator. Digital services, webpages, recent networks, apps, software, you name it. It has all gone virtual.

Sure you may see the local boutique start up, but then again you’ll see it opening up fan pages on Facebook or Twitter users. Even the US government has come up with a special program in tune with Facebook, Intel and other companies of the sort to give entrepreneurs funds and the chance to start their own virtual related company. Read more –>

Technology at this point has not only become a tool, it has become and entirely new business model; even a new economic model. As I mentioned in an older post, virtual goods are being paid for with real money. When in the last decade would that have been possible without sites such as FarmVille on Facebook?

More and more we see ourselves migrate into a situation in which we are benefited by Smart Technology, impalpable things to get the physical ones: clothing, housing, transportation. We are at the brink of a new model.

AIE: After Internet Era

The very purpose of technology is to make tasks easier and thus increasing productivity, enhance lifestyles and the quality of life in general. Technology has evolved so rapidly that we can no longer survive without it. Truth of the matter is right now in 2011, life expectancy has reached 90+ in some countries, whilst in the Stone Age it barely reached the mid 20’s.

So, have you ever imagined if someone were to pull the plug on everything around us? What would happen? A very real and current example is Egypt. Just today 90% of all Internet access has been blocked. Leaving the whole country out of instant reach with the rest of us. According to this article –> Internet has literally died in Egypt as of today.

Some seven years ago, S.M. Stirling wrote “Dies the Fire” in which he narrates a parallel world in which humanity is left with no Technology whatsoever. Chaos is of course the main feeling throughout the text. The thing is that change is such a difficult process for human nature, it’s even more impossible to assimilate if it’s a sudden & total change over the whole world.

What pushes changes like these? Conflict. As long as we are unified and we build strong structures, there’s no need for fear, there’s need for evolutionary mindsets alone.

ORM… & it’s not a Yoga Sound

It sounds like the meditating sound they make you repeat over and over during a Yoga or Meditating Session. But despite the phonetic resemblance, it’s actually Online Reputation Management. “To what extents have we come?” You may wonder. Well, since the beginning of showbiz (and I don’t necessarily mean just Hollywood) people tend not to be perfect (stating the obvious right?). In order to try to clean up the mess, there’s always someone expert in fixing it all up.

Now, ever since pretty much everyone has access to the Web 2.0, we’re all exposed to whatever opinion other might have about us. Of course, this has always happened, but now it just happens faster: instantly rather. Thus we’ve all got to think through our words and actions, because just like of my friends says “once it’s in the internet, it belong to the internet”.

We can’t erase past actions, but we can make up for them. That is ORM is now an entire area of expertise. It’s a way to manage the crowd sourced critique — be it good or bad — on anyone who’s on the spotlight. Read more –> (post in Spanish)

It basically just says that the quicker news travels around, the more challenging it becomes to handle matters. It’s just a matter of time before something gets figured out… right?

Cell Phones the New Autos

I remember a particular scene from 1994’s “The Shawshank Redemption” with Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins as the protagonists, in which an old man had just been released from prison after 50 years or so of lock up time. According to the movie’s timeline, the man had been incarcerated during the first decade of the 1900’s. So, when he came out, the world was completely different from how he had left it. He looked at cars as if they were monsters chasing him through the streets. People dressed in a different fashion, & with so many technological and cultural advantages had occurred, he felt threatened.

The point here is that within that 50 year period of time, cars became the major hit that completely revolutionized the world. It took half a century or less to boost into an entirely new era. Cell phones have achieved that in less than half the time. Am I exaggerating the timeline in this particular case? May be 15 years or 20 seem too much. But think about it. When cell phones began, people carried them around in small cases that looked just like professional camera equipment.

Today, your cell phone is the hover point of all your relationships in the world. Your friends, family & business partners call, text, post on your social networks, email you & you can check all of that out just by the press of an illustrated button on the touch screen.

Cell phones have changed the global lifestyle in so little time that the New York Times could only dare compare to the revolution automobiles imposed upon the world. What will be next?

Product Placement Reinvented

Ok, so you are at the movies enjoying your favorite chick flick or action movie and oh here comes the newest Ferrari model or the latest tablet on scene. Both products being rocked out as the protagonists use them to achieve whatever mission impossible they had in mind. And let’s  not forget it the out-of-the-line close up to the product’s logo– just in case you were wondering who came up with that amazing idea of a product.

Lately though, people started to notice product placement much more than ever before. May be because Hollywood started overusing it? Take Transformers 2 for example, Bumblebee alone isn’t even the beginning of all the brands included in the flick. This movie is the Queen as to how many marketed goods were included.

Then, how do you reinvent a method that has clearly been successful for any brand that could afford it? Well, David Parker has thought outside the box and came up with a reinvention scheme for this old-time method. Viral Videos. The greatest thing about Viral Videos is that you watch them because you want to belong.

If a group of friends or at least one of the members in your social group has recommended you a particular YouTube or Vimeo video (just to name some Video Platforms) there’s an itch inside you that is telling you you must watch it. And even better, it’s free.

So why not take advantage of this over-liked trend? This is Product Placement Reinvented — >