Inspired by Marty Cagan Part 3— How to Be a Product Manager

Andrew Chien
3 min readJun 3, 2020

A good product manager should be able to do his or her job. What does that mean? That means that the product manager needs to be among the strongest talent in the company with the technology sophistication, business savvy, credibility with the key executives, deep customer knowledge and passion for the product. As key responsibilities of the product manager includes evaluating opportunities and determining what gets built and delivered to customers (which is the product backlog), this can be hard to achieve without the competency mentioned above. Marty Cagan also mentioned that when a product succeeds, it’s because everyone on the team did what they needed to to do. But when a product fails, it’s the product manager’s fault. From that, we can see how important a good product manager is. In addition, product manager this role is also the indicator or a proving ground for future CEOs as you can imagine this role covers almost every part a CEO should be responsible for in a smaller scale (the other difference is the product manager is not the boss of anyone). That’s also why many best VCs only invest in a company having one of these proven product manager role people as one of the co-founders.

As mentioned above, a good product manager should have competency over many fields. In terms of deep knowledge of the customer, a good product manager should have both qualitative and quantitative capability to learn what our customers want. Most product managers may spend around an hour per day in the analytical area to understand what customers are doing with our product (analytics of sales, usage or A/B tests results). Keeping the knowledge of customer, market, industry, technology refreshed is crucial as these knowledge needs to be brought to the team via the product manager to increase the success rate of the product. A product manager may not have all necessary domain expertise in the beginning, but needs to be able to learn at least. And it normally takes around 2 to 3 months of dedicated work for a new product manager to get up to speed. But this result is based on the assumption that we have a manager who can give us the help and access we need to gain this expertise (Once again, want to emphasized the importance of a good mentor).

In the book, Marty Cagan also points out how tough a work can be for a good product manager as the level of time and effort required by the product manager is extremely tough to sustain. Without passion for the product or this role, it’s can be hard for anyone to stick to it for a long time. It’s suggested by Marty Cagan that if we’re looking for a good work-life balance, then probably we need to rethink about taking the role of the product manager.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash