What makes the ideal product manager? This is a very timely subject for our team, having just gone through an exhaustive — and ultimately successful — search for a new product manager to join the fold, one that forced us to ask ourselves a lot of questions:
- How important is domain experience vs. product management experience?
- What is the ideal mix of internal vs. external product management knowledge?
- How important is working for diverse-sized companies — i.e. start-ups vs. large corporations?
- To what degree does cultural fit need to be taken into consideration?
- Is the ideal candidate happy with being an individual contributor or should they have higher aspirations?
- How technical does this role need to be?
While all these questions are very important, I must confess that there is one word that describes the ideal product manager to me — PASSION. I had to laugh out loud that after deciding to blog on this topic, I read a post on the Pragmatic Marketing Alumni blog on LinkedIn that asked the question — “In ONE word, what makes a good product manager?” To date, there have been over 90 posts to answer this question — and yes, a few people did say PASSION as well.
So why is PASSION the key for separating the good product managers from great product managers? If you don’t ooze passion for your product from every pore of your being, then no one will! If you can’t go in front of Sales, prospects, analysts, Development, other product managers, Consulting, Support, etc. and portray this passion and energy for your product, I can almost guarantee that your product will not reach its potential. The organization looks to us product managers to tell them why they should care and if we can’t give them a passionate answer, then product management is likely not going to be a long-term career.
A newly minted MBA student asked me a good question around passion — “How do I show people passion during an interview when the product is not very interesting?” I told him that you can still show passion for the product management process — you are passionate about going to solve a market problem and figuring out the right puzzle pieces to build to put together the right product! You need to convince a future employer that the product management process is what motivates you — then after nailing the job, translate that passion/energy to the product.
I have seen passion portrayed in different ways — it does not have to be a lot of hand-waving or standing ovations (although those are great!) — you have to figure out the best style or mechanism to exude this energy in front of key stakeholders — both internal and external. Anyone that has worked with me knows I am very passionate about passion!