What I Learned As A Junior Product Manager

Don’t chase for solutions, chase for problems, solutions will come later.

March 28th, 2017   |    By: Samuel Athlan    |    Tags: Leadership, Technology, Management, Launch, Product/MVP

Twelve months ago, I became Product Manager in an AdTech. Our main value is to create beautiful and smart adformats on desktop and mobile for advertisers. Products have to be well built for our clients (the advertisers), our publishers and our end users (people that are surfing websites). Our products are a variety of things, including formats and interfaces.

This job is thrilling because it implies a lot of interactions within the company and we have to address a lot of different people with our formats.

Provide understandable prototype

When I started, I realized that even if you can explain your idea in person, providing a “working” prototype is better than ever, as you won’t have to explain the whole product/feature and people will be able to discuss over it, find solutions and get to work on it even better than if you would haven’t done it. So, I give the advice to take (more) time in advance to work on a functional prototype in order to make the developer’s job easier and more quickly actionable.

Quote by Henry Ford

Use good tools (Paper first)

Yes, a paper is from my perspective, the best way to start designing your ideas as your brain can design directly through your hand. Then, you have to let your idea make his path and make mistakes, then iterate. Also, I understood that you have to let your idea maturate during days in order for you to review it later and confront it to your counterparts. Then, once the idea is stabilized, you can start digitalizing it.

Always be precise with your colleagues ( Sketch > Invision > FramerJS)

A live prototype is better than a hundred written lines, as you can show the result of what you want to the people that will build the product you invented. Thanks to the Chief Product Officer (CPO) that taught me how to do, I now use 2 tools to prototype : Sketch (for designing elements I imagine) and FramerJs to make them alive. But, I had no skills at coding at that time (except knowing a basis in HTML/CSS), so I learnt basic concept of JavaScript and I am still learning on my own.

Always respect your counterpart

Humility is the key in this job and I personally think that working in a respectful environment is key to well-being at work and productivity. Thus, don’t assume things and don’t hesitate to say “I don’t know” when you actually don’t know. You will learn a lot and putting ego aside is always better as we grow.

The field is your main playground

I realized that it is very important to speak to people that use products you work on. It can be clear that a good PM speak to these people but when we are stuck in routine, it is hard to defocus on work and just talk and understand their experience from their point of view. I recommend creating a feedback routine, wether you are in B to B or B to C, there are plenty of ways to do so (internal tool: just talk often with your colleagues, consumer app : select people that talk about you on twitter and ask them to know their pain points and why they are using your app).

Let them talk and don’t chase for solutions, chase for problems, solutions will come later.

Don’t minimize other people’s work

You know these simple words such as “just”, “only” or “small”. You can use them in a sentence that sounds like “It’s just this only small feature that I want to add”. Actually, it’s not that simple, and this sentence is very dangerous as it minimize other people’s work using words. You must sit on their side and understand the difficulty of the asked task, don’t minimize their diagnosis, because you don’t know everything and you don’t master the entire amount of work hidden “small” tasks. But, trust your guts on when you get cheated about an answer.

You have to let your brain process information in order to enhance creativity.

Take time to reconsider

Indeed, our daily lives are struggled by efficiency and productivity. I made the mistake to create things fast and deliver early. It is a good thing, but I realized that taking time to reconsider my work the next days helped me see things I couldn’t see earlier. You have to let your brain process information in order to enhance creativity.

Establish an environment of quality

You know that moment where you are dedicated to the task you are doing. When you could have not finished it because no one will ever see this project again and because it does not worth it to loose time to close it. It is precisely the moment to do it good, to finish it properly, even if no one is watching. The product department should be the responsible of quality inside the company. Thus, he has to create the envy and dynamic for other people to do things in the right direction, with the right guidelines, according to the business purpose.

Have a bias for action

Having a point of view about what should be done and how is necessary. Indeed, having a purpose-oriented mind is better in order to create and design logically. Purpose-driven companies are often more successful, see this FastCompany article.

Follow your metrics

Wether it is making the Q/A or checking metrics, a delivered product should always be maintained over time. I realized it because metrics help you driving your actions and prioritize your tasks. Don’t hesitate to be clear on what you want or don’t because you are the main creator of your product, if it has to be deprecated, it’s your duty to ensure you that it will be properly done.

Being a good Product Manager

Once a coworker told me : “Small mouth and big ears”, I will never forget this precious advice as when you are in your company or at home. Speak only when it useful and the remaining time, just sit and listen to other people. I then realized that during my whole professional life, I worked as a Product manager, making all of these.

3 iterations on a relevant PRODUCT acronym

Mains keywords of a product manager

It is hard to define and literature is poor as it is a new job in the landscape. Let me explain myself about the last one :

  • Priority : Product handles what’s important, and what’s not
  • ROI : Product always have in mind the costs for benefits
  • Orientation : Product knows where to go
  • Design : Product have an eye for what’s fine and what’s not
  • User Experience : Product steps on user’s feet and never forget him/her
  • Creativity : Product find beautiful solutions
  • Technology : Product knows how it works

Also shared on Medium

About the Author

Samuel Athlan

Samual Athlan is a product manager at StarOfService and an entrepreneur. Happiness & Productivity are his keywords. Proud father. Follow me @samuelathlan & on Medium.

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