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Unlocking the formula for a high performance digital product team, London July 2015
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Consumer internet bbl_feb2013

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  1. 1. Product Management 101 What you need to know to get started in Silicon Valley Maisy Samuelson / @msamuelson / msamuelson@gmail
  2. 2. Topics •Why Silicon Valley? •Why Product Management? •Choosing Companies •Getting a PM job •Classes to take •Staying up to date •Further learning
  3. 3. Why Silicon Valley? • Pros • Leveraged • Get to build stuff • Meritocratic (no set career path) • Growth industry “Software is eating the world” • Work w/ interesting people • Flexible lifestyle • Cons • High Risk/Reward (Gambling) • Few obviously exciting companies • Less structure/more chaotic • Limited location choices (SF, NYC, Austin, Boston, SEA)
  4. 4. Role of a Product Manager 1. Product Strategy: deciding what product to build 2. Execution: project management 3. Leadership: convincing executives to give you resources and engineers/designers to build what you want 4. Make your product succeed (not a 9-5) Great product managers are: • Smart (learn quickly), truth-seekers, motivated
  5. 5. Choosing Companies Key to success is choosing great companies Wrong seat on the right plane is much better than the right seat on the wrong plane Good companies have great people whom you can learn from, work with again and who will recruit other great people Battlefield promotions, halo effect
  6. 6. Choosing Companies
  7. 7. Choosing Companies Startups Don’t work at a startup for the sake of doing a startup! Choose 1) smart people, 2) good product 3) good brand Don’t assume that smaller company means greater impact
  8. 8. Choosing Companies Sweet spot: high growth, funded startup with team in place (15-200 employees). Still a lot of equity and career growth A company with 75 people and market traction is much more likely to be successful than one with 2 people and a presentation It’s even harder to start a software company if you have no industry experience and don’t have a network
  9. 9. Getting A Job 1. Read my book ( 2. Identify good companies (Quora, LinkedIn TC, VC portfolios, ask around) 3. Find and connect with people who work there (warm lead versus cold lead) 4. Try to get any job you can there and switch to product 5. Get the words Product Management on your resume (Amazon internship) 6. Approach companies with specific ways that you can help solve a problem they have (i.e. wireframes for how you would improve a specific part of the site). SV companies value doers more than talkers. 7. Build a product prototype (e.g. weather app) 8. Learn coding basics 9. “Check your MBA at the door.” An MBA is not necessarily a positive in SV
  10. 10. Classes To Take • You should understand how to build websites/mobile apps. These four classes get you 95% of the way there. They’re a lot more work than GSB classes, but grades don’t matter and they’re totally worth it. • Read my book ( • CS106a: Programming methodology in Java (take this in the spring of year 1, so you can take CS142 in the fall). • CS142: Webs Applications (Only offered in the Fall and need to take CS106a first. This is the best class at Stanford). • CS193P: Developing Aps for iOS • CS106B: Programming abstractions in C++ • Learn SQL, html and CSS on your own (lots of good web tutorials) • D-school classes look good on a resume • Check out iTunes U, Coursera
  11. 11. Staying up To Date • Fred Wilson (@fredwilson) • Brad Feld (@bfeld) • Chris Dixon (@cdixon) • Paul Graham (@paulg) • Aaron Levie (@levie) • Quora • TechCrunch • PandoDaily • Techmeme • Angel List • Crunchbase Weekly Newsletter (fundraising & acquisitions) • HackerNews • Bill Gurley (@bgurley)
  12. 12. Themes/Companies Collaborative Consumption • Sidecar, Lyft , TaskRabbit, AirBnB Consumerization of the enterprise • Asana, Box, Zendesk, RelateIQ, Evernote, Dropbox Payments • Stripe, Square, CardSpring, Google Wallet Content discovery • Pinterest, Spotify, Quora, Pulse, Prismatic E-Commerce • Fab, TheFancy, Etsy, One King’s Lane, Nasty Gal, Warby Parker, Quirky, Ed Tech • Edmodo, Coursera, Udacity Phone as remote control • Uber, Homejoy, Grubhub Big Data • Cloudera, Palantir The Internet of Things • Nest, Lockitron Mobile Communication • Snapchat, Whatsapp, Viber • Nextdoor, Wealthfront Misc
  13. 13. Topics to Research • SEO (app store and web) • SEM (spend $20 to experiment buying google adwords and FB Ads) • Analyze Business Models: How does X make money? • Technology buzzwords (HTML5, JQuery, NoSQL, Bootstrap) • Mobile • • iOS and Android platforms and apps. What does each platform allow developers to do? Characteristics of top performing apps? App stores? Download a bunch of apps and observe design/mechanics. Trends • Alexa, Comscore, Compete (monthly page views, uniques visitors, time on site etc) • AppAnnie (iOS and Google Apps) • AppData (Facebook apps)
  14. 14. More Reading …
  15. 15. Getting A Product Job • PMs are risky hires for companies because they control very expensive engineering resources and make decisions that can make or break a business/product. To mitigate risk, companies look for people who already have PM experience and a technical background. If you don’t have both, you need to be strategic: • Write a sample spec for the company and make wireframes using Balsamiq Here’s a spec template. • Exhibit these traits ... Intelligence (“you can’t fix stupid”), product sense, ability to lead engineers without direct authority. Check out Ken Norton’s famous blog post on how to hire PMs • Get hired for an easier role and do an internal transfer (only realistic if company <100 people) • Take the CS classes on the later slide and build something • Get a summer job at Amazon/Microsoft. It’s useful to have the words “Product Manager” at <Company people have heard of> on your resume
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