What is a Product Manager?
Arguably the least understood position in a tech company, especially in a startup, and especially when it’s brand new, is a Product Manager. You hear them all talk about engineers and designers like “Oh my god we HAVE to find these people or we’re going to fail!”
When normal people first hear the term, they sort of blink a few times followed immediately by deer-in-the-headlights stares. Some may even think it’s similar to a brand manager at P&G who work on skittles or other established consumer brands.
Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality a great Product Manager does it all, from ideas that resonate with normal people, to explaining those ideas with appropriate copy and marketing, to implementing those ideas into software by designing the interface and engineering it to work.
There’s one Product Manager who basically did it all, who you may not know by name, but you’re likely familiar with his product. He left the startup he was at to start another company, which ended up creating one of the fastest growing apps of all time, Instagram. He made the entire thing himself and turned posting a picture into an easy yet creative game. Cut to a few years later, after hiring only about 10 other people, and he sold Instagram to Facebook for $1 billion. Because he did it all himself right out of the gate and kept the team small and focused, he owned 40% of $1 billion. Not a bad hourly rate for a few years work.
Google also has a pretty amazing Associate Product Manager group that only the best of the best at the company get invited to be in. I believe there’s only been a few hundred people who’ve gone through the program, but they come out the other side and have started some of the most amazing software companies because of it. Marissa Mayer, who was one of Google’s first female engineers (employee #22 or something close), started the program a few years back. Now that she’s the new CEO of Yahoo, expect her to reach out to some of her closest personal relationships and disciples to help turn the company around.
Because she taught so many to fish, they’re loyal to the person, not the company. The greatest Product Managers of them all don’t just build quality software, they also build quality relationships.
The Last 3%.