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Believe it or not – most PMs (that is, the product managers) are accidental product managers.
Typically, you start your career as an engineer and then realise that you are developing a keen interest in understanding things from product side and then, you start to scale into product management.
Sometimes by fluke, sometimes by crook.
It’s 2019 and a lot of things are changing in the product ecosystem. Facebook is losing its sheen. SAAS is becoming a commodity. AI is eating the software (which ate the world) and customers have a lot more product choices than ever.
As an accidental product manager, these macro trends translate to need for speed – not just in terms of the product, but also in terms of building glocal (global and local) perspective.
If you are an accidental PM, here are a few things you’d want to do in 2019, in order to increase your product view and be a wolf among the dogs.
The Accidental PM’s Guide to 2019
No Lunch Alone
Most accidental PMs come from engineering background and engineers, by default are introverts.
But frankly, the world doesn’t care and while there is a standard wisdom which says ‘go out and talk to customers’, I strongly believe that the change starts at home. You just can’t change your attitude one fine day and start meeting customers.
You have to make it a habit.
And in order to create/reinforce the habit, I recommend you to make a strict resolution (by the way, I am trying to follow it this year!) – that is, to not have lunch alone. Could be with your colleague or customers or friends – but ensure that you are reaching out to people and getting out of your comfort zone.
New religion: P_D_G.
That is, product_driven_growth.
There are two types of growth businesses : PDG and MDG. That is, Product-driven growth company vs. Marketing-driven growth companies.
90% of funded startups eventually become Marketing-driven growth businesses and product managers in such companies are merely A/B analysts (and sprint runners).
While you can’t change the focus of the company, you can definitely start with your own perspective on building a product driven growth business.
This change of attitude, I can definitely tell you will take you places.
New mantra: Build. Grow. Repeat.
You launch and start taking the congratulatory notes too seriously. Maybe, time to stop that and time to repeat the process. After all, how many product managers do you know of who have stories of repeated successes? Very few. And the ones who have are a class apart.
They spiral into something bigger with every launch.
Make New friends
The ones outside your current network. That is, real-world folks. I shared this in my “50 shades of startup ecosystem” piece and I share the same advice.
Go out and talk to people. That SBI bank manager, that Unilever market researcher – they all have a lot to talk/share than the next product manager who is trying to look smart with animated questions and answers (read the next point, please).
Most product managers make the mistake of talking primarily to other product managers. While it is good to exchange notes, you got to realise that sometimes this does lead to an echo-chamber (early signs: applauding each other’s products/avoiding asking or answering tough questions/not getting into the details of a product execution).
In short, if you are part of product-manager only networks, quit them. Time to rethink and start interacting with the wider folks.
Why. What and Then How.
Great products starts with WHY and not HOW.
Mediocre PMs are mostly focused on HOW and not WHY of a product. After all, problem solving approach starts with WHY and WHAT and then HOW.
Learn to ask tough questions (see the next point).
Write. A LOT.
”Mediocre product managers talk. Great Product Managers write”.
I have said this earlier and I say it again – writing is one of the best ways to scale into product management career. Writing brings clarity and importantly, makes you vulnerable and answerable to your audience.
Writing brings you out of your comfort zone – do it before you get comfortable with salary and status (hint: nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain).
Bat for your competitors.
In order to grow a category, you also need to applause your competitors and be genuinely seen as the dude/dudette who cares about the category (and is curious about the category).
Most product managers pretend to know-it-all.
Let me ask you this: There are many startups entering newer categories like Electric Vehicles, Cycle rentals. How often do you see a product leader of any of these companies talking about the industry from a 360 degree view (and not just from their own product perspective?).
There is an opportunity. Grab it. It’s the easiest way to skip the hierarchy and grow exponentially.
Being an accidental PM gives you a great opportunity to unlearn and define the NextBigWhat of your career. Wishing you a great 2019. Stay curious.
If you resonated with this, do take a look at NextBigWhat Academy’s Product Management Course and signup, if you always needed a strong framework to grow into product management career.