Product Manager Class

The product manager class has been one of the most engaging, interactive, and hence interesting classes this semester. Unlike other courses that most information is obtained from secondary sources, the class involved interactive sessions with knowledgeable individuals who are successful in the industry. It was an opportunity to meet and learn from people that we dream of becoming. As a result, students found it easy to achieve the learning objectives and develop the necessary skills needed for the industry. The main concepts that students learned from the class included the roles of a product manager, how to work with engineers in the field, and reasons why professionals in the industry should love the problem and not the solution. The concepts of a good road map and how to interview users and get useful feedback was also important since they apply not only in the field but also in general life.

Question 1

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Roles of a product manager

Today’s product managers play a more crucial role due to the need to use data in making decisions. The main tasks include setting expectations, making schedules for team members, getting the best out of everyone, getting details about the product, and determine and ensure personal and organizational goals. Product managers also have personal responsibilities such as configuring their life support systems and having fun to help them remain fit and focused on achieving the goals. Learning the roles helps product people to understand to know what is expected of them and what may contribute to the success or failure of a product manager. 

How to work with engineers

The ten-step plan of how to work with software engineers by Ken Norton was also crucial as it guides the relationship between different stakeholders. The plan entailed how to handle praise, blames, and details to help a product person to understand what product managers experience daily and how they manage the situations. Other steps of the plan include when to involve other workers in the building process and how to inform them of what is expected of them. Norton advises product managers to be ambiguous, interrupt engineers whenever necessary, never give reasons for decisions, and the need to make assurances on behalf of the team. 

Loving the problem and not the solution

Guest speaker Ash Maurya advised students to love the problem and their solution, and I found it very interesting. Maurya suggests that many entrepreneurs develop an innovator’s and fail because they fall in love with their solutions. According to him, most business people focus on solving problems without researching to learn the fundamentals of the problem before finding a solution. He explains that reasoning from the first principles could help eliminate the bias since an individual is able to get to the basics of the problem and figure a way out. The concept reminds a product person that the best way of solving a problem is by identifying the root cause and addressing it from the basics.

Characteristics of a good road map

A good roadmap for a product should have its visual, be accessible, and clear enough in describing the actions, reasons for the actions, and how the actions will impact the product. A good product roadmap will help reduce the number of meetings, promote healthy team discussions, and assist in making informed decisions. The steps for building a good road map include defining initiatives for the roadmap, building the case for each initiative, converting initiative into a product strategy, and integrating the factors to produce the guide for road-mapping. The concept can help a product person to build a working formula that saves on time, resources, and keeps all stakeholders updated.

Interviewing users and getting useful feedback

Ash Maurya shared a simple but useful framework on how to interview users and obtain effective results, which were prepared by Garrett Moon, the Founder of TodayMade. Feedbacks are essential as they help to validate an idea and informs the product manager on areas worth improving. According to Maurya, interviews are the best way of obtaining a user’s opinion (Olsen, 2015). Interviews are very crucial as they connect builders and customers, thus making the problems tangible and human. He advises individuals should stop sounding like inventors when seeking feedback about a product. The concept may guide a product person on the significance of feedback in decision-making and how to obtain it.

Question 2

How to Interview your Users and Get Useful Feedback by Special Guest Ash Maurya

The concept of how to obtain useful feedback from users was very crucial as it entailed knowing how to understand the market and modify build consumer-oriented products. Maurya noted that user interviews were instrumental in gathering useful feedback that could help promote business. Besides making connections with potential consumers, interviews help product managers to understand consumer needs. Some of the tactics provided to have an effective interview are listed below.

  • Stop sounding like an inventor-Product managers should conduct user interviews to obtain information and sell the product. The interviewer should be more interested in extracting information about a product and listing the features of the product. Product managers should, therefore, learn what customers expect and use the information when producing in the future.
  • Interview the right people-user interviews should target individuals who are prospective customers to get appropriate information. The criteria for identifying potential customers involves asking yourself whether a particular person was likely to buy the product and sending interview invites to only those individuals who could buy. It is wise to interview a customer and not a user since, unlike users, customers pay for the product.
  • Ask why and not what- the success of an interview begins by asking the right questions. Customers view a product as a solution to their problems and not the business. As a result, it is wise to ask questions that help understand why consumers need a product, and it is upon the product manager to know what to produce or incorporate in the next product.
  • Awkward silence works- the speaker emphasized the importance of allowing the awkward silence to reign as it eventually bears fruits. An interviewer should not speak too much as it may cause potential customers to say less. Interviewers should, therefore, learn to ask a question and let customers take their time even though a long silence may seem awkward. Repeating the same question severally, may also affect the efficacy of the interview.
  • Maintain it as an interview and not a conversation- interviewers should lead the discussion and not participate in it. Interviewers ought to remember the strategic objectives of conducting an interview throughout the process to enhance the information collection process. Instead of conversing, an interviewer should be thinking of several questions ahead.

Question 3

I would encourage Dan Olsen to add more information in chapter 9 of the book, which focuses on testing the MVP with customers. A subsection of chapter touches on how to recruit appropriate customers for user tests. However, I believed that information about the recruitment is inadequate. I would expect Olsen to identify more ways of identifying prospective customers and offer criteria in which product managers could identify potential candidates for the test. I also found the case study very useful and would have loved it more if Olsen could provide case studies for each chapter to make learners see the practical application of the concepts.

The product management class was very beneficial to me due to the numerous discussions and talks by influential individuals in the industry. Students learned many concepts and got the real picture of activities in the market. Moreover, they learned ideas that were applicable not only in Information Technology but also in real-life situations. For instance, students who intend to run businesses after school may apply the concept of how to work with software engineers in building healthy work relations with employees.     

Olsen, D. (2015). The lean product playbook: how to innovate with minimum viable products and rapid customer feedback. John Wiley & Sons.

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