Product managers are vital to the growth and value of ShippingEasy. We've compiled a list of resources and professional traits to help you learn more about what it takes to step into this role.
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Top 10 Professional Traits of Product Managers:
- Desire to learn more about the industry and competitive arena: Much of what our product team prioritizes today is based on customer requests or features we lose prospects over. Ideally, there's also time to research emerging trends and adapt the product before other systems do. This requires staying up-to-date on our industry (e-commerce software, e-commerce shipping) as well as any particular product (such as inventory management). You can do this by subscribing to numerous news sources and try to read a few articles everyday.
- Desire to learn more about the customer and customer needs: Fully understanding customer use cases is the name of the game in product management. If you can speak to customer needs, how the feature addresses customer needs, and the different customer use cases for the feature, you'll get people on board. If you don't know what your customer needs, the best way to remedy that need, and how the different customer profiles will utilize the feature for their need, you'll need to speak to more customers to get there.
- Discover, discover discover: So much time is spent in the discovery phase of a new feature. You need to speak to customers, our internal staff (sales, support, fellow PMs), and potentially other experts (in our portfolio). Then, you'll research how other solutions handle the situation. You'll use all of this information to formulate the way you want to build the feature with the customer needs front-of-mind.
- Write clear, concise, detailed requirements: After you've done all of this research and chosen how you want to create the feature, you need to distill it down in a way that's easy for the developer to understand. You'll start with a high-level idea of what the feature or aspect of the feature is, then break down the components of the feature and how you'd like to see it implemented. How the feature is technically implemented is in the developer's hands, so it's up to you to make sure they understand your vision.
- Respond quickly and speak technically, but doesn't have to be too technical: Most communication with developers is done in text form (usually Slack). When they're working on a feature, if they're caught up on something, they'll Slack you. It's important to be available and respond ASAP. The speak can be fairly technical, but working in software (and continuing to grow your knowledge) will get you where you need to be. The developers are happy to explain in a way that makes sense so they can get the information they need.
- Ability to trim features to an MVP (minimum viable product): We all want to build the biggest, bestest feature with all of the bells and whistles. Time and resource constraints sometimes doesn't allow for this. It's important to be able to determine which aspects of a feature are must-haves and which are nice-to-haves. If the time comes to trim, you'll want to be confident that trimming the nice-to-haves will leave you and the customers with a usable feature that still meets their needs.
- Project management: the ability to break down projects into workable pieces is key. This goes for pre-kickoff (when the dev work starts) and post-kickoff. Determining the requirements for a massive feature like Multiple Warehouses is a big undertaking. It's imperative that you break up the work in a logic sequence so you can tackle one piece at a time. The same goes once you have the requirements - breaking the tickets into workable pieces in a logical sequence for the dev ensures smooth, measurable progress and happy collaboration!
- Collaborative team player: speaking of collaboration... Remember the discover phase? It's in your best interest to listen to input from just about anyone - especially our internal experts and your fellow PMs who've been doing this. And, even after you've written up all of the requirements, there may still be adjustments due to technical requirements. A back-and-forth with the dev is common to land on an agreed upon step forward.
- Strategic, analytical mindset: you must keep thinking big picture and what the future of your product looks like. Develop and stick to a north star (what's your product's mission statement, what are the value props, who are the target users). Whenever you can use data to help you make a decision - do it! Numbers speak volumes, especially when they prove the point you're trying to make. And if they disprove the point, well at least you know before you spent the time building!
- Self-starter, recognizing gaps and investing time in learning how to PM: there wasn't formal training on how to be a PM. So, it's all about learning how other people do it and asking for help when you need it. Check yourself early and often, realize where you're falling short and be eager the close the gap. There are always multiple projects going on so managing time is key.