A Primer to Acceptance Test Driven Development (ATDD)

Acceptance Test Driven DevelopmentThere are quite a few agile development methodologies that lean companies use today. Acceptance Test Driven Development (ATDD) is a popular one that I’ve had the most experience in, so I’d like to give a quick primer to what ATDD is, some of its benefits and drawbacks, and a simple test example.

What is ATDD?

ATDD is an agile development methodology that emphasizes close discussion and agreement among developers, product managers, and QA testers about the end product’s specifications, before any coding takes place.

Typically when a product manager presents requirements for a product the developers ask clarifying questions to make sure they understand what is being requested. However it’s quite common that misunderstandings still happen –  depending on how the developers interpreted the requirements and clarifications, the actual end product could turn out very differently from what the PM originally had in mind. Continue Reading

Who Does a Product Manager Work With?

Who Does a Product Manager Work With

The role of a product manager is multi-faceted and product managers often work with many different groups of people in a company. Of course, the extent to which product managers work with other groups depends on individual companies, taking into account factors such as the size of the company or the company’s focus.

In this post I hope to provide an overview of the groups I’ve personally worked with in my projects, based on the UX-Technology-Business organizational framework. I’m a PM at a large e-commerce company, so you’ll see a much more nuanced breakdown of groups compared to smaller companies, as well as e-commerce-specific groups such as site merchandising. Continue Reading

Product Manager Interview: The Product Design Question

Product Manager Interview - Product Design Question

A product manager’s core job is to help design, build, ship, and improve a product so during product manager interviews, most companies love to question how a prospective candidate might think about designing a product.

The popular product design question usually takes shape in the form of something like:

Walk me through the steps of how you would design “X product” (there are many things I’ve tried asking; some common questions I’ve frequently heard include a pen for astronauts, an alarm clock for the blind, an elevator for handicapped individuals, etc…)

When you answer these types of product design questions, you should always approach them with a framework in mind. Below is one that I highly recommend: Continue Reading

Product Manager vs. Project Manager

Product vs. Project Manager

Quite frequently, I’ll be at some social event answering some question about what I do to a stranger who then proceeds to ask “So what do you do as a project manager?”

Rather than go through the nuances of the differences between a product & project manager, I usually move on into describing the responsibilities of a product manager. However, I’ve realized that the very nature of how similar the titles sound can lead to some confusion as to what the true differences are between the two jobs.

To simplify, I think Ian McAllister on Quora answered this question very efficiently:

Product managers own “What” and “Why.” Project managers own “How” and “When.”

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To clarify further, let’s first breakdown the difference between a project and a product. Continue Reading

Top 3 Skills to be a Great Product Manager

product manager skillsWhen I first started in product management, I had no idea what I was doing. I had just barely managed to land the job and now that I had gotten my foot in the door, I wasn’t sure what skills I needed to contribute tangible value to the team. Through the past few years, I’ve learned a lot and I’ve managed to synthesize what I believe are the top 3 skillsets you should develop to be a great product manager.

1) Empathy

I’m a firm believer that you cannot succeed in this field if you do not have the capacity to understand the emotions of others around you. As a product manager, you simply deal with too many different stakeholders and having the empathy to understand everyone’s motives will allow you to cut through the noise, make the right trade-offs, and set a clear vision for your product. Continue Reading

How to Get a Job as a Product Manager

Finding your first job as a product manager is just like the ever frustrating chicken and egg problem of getting your first job. Companies like to hire people with prior product management experience and it’s hard to get prior experience without first getting hired. Here is some of our best advice (compiled from years of speaking to candidates trying to break into the industry as well as from our own successful experiences) around landing a job as a product manager.

Things You Should Do Immediately

Side Projects:

One of the best ways to demonstrate your interest in product management is to work on a side project that gives you the experience in shipping a product. A side project could be anything from a tangible iPhone app, wireframe, or even powerpoint case study. You could volunteer to help a non-profit or small business or you could just do some research on a company’s current product / service and show how you might improve it. Continue Reading