Questions for Product Managers

Following On Product Management and Tyner Blain’s posts, here are my answers to the product manager questions:

  1. Tell us about the best product you’ve ever encountered? Why do you like it?
  2. How do you know a great product manager when you meet one?
  3. What’s your favorite interview question?
  4. When is the best time for a start-up to hire a product manager?
  5. What has been the defining moment in your career?
  6. Mistakes. What was your biggest?

Tell us about the best product you’ve ever encountered? Why do you like it?

The best product ever encountered?  That’s like asking what your favorite meal of all time is – there are just way too many to choose from (plus what type of product manager would I be if I didn’t name one of my products).

I will say that one of my most memorable products was my first used car, a 1978 International Scout.  It may not have had air conditioning, heat, or an FM radio but it was dependable and it just worked.

How do you know a great product manager when you meet one?

The best way to get to know a product manager is to sit down for lunch.  Here are a few of the things I would be looking for to identify a great product manager:

  • What role did she play in bringing a recent product to market?  I am looking for the thought process behind the identification of the market opportunity and how she translated from concept to reality.
  • A story about a time when the product didn’t make it out of development or failed at launch.  I am looking to hear how the product manager handled challenges and conflict.
  • What he doesn’t say during lunch.  Does he listen or just talk?  Does he make eye contact or stare off into space?  How does he treat the wait staff?  These are all good indicators of how he interacts with others and what he is like to work with on a project.

What’s your favorite interview question?

Besides a lunch conversation, see my comment on Scott Sehlhorst’s post for one my favorite questions.

When is the best time for a start-up to hire a product manager?

Ideally, the start-up founders play the product management role during the garage days.  Once the company is out of the garage and looking to attack a wider set of customers is a great time to hire a product manager.

What has been the defining moment in your career?

My defining moment in my career (to date) is deciding not to be a materials science engineer after college but instead join a technology consulting firm.  Without making this move I would have missed riding the Web 1.0 bubble and all the experiences with it.  While it didn’t make me a dot com millionaire, the experience was priceless.

Mistakes. What was your biggest?

Mistakes?  No mistakes here – just opportunities for improvement next time! 🙂

I do have a great improvement story worth sharing but it is just a bit too soon.  Will promise to return to this question in the near future.

Photo Credit – Flickr

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