Podcast Guest on Product Perspective

I’ve met Migali Pelissier on the Product-Led Alliance’s Slack channel. Migali had started recently her podcast PRODUCT PERSPECTIVE, a space for product people that gives a voice to their stakeholders.

On the show, I had the pleasure to chat with Migali about how my experience as a software engineer helped me in my career as a Product Manager, and few more surpirses.

Have a listen to this great episode right here:

https://open.spotify.com/episode/65IJe4guA7PfkLBBQkcaUc

Guest on the Product Innovation Series with Aram Melkoumov

I met Aram Melkoumov a few years ago during an open doors event in Toronto. I was impressed with what he built, and how humble we was about it, and tried to follow Crowdlinker ever since.

It was a pleasure for me when Aram and his team contacted me to see if I would like to join him on their podcast. And of course I said yes!

In the episode I discusses with Aram how to manage products in B2B vs. B2C, biggest knowledge gaps in product management, and how to apply your product skillset in other areas of your life.

Have a listen:



Guest on The Experience Talk – EP 21: Why product managers should focus on product outcomes?

In this episode of The Experience Talk, I talked with Tanuj Diwan, Head of Product at SurveySensum about reasons for product managers to focus on product outcomes

  • Should they do the market research at all, or build a product prototype and take feedback on it?
  • Does vision help him focus on the product outcome?
  • Do outcomes help you improve the product or provide value to the customers?
  • How to get clarity on the product vision?
  • How’d you prioritize multiple problems based on their outcomes?
  • How to create an outcome-driven roadmap?
  • Why product managers should focus on product outcomes?

And a lot more.

This was such a funny podcast episode, as we didn’t plan at all to make one! We just met and decided to record our chat, and then at the end Tanuj felt there was so much good stuff in our discussion that he wanted to share it with the world. And that’s how it came to be.

https://youtu.be/fqcrmzVuv-M

You can also listen to it on Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3awPnPM

Experimentation Nation Conference session – Where are the Users?

I had the pleasure to join as a speaker in the first Experimentation Nation Conference.

Experimentation is such an important part of Product Management, but most of us struggle doing it. I know I struggle!

We first need to discover opportunities to follow, define an hypothesis to test, plan the right experiment to test it, conduct the experiment, and analyze the data, given that everything went as expected…

That’s where come experimentation professionals, who live and breathe experimenting. And Experimentation Nation is an amazing group of such professionals, led by Rommil Santiago.

It was a pleasure to join them in the free conference, and I feel humble with all the amazing content they shared on the conferece.

You can still watch all the sessions of the conference and Experimentation Nation will leave them available. All you need to do is register here to get access to all of them.

And my session, Where are the users?, is available amongst the other 40-some sessions.

https://youtu.be/fOFf8tVocIM

Guest on Userpilot YouTube channel in prep for 2021 Product Drive conference

In preparation for my upcoming session on Userpilot’s 2021 Product Drive conference, I had a chat with Emilia Korczynska, Head of Marketing @ Userpilot.

What is the difference between Product Led, Project Led, Sales Led and Solution Led? Why do so few companies understand what Product Led *really* means? When is a feature solving a problem and when are PMs simply coming up with problems to solve? Why are so many B2B platforms catering to 10 different personas and only solving one problem for each rather than trying to achieve higher product adoption with fewer user personas?

Listen to the full interview to find out the answers.

Check out my session on Product Drive and register today: https://summit.productdrive.io/speakers/moshe-mikanovsky/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBvSDivbpqA

Top 5 Product Manager Technical Skills in 2021

Original published at UserPilot’s Blog, April 2021

If you’re an aspiring or a junior product manager – technical skills are something that will give you a massive leg up in your career. Moshe Miklanovsky, a Software Developer-turned Product Manager and a co-host of the Product-for-Product podcast, explains which technical skills are essential for Product Managers based on his 30-year career in tech.

Product Management is a very young profession. Compared with software engineering, which started sometime in the 70s, not long ago Product Managers were a part of Marketing departments, and usually handled activities such as Go-To-Market, pricing, competitive analysis, and messaging. It is with the advancements of lean methods and agile cultures for building software products that the modern Product Manager was born.

But where have Product Managers come from?

In some surveys, it has been found that about 50% of Product professionals come from software development backgrounds, while the rest are from different disciplines such as business administration, customer support and more.

Still, many hiring managers are looking for a technical background or know-how for their Product people, and in truth, there are some benefits in having such skills.

So, which technical skills should Product Managers have in 2021?

The #1 Product Manager Technical Skill: SQL

What is it?

Pronounced “ess-que-el”, it stands for Structured Query Language. SQL is the language developers use to manage and interact with relational databases, such as Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, Postgres, and many more. The engineers would usually define table structures, indexes for fast queries, and any number of procedures to insert, read, update and delete data from the system. This is one of the building blocks for many systems.

Why would a Product Manager need it?

A cornerstone of understanding how our product is doing with the intended user base is to understand the usage of the product. This information, in many cases, is found in the database.

For many product managers, this technical skill may be needed if there is no tool that provides this data in a structured way. In these cases, either we get the developers to get the data for us (and take away from their time to improve the product), or we find it ourselves, using SQL query statements.

Can I succeed without it?

Yes, but you will need other ways to access your data.

One option is to ask developers – which means they would need to spend valuable time fetching data for you rather than improving the product. A better way would be if there is a data mining tool that presents the database in a more user-friendly way so that you don’t need to run SQL queries. There are many tool options, though they bear their own cost and learning curve.

What do I need to know to use it?

First, of course, you will need to know the language itself. It is not difficult to learn and there are many resources online and courses as it is part of the curriculum of every software development program. You also don’t need to learn everything. The minimum knowledge is the SELECT statement – getting data from the database.

Second, you’ll need access to the database. It is a good idea for product managers to get Read-Only access. We shouldn’t mess with the data.

And lastly, and with the most complexity, we need to understand the specific data structure of the database that holds the data for our product. This can be simple in small or new products, but very complex in others.

If you spend time with the engineers, rather than getting them to run the searches for you, get them to teach you how the data is structured. It will mean the difference between just getting data and getting the right data.

The #2 Product Manager Technical Skill: HTML/CSS

What is it?

HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is the language that all web pages’ content is built with. CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) defines how this content appears on the page.

Why would a Product Manager need it?

Many products are built with web technology, and it can be very useful to know how these pages are structured. This can be helpful in situations such as:

  • Pages are inconsistent across the product
  • Changes to page components are tested on the fly – this can be done with the development tools of the browser you are using
  • Using tools such as product analytics or A/B testing that take their cue from the page element. When setting these up, it is usually based on the HTML or CSS elements that define the page

Can I succeed without this technical skill as a product manager?

Yes. Although very useful, a developer can always come to the rescue when we stumble upon such a need.

What do I need to know to use it?

First, the structure of an HTML and CSS page. It is useful to know which tags HTML supports and what each means. For CSS it is handy to know how it is structured and used in the web application. There are many parameters that CSS can have to control all aspects of the page, so don’t worry about knowing all of them.

Within the browser you are using, it is useful to know how to inspect elements and find their definition in the HTML code, and if you want to go further with that, how to manipulate them on the fly to see changes on the screen.

Product Manager Technical Skill: #3: JSON

What is it?

JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), pronounced like the name Jason, is a way to structure data in a simple text format. It is easy for humans to read and write, and easy for machines to parse and generate.

Why would a Product Manager need this technical skill?

There are several places where JSON knowledge can be useful:

  • If your product is not built with a relational database, where you can use SQL to query data (see above), but rather with NoSQL databases such as MongoDB or Couchbase, you will not be able to use SQL. In these cases, you will usually have to format your query using a JSON structure. In addition, the data stored in the database is usually returned as a set of documents, each structure in a JSON format as well.
  • Many products have a layer of APIs (Application Programming Interface) used to encapsulate functionality that is then called from other layers of the product. In some products, the APIs are also exposed to the world, being another product of its own, which is consumed by developers of other products. As product managers, it is very useful to know how the encapsulation of functionality happens in product architecture, as we can think of different ways to use it, as well as testing on their own.

Can I succeed without it?

Yes, especially if your product does not include NoSQL database, nor has external facing APIs. But even then, it can be good to know of its existence, as knowing the possibilities can always open up the door to new options.

What do I need to know to use it?

The JSON format is quite easy to learn. What might make it more complex is the information it could contain, as it is limitless, but that really depends on its application in your product.

For APIs, as well as NoSQL databases, check with your developers what structure to use. They can give you examples, or even templates, as well as documentation.

Product Manager Technical Skill #4: Technical Stack and Product Architecture

What is it?

The Technical Stack is the technology of all layers that comprises your product. These are usually 3rd party products that your engineers decided to use in order to build the product. It also includes the technical environment that the product is hosted on, which affects how it’s deployed and promoted to the users.

The Product Architecture is the breakdown of components that comprise the product, usually developed by the engineers.

Why would a Product Manager need it?

There are many reasons to know the technical architecture of your product.

As a product manager, you are not responsible for defining or building it, but you will find that having that knowledge will make you a better team member.

For example:

  • Understanding what the engineers have to deal with to build the product will give you empathy towards their challenges and complexities, and will help your communication.
  • Every architecture decision will have pros and cons and will impact your product, and therefore your customers and the company. You must consider how the technology handles performance, security, scalability, and supportability. Cost is another aspect of the technology used and the product’s architecture.
  • The technical stack, and more specifically, the environment it is deployed to, impacts the ability to provide constant product updates to users. This can make the difference between releasing a new update every day (or several times a day) to once every six months.

Can I succeed without it?

Yes, but you will greatly rely on your team’s engineers and DevOps to provide you with the issues and challenges of the selected stack. The good thing is that you don’t need to know the technology in-depth, only at a very high level.

What do I need to know to use it?

Not much! Talk with your engineering team to learn what comprises the technical stack and product architecture. Ask why each component is needed, and how they are all related to each other. Be curious about it, and ask them to explain it in a non-technical way. This will be a great exercise for them as well. I find diagrams that show the entire architecture very useful, as they put everything together and usually give a good understanding to non-technical people.

Product Manager Technical Skill #5: Specialty Technologies

What is it?

Many products rely on special technology for the entire solution to work. These are always part of the Product Architecture mentioned above, but it is worth mentioning them on their own as they are used in very specific types of products. These could be things such as AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning), AR (Artificial Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality), IoT (Internet of Things), and many other technologies.

Why would a Product Manager need it?

On top of the reasons mentioned above, specific technologies like these can impact your product discovery and delivery. As there are many unknowns (such as in AI/ML case) or interactions between software and hardware (such as in IoT), developing a product with these technologies can be very different from developing more traditional products.

It is important to know how these technologies work, what their limitations are, and what is required to put them together so that we can better understand how they all impact the product throughout its lifecycle.

Can I succeed without it?

Yes, although here too, you will greatly rely on your team’s engineers to provide with the issues and challenges of the specific technology. This might hinder your ability to make proper decisions about your product. It might also frustrate you if you are only familiar with traditional software technology, and expect things to work the same.

What do I need to know to use it?

Learn about the technology as far as you feel comfortable. You don’t need to have a deep understanding, but it is a good idea to have an overview of what it is, how it actually works, what it takes to put it together, what type of problems it is good for, and what its limitations are.

Determining The Product Management Technical Skills You Need

So, do you need every technical skill outlined above?

It depends. If you have the technical help from your team, or tools that can help you achieve the same results without a deep dive into the back end, you could have a sufficient understanding of your product without the need to hone additional technical skills. If on the other hand, you are short on both resources, some of these skills might be very useful in your toolbox.

Remember, at the end of the day, your job as a Product Manager is to build a product that provides value to your users and works for your company. And sometimes the road to get there is paved with technical needs. In any case – getting some technical skills in product management won’t harm you!

5 Virtues Product Professionals Should Master to be Successful

These are 5 virtues product professionals should master to be successful

Virtue #1: Patience

Why do we need it?

As we are dealing with many unknowns, inventing new things, discovering new solutions to old/new problems, we go through an unpaved road. That road will guarantee to throw at us many curves, some potholes, dead ends and even a landslide or two. Without patience we would give up early and get nowhere

A few examples where we need to be patient as Product Managers:

  • Finding product-market fit
  • Getting everyone around us to understand what product management is and how to do it right
  • Finding enough users to talk with and get useful feedback
  • Listen to users go through their journey and their experience POV
  • Experience failures and persevere to find success

Can we develop patience?

I think we can, once we know we lack it:

  • First, be mindful about it – ask others: “am I patient?”
  • Practice starting small. Hold my thoughts and listen. How do I feel while doing it? Can I wait for others to finish talking or do I have an urge to speak without waiting my turn?
  • How do I feel when I fail? Am I discouraged quickly or have a drive to try the next thing?
  • Practice daily with small things, grow a habit, and then continue with bigger things
  • Record every success!

Virtue #2: Empathy

Why do we need it?

Our main job as product managers is to build a valuable product for our users while it works for our company. Without empathy to both – users and stakeholders in our org – we can’t really do our job.

A few examples where we need to be empathetic as Product Managers:

  • Understanding our users’ journey
  • Looking for their problems & JTBD
  • Understanding the impact of the product on our team members that will need to support it
  • Understand how UX and UI impact the users
  • Understand technical challenges our engineers face and what it takes them to build the product

Can we develop empathy?

I think we can, once we know we lack it:

  • Remind myself that others have different POV/job/interests/knowledge
  • Be humble that I don’t know everything
  • Look for opportunities to learn about other people
  • Join support calls to see the pain
  • Use the product to feel the pain
  • Sit by users/stakeholders to see how they work
  • Mentor other PMs to help solve their issues

Virtue #3: Curiosity

Curiosity is the engine that drives scientific research – inquisitive thinkers observe behaviors in complex systems, define hypotheses and drive conclusions from what they find. They see problems and find solutions. In essence, product management is very similar

When are we curios?

  • Finding problems to solve
  • Talking with users to understand their jobs to be done and which problems they have in the current solution
  • Exploring technologies and new ways that can be useful in solving problems
  • Understanding how our company runs and makes money, which regulations/restrictions apply, and how it affects the product we build

Can we develop curiosity?

I think we can, though it is much easier when we are passionate for what we do:

  • Ask “Why?” constantly. The more we ask, the deeper we get
  • Construct gut feelings/assumptions as hypotheses, and develop a process to prove or refute them
  • Define the desired end result and find a way to get there
  • Create opportunities for observations – find where our users are and join them
  • Create mind maps that open opportunities for deeper insights/directions

Virtue #4: Trust

The last virtue I want to add to the previously discussed Patience, Empathy and Curiosity, is Trust.

Where do we need trust?

  • From our c-level/leaders to empower us to build products that provide value to the users while working for the company
  • Our teammates, designers and engineers, to work as a team towards the same goal/outcome, while each do our utmost best to reduce the risks that are in our domain (value, usability, feasibility and viability)
  • Our customers, paying hard earn money to use our products to solve problems they have, and not create new problems
  • Trust the data, not people’s opinions

How do we develop trust?

People say that trust is not given but earned. I would argue that when a person is hired to do a job they are given that trust in good faith. Yes, we need to prove we have it (that’s what 3 months probations are for, no?) but good faith is a two way road, so managers have to provide the trust to allow it to happen. So what can we do?

  • Over communicate all the time, be transparent
  • Don’t be shy of hard discussions
  • Don’t just talk the talk but walk the walk
  • Provide data asap
  • Deliver outcomes

Virtue #5: Respect

Where do we need respect?

  • Respect our customers and users to listen to their problems with *empathy* and really understand what their needs are
  • Respect everyone’s time and commitment, as they *trust* us to deliver them some value, and are *patience* with us to deliver it
  • Respect diversity of voices, expertise and experiences so that we can develop our *curiosity* to learn from each other

Can we develop respect?

Hopefully, all of us already have it as we are growing up from childhood to adulthood, and our parents and teachers show us by example, as well as teach us what respect means. If we still don’t have it, or we are not mindful about it, we could do things to hurt others.

Being mindful about it is the first step to all the virtues I discussed, but respect is the one that probably captures them all. When we practice the other virtues, respect will be developed as a welcomed side effect.

Guest on the Experiment Nation Podcast with Jaya & Sid

Under the hosting of Experiment Nation, a community that seeks to connect all those who are interested in experimentation including Conversion Rate Optimizers (CRO), Product Managers, Growth Managers, Analysts, Researchers, UX designers, and Marketers from around the world, I chatted with Jaya Gupta and Siddharth Taneja about the importance of getting closer to data by getting familiar with data tools.

https://experimentnation.com/2021/04/10/product-experimentation-a-chat-with-moshe-mikanovsky-about-building-competency-and-fluency-with-data-part-2/#.YHySRxNKgWo