How to become a successful product: motivation, education, skills

This time the command ProductStar prepared for you an interview with Vladimir Mirolyubov, CEO in the platform of experts and the author of the telegram channel Product Management

– How long have you been in the field of product management?

– Wow, probably more than 10 years already, if you count from the moment of my realization that there is product management and my attitude towards it.

– How has this direction changed over the years?

– I won’t say that there have been any grandiose changes. Product / project management has existed at all times, even in the USSR in the 70s (Project management in the USSR. VUZFILM 1976), just all this was called in other words.

But there are still trends. If 5 years ago there was still no clear line between a product manager and a project manager, now more and more small and medium-sized companies are moving from blindly following methodologies to focusing on their users and their needs. Large companies like Yandex will have to come to this sooner or later, otherwise the fate of Yahoo awaits them.

– What is the difference between a product in a small / medium company and a product in a giant (for example, in Google or Yahoo)?

– In the general concept of work. In a giant product, the product follows more along the path set by someone “from above”. In a startup, the product itself can influence and set this path.

Well, the corporate / product strategy also differs. Small / medium-sized companies are not yet bogged down in big money and therefore are looking for ways to make money through finding solutions to user problems: experiments, quick solutions, pivots – small teams understand that their scale and flexibility is their advantage, so everyone breathes more freely, their brains do not stagnate and as a result – more efficient work.

When a company becomes a giant, it begins to scale and break up into departments / markets / departments / branches, which become increasingly difficult to manage. In many companies, it is the organization of such control that comes first, the observance of corporate rules and processes that supplant the feelings of dynamics, freedom and a thirst for finding solutions among employees.

Each option has its pros and cons, which can be increased or decreased. It is everyone’s choice which path to follow.

– Is one big desire enough to become a successful product manager?

– Product management is not quantum physics with its convoluted theories (although … something like)so I think that’s enough. And I am, in general, a supporter of the idea “if you really want to, you can fly into space.” A sincere desire and an inner desire to do something gives a person enormous strength and energy. And if you direct them in the right direction, you can achieve success in almost any business.

In my understanding, a successful product manager is one who listens to his users, monitors the development of the world around him, looks for cause-and-effect relationships in it and draws logical conclusions from them.

– Where and how should a product acquire professional skills?

– Much depends on the level of the product itself. If this is a beginner, then I recommend theory in the form of self-googled educational articles on topics (project management, agile, UX / UI basics, JTBD, HADI, SWOT, Customer Development) + work fixed in practice as a product assistant in some startup. If you come across a good team, they will quickly teach and explain what and how to work with. If not, then google again and read, think, apply.

For an accomplished specialist, his work is an endless cycle of “hypothesis – experiment – feature – analyst” and so on in a circle. This is the acquisition of experience and skills.

Don’t be afraid to set ambitious goals not only for the product, but also for yourself: get certified in Google Analytics, learn how to work in Figma, read something about social psychology, improve your English – broadening your horizons helps expand your consciousness, and a product like no one else should be able to watch on everything as wide as possible. Without a good baggage of knowledge, this will not work. Fortunately, product teams always have specialists to whom you can turn for help and advice.

I recommend consolidating knowledge “on paper”. I recently found out that this is one of the manifestations cognitive biasescalled the “processing level effect”, according to which deep analysis creates a longer memory footprint than shallow analysis. Information is remembered better if it is generated by the person himself, and not received in any other way from the outside. I think this is the reason why many product managers (and other specialists) run their own telegram channels.

– Self-education, courses or a university: which is more effective at the present time?

– What is more effective for a person depends on the person himself. For me, this is self-education (including online courses / lectures / webinars) and work. I think that no one can teach a person better than he can teach himself. Ultimately, any education is reduced to one degree or another to the practice of self-education. The work helps to obtain relevant knowledge and consolidate the acquired. In general, you are not distracted by anything else. By the way, our self-education platform grew out of this approach. Unicorn… This is a collection of links to useful articles on a variety of topics: product management, marketing, design, and others.

– Tell us more about this project

– Unicorn is a library of links to helpful articles for grocery teams, tracking their progress.

Two years ago, the team was faced with the issue of improving knowledge and skills, and even a separate channel in corporate Slack could not cope with this task, because most of the employees did not read the articles dumped into it. Communication with other products and managers confirmed that the problem is relevant not only in our team.

For almost three months I have been raking my bookmarks, pinned and star posts with links by hand, looking for only the most interesting and practical articles. After that, we got it together with my longtime partner MVP, announced the launch in a couple of grocery channels, and off we go.

There is almost no significant difference between the model “at the start” and now (except for a paid subscription) and this is one of the few projects that entered the audience immediately and did not have to pivot.

Money and monetization in the Unicorn appeared two years later, although now we already understand that it was worth introducing them earlier, because it allows you to rethink many things and is very sobering.

Money-activated users give more relevant and useful feedback than those who use the product for free. Even this simple adjustment in the segmentation of the base for research makes the backlog play with completely different colors and everything gets on the right track of development. In general, don’t be afraid to charge for solving user problems right from the start.

– What is the most important software and hard skills for a product?

Clear mind… Products are created to solve problems and only then to make a profit. Whoever understands this will find harmony in the product, money, with himself, his work and the world.

Logics… Everything in the world is interconnected with each other, and all events (or their results) take place in public. You need to be able to see the maximum of these connections and understand how they affect you, your life and your product.

Design Thinking… It is laid down by nature that a person perceives this world through his eyes and the product must be able to do so that this perception is as simple and understandable as possible, and as a result – effective.

– What is more important for a product: human qualities or professional skills?

– Everything is important. And if so, it is more important to be able to maintain balance and apply any available skills when they are really needed. Otherwise, there will be distortions that arise when someone starts to put one thing first. This is how products appear that score on СustDev, but strictly follow Agile and SCRUM.

– Do you have enough 40 working hours per week to complete all tasks?

– There is always not enough time if you start counting it. This is an eternal problem and there is one way to deal with it – stop counting time and start counting the result. Ultimately, it is the result that is evaluated and only then the time spent on it is compared with a certain average indicator.

– What do you like most about working as a product?

– The ability to create something useful for people.

– Can a product become an entrepreneur?

– Product managers organize the work of the business through the product and are responsible for the money entering through it. When a product manager starts counting monthly revenue and average check, he is ALREADY becoming an entrepreneur.

– One book, one movie and one tg channel that can teach or inspire?

– For those who are just starting their way in product management, I recommend “A guide for product managers“. Basic basics for those who want to understand what a product job is and what it consists of.

Who is already in the subject, it will be useful to read “VkusVill. How to revolutionize retail by doing it wrong“. A detailed Vkusville success story, from which a huge number of useful cases can be derived.

Movie – “Ingvar Kamprad. Film about the founder of IKEA”Well opens his eyes to what a product, customer service and business built on them can really be.

Telegram channel – of course Product Management… I write about IT, startups, product development and share stories from everyday work.

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