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Product Manager Recruiting and Development in Early Stage Technology Companies - May 2011 - Dave Litwiller

Product Manager Recruiting and Development in Early Stage Technology Companies - May 2011 - Dave Litwiller

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Published by davidjl
Traits to recruit and promote in the product manager role of early- and growth-stage technology businesses.
Traits to recruit and promote in the product manager role of early- and growth-stage technology businesses.

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Published by: davidjl on May 14, 2011
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© David J. Litwiller, 2011
Product Manager Recruiting and Development in Early Stage Technology Companies
Dave Litwiller May, 2011The Product Manager (PM) role in an early stage technology company is one of the toughest tofill. There is little formal academic training. More than almost any other, the role requireswillingness to be ³CEO of his/her job´. This is someone who can think across the entire business, and not just in narrower functional, operating or process terms. A successful PM issomeone capable of thinking expansively at the start at a time of creative uncertainty, but thenequally able to switch over to a focused execution drive to the finish line. Product managementcombines leadership and management, requiring someone who can rally the troops despitesometimes ambiguous formal authority over those people who will get much of the work done.
Product Manager Skills to Recruit and Develop
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nowing how the end user customer uses, or will use, the product. Speaking the languageand implementation context of the customer. Listening and understanding what that personis really saying, and delving into that. And not just exploring at a feature level, but at asuccess factors and strategic impact level in the hands of users that gives PM credibilitywhen dealing with sales, engineering and the executive at the home office.
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avinga solution level view (including costs, training, support, and other collaterals) and not just a feature level view.
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Possessing the ability to move between a 60,000 foot orbit over the product, at the same timeas drilling down to a specific user, use case and performance optimization to build agreementand following for what he is advocating.
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Liking the sales side of the business, wanting to make a product which customers will buy alot of, and instilling confidence in the sales organization so that they don¶t start secondguessing what is coming from product management. Often such credibility with salesrequires having walked a mile in the shoes of someone who has to convince a customer to buy ± either through mentorship or practice. At the same time, a product manager has to notget so drawn into sales that this one department has overbearing influence.
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nowing enough about the technology to be credible with R&D, and not be written off as alightweight or where the organizational antibodies are triggered.
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Systematizing how to digest and store all of the information that comes from customers, themarket, the sales organization, and R&D. Being able to identify the small things within all of 
 
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© David J. Litwiller, 2011
that information that is really creative, relevant, differentiating and impactful. Capability to put single requests into a larger context. Synthesis of all the data and interpretations to reacha good decision.
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Organization and prioritization when sitting at the centre of so many parts of the company,and everyone is seeking something different.
nowing how to get to yes for 80% of what people are asking for, rather than being binary yes/no on 100%. Being aggressive enoughwith others to keep from being pushed around too much by them, especially a customer thatdemands that the PM commit to more than she should in a one-to-one meeting (making acommitment to a customer without the organization behind you). Preserving status as adecisive but honest broker among constituents.
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nowing how good decisions get made by always thinking about the precedent-setting andknock-on effects of a particular decision.
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Project management skill, since the PM operates at the interface of so many departments andfunctions. Poor project management leads to dropped to-dos and diminished impact.
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acility speaking with market and technology analysts.
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Evangelism and enthusiasm in conjunction with critical thinking and good judgment, not oneside without the other. Implicit within is the PM¶s capacity to kill her own creations thatshe¶s put her heart and soul into in cases where it becomes clear that insufficient marketexists for the idea.The ability to acknowledge her own mistake, and not try to perpetuate itand hope that a fix surfaces later. Good organizations come to admire intellectual honesty.
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As the business grows, a skill that often falls to product management is identifying and fixingorganizational breakages, the classic one being that support or quality assurance doesn¶t talk sufficiently to engineering. When this occurs, the typical outcomeis that significant recurringcustomer or product issues go unaddressed. Product managers in organizations of increasingsize know that other functional groups have staff with considerable knowledge of the productand customers. There can be some really smart people in those other teams, but frequentlyfew go to talk to them. A PM networking internally with such people and groups can reveala lot of competitively significant insight.
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elping people like support and QA better fit intothe process of value delivery, and having them feel they have a voice can be a big part of  product management as the business expands.
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ostering the belief that getting to the right answer is more important than whose answer it is.Being able to pull people together to do the right thing.
eeping his own ego out of it andleading people to the right answer rather than trying to show people he is the smartest.
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Seeking mentorship not just from the product management and marketing functions, but alsofrom sales and from other functional leadership.

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