What methods do you implement to determine whether a prospective employer values the PM’s actual work, such as experiments, all the research and contributions to the actual definition of the product’s features, etc., in order to avoid joining a company that does not give PMs enough discretion over their decisions?
Depending on the person I’m interviewing, I might ask them:
How do the things that are on your roadmap get there?
(I’m trying to avoid responses that say, “Oh, the C-level makes the decision,” and am looking for responses that mention collaboration, data-driven, etc.)
How are HIPPOs managed by teams?
(Some individuals have been surprisingly candid with me, saying things like, "The CEO’s spouse works for the company and we really struggle with them injecting their unproven ideas on our roadmap.)
How would you define success in this position?
(Yes, generic, but I’m looking for solutions that put autonomy and decision-making first rather than a feature factory that only wants to produce user stories.)
I enjoy researching a company’s product leadership by looking up their work and educational histories on LinkedIn. As opposed to those with less product experience and more expensive business school experience, I much prefer those who worked their way up with product experience.
Not to disparage education! Even though I’m working toward an MBA myself, I simply prefer one over the other.
@EvaRichardson, This is surprisingly applicable to engineering roles as well. The three questions are surprisingly accurate.
They understand the need for product if they have a VP- or C-level product position. That has served as my go/no-go signal.
Very helpful in insightful response. Thanks for sharing.
@DavidMercy, Already applying this one. Thanks for the tip
In this case, I’d proceed cautiously. It doesn’t naturally mean that the CPO understands or values product management just because they have one. I’m speaking from personal experience.
Clearly a big indicator. You are a roadmap organizer if they don’t have a very senior VP or C-level leader. Find out to whom that VP retorts.
@FelipeRibeiro, would you include “Head of Product” on this list?
@MichellePlowman, I suppose it would depend on their position in the hierarchy. In addition, do they have a Product department or is it just one person tucked away in a corner? You might also check to see if any UX experts are there. Does it essentially prove that they value the contributions that Product Management can make to the process?
Assessing whether a potential employer values the real work of a Product Manager and offers enough autonomy in decision-making is crucial to ensure a fulfilling and successful career in this role. Here are some techniques you can use during the interview process to gain insights into the company’s approach to Product Management:
- Research the Company: Start by researching the company’s products and their track record in the market. Look for evidence that the company invests in research, innovation, and customer feedback to shape their products. Check if they have a dedicated Product Management team and their role in the company’s success.
- Interview with Current or Former Product Managers: If possible, try to connect with current or former Product Managers at the company. Ask about their experience, the level of autonomy they had, and the support they received from leadership. Their candid insights can be invaluable in understanding the company’s approach to Product Management.
- Ask about Decision-Making Processes: During the interview, inquire about how decisions are made within the company. Understand if Product Managers are involved in setting product strategy, prioritizing features, and how they collaborate with other teams such as engineering and marketing.
- Discuss Real-World Scenarios: Present hypothetical scenarios or real challenges you’ve encountered in your previous roles as a Product Manager. Ask how the company would approach these situations and how much autonomy you would have in making decisions.
- Examine the Product Roadmap: Inquire about the product roadmap and how it is developed. A company that values Product Management will have a well-defined roadmap that considers customer needs and market trends, rather than just reacting to short-term demands.
- Learn About the Work Culture: Assess the company’s overall work culture and leadership style. A culture that encourages creativity, innovation, and experimentation is more likely to value the contributions of Product Managers.
- Review Job Descriptions and Responsibilities: Analyze the job description and the responsibilities outlined for the Product Manager position. Look for indications of autonomy, decision-making authority, and the level of collaboration with other teams.
- Ask About Failure Tolerance: Inquire about the company’s approach to handling product failures and how they view the learning process. A company that values Product Management will understand that experimentation and occasional failures are a part of the innovation journey.
- Check for Career Growth Opportunities: Understand the career growth opportunities for Product Managers within the organization. A company that values Product Management will invest in the professional development and advancement of its Product Managers.
- Evaluate the Support Infrastructure: Assess whether the company has the necessary tools, data, and resources to support effective Product Management practices. Adequate support shows the company’s commitment to the role and its value in the organization.
Remember, it’s essential to ask thoughtful questions and actively listen to the responses during the interview process. Assessing a potential employer’s values and support for Product Management will help you make an informed decision and avoid moving to a company that may not align with your expectations for autonomy and decision-making.
@Pankaj-Jain, Thank you so much for such a detailed and informative response. I really appreciate it. It was exactly what I needed to know. It has been incredibly helpful.
Ask about the structure of their road map. Although it’s likely that 90% of companies function in this way, if it looks like a Gantt Chart with deadlines for their features, it raises a red flag for me. Although I personally believe this is the incorrect approach to true product management, this does not necessarily imply that they do not value PM work.
I appreciate your reply @YuriRoman. Could you please provide some more information or guide me to some real-world examples of best practices. I want to make sure that we are still following them.
Since I’m not an expert, I can only speak from my own knowledge and experience, but I believe an outcome-, goal-, and metric-based roadmap makes a lot more sense.
Say you have the following two metrics
- 10% retention rate
- 10% growth rate in new clients
You have two feature suggestions,
A - To enhance metric #1 and
B - for metric # 2
You proceed to put the first feature into practice, increasing Retention Rate from 10% to 20%. It’s fantastic that there was a 100% increase
In a typical feature-based roadmap, which resembles a Gantt Chart, you will proceed to working on feature B, which you anticipate will raise the growth rate to 20%. (ex. Referral feature).
But what if, in the interim, you come up with some additional feature suggestions (C, D, and E) that taken together could raise the Retention rate by 30 to 50 percent? That could be a significant missed opportunity.
If your roadmap prioritizes your objectives, results, and metrics according to importance, you won’t move on to feature B but instead will implement features C, D, and E, which will be better for the overall financial metric.
I don’t understand.
Can you still provide a roadmap for this that looks like a Gantt chart? After the feature they are releasing today, they have already identified the best features that will boost retention rates.
Since, as you said, something else might come up, I suppose there needs to be some wiggle room in there. But nobody adheres to the Gantt chart exactly. I’m not sure if this would be a reliable sign.
@pouyataaghol, Although I made an effort to keep my example brief, there are other factors that must be considered.
Depending on the data you’re receiving, there may be times when you need to revisit a feature, other times when you simply want to conduct a discovery sprint, etc.
The roadmap based on timelines assumes predictability rather than flexibility. If you keep changing it, it will no longer serve a purpose and may even make you appear to be an amateur.
Additionally, it assumes that you have agreements with senior management and other divisions like MK/Sales.
Few mid-level employees will want to present their arguments to the C-level personnel if you have this timeline commitment and want to change it. They would rather complete the task at hand, present themselves well to their boss, and advance their careers. Everyone is happy if the outcome is favorable, let’s say it increases from 10% to 20%, even though you might have missed a bigger opportunity to increase from 10% to 50%.
A timeline with commitments also creates dependencies, so marketing and sales departments will plan their campaigns a year in advance and put a lot of pressure on you if you don’t fulfill your initial commitments.
I’m not sure if I properly summarized it because there is a whole course you can take on this topic.
@YuriRoman, I appreciate the detail. I understand where this is coming from. Will do more research on it.
Great question! For me if they have one at all I’m out. Vision and strategy yes, roadmaps no.
Various best practice sources recommend the same from svpg The Alternative to Roadmaps - Silicon Valley Product Group : Silicon Valley Product Group and Teresa Torres Drop Feature-Based Product Roadmaps - Product Talk to basecamp (more controversial but interesting) Basecamp: Options, Not Roadmaps.
Basically for me I want to be building what’s most valuable at any given moment in time. We can’t know exactly what that will be in 3 or 6 months time since by then the market will have changed and what information we have will have changed and our product will have changed, so why the hell are we spending hours and hours of our time trying to record that into a roadmap?
A long term (3-5 years generally but depending on industry) vision allows you to build a unifying story of where you’re going without committing to specific features so that everyone is pulling in the same direction and strategy allows you to identify the pivot points that are currently worth leveraging to get you a bit closer, without hemming the teams into specific solution.
How can you have a roadmap of the unknown?