Product Manager: What Is It and Product Career Tips — Jolt Business Podcast #2

Lior Frenkel, CPO & Partner at Jolt
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July 14, 2019

The episode's transcription:

- Hey Tal.

- Hey Lior.

- Let's talk about being a product manager.

- It's all I like to do.

- How come the human race got so far without product managers, and all of a sudden it's a huge trend to be one?

- I think maybe you're assuming that we haven't had product managers around, whilst we did have product managers around, we just didn't call them product managers. We called them project managers, we called them solution experts or communication experts. There are a lot of people who do one one thing out of the whole aspect, which is a product manager, right? And then I think that maybe we had some things that needed a product management work, but didn't get any. For example, schools. So a school can be thought of as a product, right? But you can see that schools are not really answering what customers need from them nowadays. They're not teaching the way people are expected to be taught. They're not giving the value that people want to receive. So that's a very classic example of a product that was not thought about all the way through. So once you get your customer needs, you understand what they want, you can do your own research. How do I teach this in the best way? How do I construct the classroom in a way that's more comfortable for the users. And then a product manager designs all of those things. Maybe he needs the builder's help, people who actually build the room, maybe he needs the teacher's help to understanding how to construct this better.

The product manager always takes aid from people who are experts in their job. He doesn't want to replace them, he just wants to utilize their capabilities in a good way. And then once you get all your design up and ready for people to build, you have the builders come in, take the design, and then design the school as it should be.

- So how do you become a product manager?

- Join a small company, that maybe has a lot of gaps to fill. And then think about how to give extra value outside of your day-to-day job. So say you are a QA engineer, or you are a junior analyst, maybe you can take upon yourself some marketing... Responsibilities or whatever else is in touch with other teams in the company. Because you end up as a product manager, being involved in everything. So as a product manager you end up interacting with all the teams in the company. You interact with marketing. You need to understand how to market your product, interact with the analysts, because you need to be able to analyze your data and extract some conclusions with the dev team, the design team, with customer teams, the support teams. So if you try enrolling to a junior position and be involved with a lot of the people around you, you end up understanding the product from a lot of different angles. And that gives you benefit, that gives you an edge, when inside the company they start to realize they need a product manager. Another way you can be an expert in a specific position.

Let's say you were a very good designer, or you were a very good marketing expert. And then you kind of, from that expertise, you start taking upon yourself other roles, and be a product manager that's a marketing specialist, or someone who has some experience with design and dev and then he brings his own point of view from those angles.

And I think the third way is the hardest 'cause it's more rare. So there are designated programs that are converted you into a product manager. Those might sound like the sexiest or the easiest, but I think those are actually the hardest because if you don't grow from the product and you don't understand what people actually deal with day-to-day, you're not gonna be able to get the full picture as a product manager. 'Cause as a product manager, you really need to understand the pains that each team has.

So why do so few of us have creative breaks?

Because almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you.

Charles Darwin took long walks around London. Kurt Vonnegut made listening to jazz a daily priority. Fiona Apple disappeared for 6 years after the release of her third album.

So why do so few of us have creative breaks?
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I ask because I can often be found agonising over the "more". If only I posted on Instagram more, I'll think in the bath. I'd have more followers if I pitched to more publications. I need to post 2 more times a week, minimum. I could go on...

Between you and me, I've got frustrated with myself for browsing Facebook or watching too much TV more times than I can remember.

And I'm not alone. So many of us are terrified of taking a break, creatively speaking. We won't let a moment pass without listening to a podcast, consuming an article or sharing something.

The cognitive load is real, y'all.

But like Vitamin D, sleep and good food, it's not only ok to take a break, it's essential.

Living a successful life is also about knowing when not to work. For your best output, you need to focus on your input, too.

The world won't end if you disappear from the internet for a week or so. Your creativity won't suddenly stop. Your time is now, but your time was also then and it will be again.

Your dreams don't have an expiration date.

Many of us confuse being "busy" with being constructive. But you can only do your best work by taking breaks.

And science backs it up, too. The brain requires substantial downtime to do its most innovative thinking. The ideas you have while driving or in the shower aren't coincidental. They're a result of you taking a step back, whether you're aware of it or not.

Here's a challenge for you

Let yourself take a wonderful and indulgent break. Several breaks. Hell, get downright bored.

Put airplane mode on for a while. Sit down. Lie down. Be still. Do nothing. Observe. Listen to your mind. Let it do what it does without judging it.

Wallow in it. Don't be afraid of it. Push it as far as you can.

When you leave your laptop behind, something always happens. A new idea or a fresh perspective appears.

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"A spark of inspiration needs an empty cave."

Take proper breaks, often. Completely clear your mind. Your next best idea depends on it.

Could you get to the top 1% of your industry?

Empower your team to go and shine.