November 17

Product Talent — Gaining Experience and Building on Natural Abilities

How to hire a product manager. Let’s start with a classic post by Ken Norton. In it, Ken comprehensively describes the types of attributes that you should look for in a Product Manager. Ken puts a big focus on the person just being plain smart, along with having the right leadership qualities. But there’s also a need for practical and technical experience. “Give me someone who’s shipped something” he asks as his final point.

29 indicators of a Product Manager’s talent. Similarly to Ken, Julie Babb puts an equal emphasis on both “experience and skill” and “attitude and bias” in terms of importance. The list that her team at Pivotal Labs uses to identify talent includes practical things like “has made data-driven product decisions” but also includes harder-to-identify personality traits like “has strong opinions, loosely held”.

The bipolar nature of Product Management. John Vars looks at the contradictory nature of product management square in the face. He has realized that an effective Product Manager will need to think very differently depending on what’s going on at any given time. For instance, she’ll need to be strategic, considering the broader impact of the work she is directing. But she’ll also need to be tactical, with her head down making sure that work is executed correctly.

What we need in a Vice President of Product Management. Hiring a person to lead a product management unit requires many additional capabilities, according to Rich Mironov. The person’s experience should allow them to be an evangelist for product processes internally and be a mentor to product managers below them. Real leadership is required, and the ability to neatly align the activities that they are pursuing with definable business outcomes.

Paul McAvinchey

About the author

For over 20 years, Paul has been building and collaborating on digital products with fast-growing startups and global brands, including AOL and WMS Gaming. Currently, he's a co-founder of Product Collective, a worldwide community of product people. Members collaborate on in the exclusive Member Hub, meet at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference, listen to, learn at Product Interviews and get a weekly newsletters that includes best practices in product management. In recent years he led business development at DXY, a leading product design firm in the Midwest, and product innovation at MedCity Media, a publishing startup acquired by Breaking Media in 2015.


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