What do Tom Brady and Oprah have in common with product managers?

I recently listened to an episode of Oprah Winfrey’s podcast “Supersoul Conversations” that featured Tom Brady. I’m not much of a football fan (college basketball is my jam), but I was interested in hearing what Tom had to say since he’s such an incredible athlete.

Tom spoke about how he had not always been the best football player. When he played for Michigan, he knew the areas he had to work on, but he also knew his strengths: he had a strong work ethic, he was a natural at leading people, and he had perseverance. Probably sounds like a great product manager you know, right?

He went on to talk about how he led his NFL team, the Patriots, when they were down by 25 points in Super Bowl LI against the Falcons. Rather than worrying about the huge gap and questioning if they could do it, they tackled (sorry, had to go there) each play one at a time and ensured they made the right move for that particular play: Score one touch down. Stop the defense and get the ball back quickly. Get to a first down… you get the picture. That 25-point comeback was the biggest in Super Bowl history.

As a product manager, you may aspire to be the greatest of all time (like Tom Brady is one of the greatest football players of all time). To get there, you must be able to lead your teams by identifying the key plays needed to win and focusing on those plays one at a time.

If you and your team are trying to deliver a monolithic release, you are setting yourself (and your company) up for failure.

The key to winning is to lead your team to focus on the right solution for the first opportunity you need to deliver before moving on to the second one, and the third one and so on. Prioritize and focus on incremental activities that put you closer to your goal (whether it’s delivering a more engaging experience for your customers, increasing revenue for your company, etc.).

Want to learn more about how to lead cross-functional teams? Sign up for my 1:1 coaching program that let’s me share my first-hand experience with you so that you can advance your career.

Image courtesy of Oprah.com.

Bring the donuts and boost your product management career

June 7th is National Donut Day. While that might be a great opportunity to blow your diet, I’d like to propose an alternative, career-boosting suggestion for product managers inspired by Ken Norton’s presentation at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in 2005.

Bring donuts to your engineers.

Bring donuts to your sales team.

Bring donuts to your STAKEHOLDERS.

Photo by Mahima on Pexels.com

Why bring the donuts?!? Because that’s what people who successfully lead cross-functional teams do!

If you’ve never seen Ken’s presentation, you can read it here.

My favorite take-away from Ken’s presentaiton is this quote from General George Patton:

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

This is how product managers should lead cross-functional teams!

Without engineers, you would have no product. Do what you can to work well with them, starting with earning their respect. Ken explains you can do that by clearing obstacles, asking smart questions, explaining the “why”, and always taking the blame when things go wrong. Oh, and bringing them donuts helps, too.

Without sales, nothing would sell. What can you do to work well with your sales team? Start by getting on the phone with customers. Make promises so they don’t have to. Help them be creative. Bringing them donuts helps, too.

It’s also important to earn the respect of your stakeholders. To do that, you must have a vision, be patient, know your competition, and consistently meet your commitments. And don’t forget to bring the donuts.

How to get into Product Manager Interviews

I mentioned in a previous post that you have less than 7.4 seconds for your resume to make an impression on the person receiving it. So it’s critical that you create the perfect resume if you want a job in product management. Once your resume has been optimized, you’re ready to launch your job search. Or are you?!?

In the video below, Matthew Du Pont talks about how to get a higher number of first-round interviews for product management roles and how to succeed in those interviews. Presented at a Product School event, Matthew walks through the typical way job seekers look for a job (find a job, apply to the job with some tweaks to your resume and cover letter to personalize it to the company/job, apply online and then … 🦗🦗🦗 crickets).

Instead of this common approach, Matthew advises job seekers to find a job posting and then talk to someone who’s worked at the company. And I love this particular tip for setting up informational interviews: find someone who used to work for the company. The best, most honest feedback you can get about a company is from someone who no longer works there. Plus, they likely still have contacts that they can share with you so that you can get your resume directly in the hands of the people who matter.

Check out the video here.

You can also view and download the slides from his presentation here: How to Get into Product Manager Interviews by fmr OKCupid PM from Product School

Want even more help for landing your dream job? Until June 25, 2019, I’m offering my resume review service (normally priced at $100) for 25% off. Just click the button below to learn more!

Checklist for crafting the perfect Product Manager resume

Did you know your resume only has 7.4 seconds to make an impression? That’s according to a recent study conducted by Ladders. That’s why I’m sharing my best tips for crafting the perfect product manager resume so that you can improve your odds and land your dream job.

1. Treat your resume like a product

By using standard questions that you normally ask yourself while working on a new product, you’ll not only improve your resume but also demonstrate your ability to communicate in a clear and concise way, to design something that’s user-friendly and to be detail-focused and data-oriented.

2. Always include a cover letter

A cover letter is your best opportunity to elaborate on skills and experience that are not mentioned in the job description but that will be useful to the company. If you’re applying online for a job and there is no way to upload or post a cover letter, don’t worry about it. However, if you’re provided the option of uploading a cover letter, sending one demonstrates that you are a motivated candidate.

3. Keep it concise

As previously stated, your resume only has 7.4 seconds to make an impression. Don’t waste time with a long objective or mission statement at the top of the page. Focus on highlighting your skills and experience. Your resume should be easy to read so use a standard font size (no smaller than 11 points, please) and keep those margins generous. The recruiters and hiring managers will thank you.

4. BEAT THE ATS BOTS

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System and it’s used by most companies to automatically screen resumes to speed up the hiring process. According to a popular study conducted by search services provider Preptel, as many as 75% of the candidates don’t make it past the ATS screening! An ATS friendly resume is absolutely critical to a successful job hunt. To improve your chances of getting through the ATS bots successfully, follow these tips:

  • Keep the format and font simple.
  • Avoid layouts with columns, lines and graphics.
  • Use standard headings such as “Skills” instead of “Major abilities”.
  • Include keywords, especially those from the job you’re applying for.
  • Spell out acronyms.
  • Submit as a Word document instead of as a PDF.

5. Tailor your resume for THE position

Yes, this will take more time but by making some minor tweaks to your resume, you can customize it based on the job posting to improve your odds of bubbling up to the top of the resume pile the hiring manager is reviewing. For example, if the job posting states that the ideal candidate will “Possess strong decision making and prioritization skills”, make sure you include examples in your resume about things such as frameworks you use for prioritizing what features to build.

6. Focus on projects, not experience

It might seem strange to put a large-scale extracurricular project or even a school research project in the “experience” section of your resume, but these kinds of experiences show a hiring manager you’ve got a strong grasp of what a Product Manager’s work actually entails. Typically, these types of projects involve collaboration and creativity, which are good skills to showcase.

7. Lead with outcomes, not skills

Are you familiar with the concept of burying the lead? It’s when a story begins with details of secondary importance while postponing more essential facts. Don’t do that! When you’re describing your work experience, focus on your achievements instead of tactics. For example, instead of “Wrote functional specifications for feature X that improved usability”, say “Improved usability by xx% based on my written functional specifications.”

Want even more help for landing your dream job? Until June 25, 2019, I’m offering my resume review service (normally priced at $100) for 25% off. Just click the button below to learn more!

5 podcasts to help product managers level up

Whether you’re trying to break into product management or simply looking to improve your skills so you can be promoted eventually, it’s hard to find time to squeeze learning in when your juggling so many other things. Listening to podcasts is one of my favorite ways to expand my mind because I can do it while doing other things that don’t require a lot of thought, like folding laundry or walking the dog.

Here are the podcasts I recommend for improving your skills and advancing your career.

This is Product Management is brought to you by Alpha, an on-demand user insights platform for product teams. Hosted by Mike Fishbein, each episode features an in-depth interview with a product management leader on topics such as innovation, leadership, and user research.


Rockship.fm is a collaboration between Rockship.fm and Product Collective. The co-hosts dedicate each episode to a deep-dive on topics such as finding product market fit, key metrics you should be using, and conducting customer interviews.


100 Product Managers began with a mission to interview one hundred active product managers in Los Angeles – from startups to enterprise. Host Susan Abade interviews product leaders from organizations such as Audible and Women Who Code.


Masters of Scale podcast

Masters of Scale is an original podcast hosted by Reid Hoffman, Co-founder of LinkedIn and Investor at Greylock. In each episode, Reid shows how companies grow from zero to a gazillion, testing his theories with legendary leaders.


Guy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world’s best known companies. How I Built This weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists—and the movements they built.

Lessons I’ve learned as a mentor

mentor

I recently concluded a 6-month mentorship program created by Jeremy Horn, aka The Product Guy, that is aptly called The Product Mentor. The program is designed to pair mentors and mentees from around the world, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise.

My mentee, Merziyah Poonawala, is based in New York. Since I’m based in Santa Barbara, we conducted all of our mentoring activities virtually. Merziyah works for an agency and deals with lots of clients. As a coach and consultant, I, too, deal with lots of clients. This common ground gave our mentoring relationship a solid foundation upon which to identify concrete goals that she could work towards.

As we concluded the mentoring program last week, I looked back and identified the lessons I learned as a mentor.

1. Mentoring is a learning opportunity for both mentees and mentors.

Although my primary goal was to help my mentee become more successful, the mentee/mentor relationship caused me to challenge myself in areas in which I, too, could become more proficient. Treat the mentor/mentee relationship as a two-way street so that you can both grow and develop.

2. Make sure you’re on the same page.

A big focus of The Product Mentor program is on KPIs. While many open-ended mentoring relationships may not be as structured, I found it extremely helpful to use KPIs as the basis for identifying what success looks like for my mentee. Because we worked together to craft goals to help her achieve a successful outcome — how to become a more data-informed product manager — this gave us something concrete to discuss each week as we did our weekly check-ins.

3. Context matters.

Because of the nature of her job, Merziyah had a couple of real-world projects we were able to use as a way of putting her goals and objectives into practice. This proved to be extremely valuable. For example, at one point during the 6 months we worked together, she felt there was potentially a lack of trust coming from one of her clients. Because one of Merziyah’s KPIs was to use data to communicate more effectively, I coached her on using data to help her client understand the state of the project, thus building credibility and trust.

4. It pays to be mindful and engaged.

Being a mentor requires a commitment…a commitment to really engage with your mentee on a meaningful level. If you’re going to be a mentor, don’t just phone it in. Use that precious time to really focus on what your mentee is telling you and look for as many teachable moments as possible.

Want to learn more?

If you’re interested in becoming a product management mentor or mentee, click here to learn more about The Product Mentor program. Jeremy has included a lot of great content on this site, including videos of past mentor presentations. My presentation was about using metrics that matter (here’s a hint: outcome-based metrics are a must!), which you can find here.

TPM-Mentor-Award

I’d like to thank Jeremy for allowing me to be a part of this wonderful program. As I’ve said, this was a wonderful learning experience. Being recognized as an Outstanding Mentor for my participation in the program was the icing on the cake!

I’d also like to thank my mentee, Merziyah, for being such a great partner in this program and I wish her the best of luck as she continues to strive to become an even better product manager.

This post originally appeared on www.jonihoadley.com on December 6, 2018.

7 books to help you land your first product manager job

Product management is hard to break into. Why is that? Product managers set the direction for their teams, and often an entire company, to take. If they make the wrong call, it could be catastrophic. Because of the tremendous amount of risk associating with being a product manager, hiring managers usually prefer to hire people who have previous experience.

So what can you do if you’re a recent grad or looking to make a transition? Prepare yourself for the job interview before it happens so that you can nail it will confidence by reading the following books by these product management thought leaders.

Inspired by Marty Cagan is at the top of my list of books you should read. This book is a great guide to a number of discovery and design techniques. Marty also has a great blog at Silicon Valley Product Group.


The must-have book for future PMs, Cracking the PM Interviewis considered the industry bible for prepping for PM interviews. The authors have done a great job of covering everything you need to know to nail that interview from writing cover letters and resumes to example questions and answers. What’s really valuable is the information about how the PM role varies across companies.


The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman is one of the most highly regarded introductory texts to usability and interaction design. It’s also a great resource for helping you think of examples of everyday design problems that you may need to talk about in job interviews.


Sprint by Jake Knapp is a great playbook for collaboratively brainstorming, problem-solving, designing, prototyping and validating concepts in 5 days. If you haven’t read this yet, you’ve gotta get it. It’s a fairly quick read, too, but it’s full of great information.


The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is similar to Sprint in that it’s a playbook to help you get a new product created and into the hands of customers as quickly as possible.


Lean Analytics is a book to read after you’ve read Sprint and Lean Startup. It provides further guidance on how to use data to build better products.


Escaping the Build Trap by Melissa Perri is geared towards someone who has been doing product management already, but it provides some excellent cautionary tales of things to avoid which I think would be useful for anyone seeking a product management position.


These are my favorite books for people interested in breaking into product management. What are some of your recommendations?