Guest Post by: Sean Echevarria (Mentee, Session 3, The Product Mentor) [Paired with Mentor, Dustin Levy]
Two years ago I threw myself into the deep end of the Silicon Alley tech scene here in NYC. I joined a growing user experience agency called Motivate Design, without having any real knowledge about UX and its function within product strategy. And I caught what some might say was the product bug! I signed up to be a mentee for the third session of The Product Mentor to learn how to break into the space even more.
The session has given me the chance to gather a lot of industry knowledge and have great conversations with my mentor. His advice and the know-how shared by others through the live stream presentations have made me think a lot about whether product management was the path that I wanted to take in my career. But before I tell you what my next steps are, let me share with you the top four lessons I’ve learned by participating in this program.
IDEAS CAN COME FROM ANYWHERE IN A COMPANY
This is a belief that I’ve always had well before being in the tech space, but it seems that we live in a world where this concept is still not fully supported by everyone. Companies still isolate innovation to a lab or a new product development team, and the reality is that ideas can come from anyone whether they work within engineering, sales, marketing, etc. The ability of a PM to pull ideas from everyone and filter them to meet customer needs is truly the mark of someone who knows what they’re doing.
RESEARCH IS MANDATORY, NOT OPTIONAL
This didn’t come to me as a surprise; I would say that in the UX space you should always start with research so that you can gather insights that will drive your design process. That being said, coming from a company that focuses on qualitative research methodologies (usability testing, in-depth interviews, and Friendship Groups™) it was interesting to hear that one of the balancing acts that PMs deal with regularly is the balance between qualitative and quantitative research. However, it seemed that it was unanimous that a great PM will do their best to conduct both and collect as much data as possible, even if they have to be resourceful.
SOFT SKILLS > HARD SKILLS
You hear it time and time again from successful entrepreneurs that you hire for passion and the person and then skills come secondary. And I’ve always found that interesting considering we still live in a world that highlights all skills and accomplishments via the dreaded resume (can’t really show passion there). However, after several conversations with my mentor and other product managers it was quite apparent that this rang true for them. The ability to communicate effectively with a wide breadth of different people and make sure that everyone was working towards a common goal is one of if not the most crucial part of the job.
ALL OF THE BLAME, NONE OF THE GLORY
It seems that no two product managers are the same, but each one did have a similar lesson to share with me. That is, if you’re a good product manager be ready to “take responsibility when things go wrong, and give away any credit when things go right”. This was something that was advised to me time and time again, with the underlying notion that if I want to be a product manager, it better be because I truly care about making products that users love and help improve a business and not because I want credit for building a popular app.
As I continue to learn and grow from those who’ve participated in this session of The Product Mentor and others who have been nice enough to share their insights with me, what I originally only thought I wanted is now what I’m sure I want, and I look forward to growing into a role where I can help bring delight and simplicity to users all over the world through product management.
About Sean Echevarria
Sean Echevarria is currently the Manager, Talent Brand for Jet.com, the shopping site dedicated to saving you money. He also is the co-founder of The UX Lab, a UX Meetup with over 3400 members nationwide and is constantly volunteering and collaborating with the tech/startup community. Before coming to NYC, he co-founded a startup and helped build a million dollar valuation for a patent pending redesign of the standard jar, lovingly called Jar~with~a~Twist. He aspires to take his current product management skill set within the physical space and merge it with his knowledge of the UX digital space to join a growing product team with the right mission.
More About The Product Mentor
The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Management Mentors and Mentees around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…
Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.
Each Session of the program runs for 6 months with paired individuals…
- Conducting regular 1-on-1 mentor-mentee chats
- Sharing experiences with the larger Product community
- Participating in live-streamed product management lessons and Q&A
- Mentors and Mentees sharing their product management knowledge with the broader community
Check out the Mentors & Enjoy!
The Product Guy