“Product Management is a mile-wide, foot-deep sort of job” Says Jack Moore sharing his Product Management Journey

Jack is a product manager based out of Oakland, CA. Specializing in platform and data products, Jack has a passion for creating products which empower users with simple and powerful data insights. He frequently writes about all things product. To learn more, visit jackmoore.us

How was your experience in University?

I went to the University of Notre Dame, in Northern Indiana, where I majored in Electrical Engineering. I’ve always been a fairly technical person, when I was little I would take apart old appliances around the house, and so I gravitated towards engineering.
I’ll be the first person to tell you I wasn’t a particularly great student, and many subjects failed to hold my interest, but I always felt at home working in groups, or on projects that were more open-ended. I think that college was where I learned that I wanted to find a field that would let me leverage my creativity and entrepreneurial itch.
Ultimately, I like to joke that I don’t use my Electrical Engineering degree, in so far as I don’t do circuit design or signal analysis anymore, but I certainly leverage my education every day in the way that it taught me to systematically take apart complex problems to find effective solutions.

Why did you seek out a career in Product Management?

I like to say that I fell into product management, that product management “just happened to me”, but that probably isn’t accurate. What is probably more accurate is that I knew that I wanted to find a career where I was building cool stuff that helped people, and product management happened to be the name of the role that I best fit into.
If I were to give an aspiring product manager advice for getting into it, I’d make sure they consider the possibility of learning about product management in their current job. Product Management is such a flexible job title that a lot of different people with a passion for building products can get into doing some portion of it.

What was your first job or nuggets from jobs you had that helped you to get to where you are today?

My product management journey started in an unusual setting. I was working at Pacific Gas & Electric, a large electric and gas utility, headquartered out of San Francisco. I say unusual because large utilities don’t necessarily have a reputation for harboring the sorts of teams that need product management.
One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is to treasure the leaders at your company that are willing to help you grow, and try to figure out all the ways you can help them look better. I credit Tom Martin and Pete Baker for creating an environment where I could learn about what product management was, ultimately resulting in my becoming one of the first product managers in PG&E Electric.
From there I looked outward to the larger field of product management opportunities, where I had the opportunity to dive deeper into product management as it exists at most companies in and around the Bay Area and the larger world of software and startups.

How do you prepare for an interview?

First, a quick anecdote:
A traveler came upon three men working. He asked the first man what he was doing and the man said he was laying bricks. He asked the second man the same question and he said he was putting up a wall. When he got to the third man and asked him what he was doing he said he was building a cathedral.
When I interview anyone, especially product managers, I look for cathedral builders – people who care about the importance of the stuff they’re building. Make sure to talk not just about what you’ve built, but why it’s important that thing exists.
Other things to mention in a product management interview are:
  • Collaborating with engineering teams – conducting retrospectives, experimenting with changing product processes, looking for ideas from engineers
  • Focusing on data – looking for trends that allow you to develop an idea of whether the thing that you’re working on would be successful, and figuring out ways to measure whether it ended up working.
  • Talking to users – seeking out 1 on 1 conversations with users and customers, and a desire to share those experiences with your team
Finally, 99% of interviews will include some time to ask questions, and the quality of those questions is what ultimately makes the difference between a good candidate and a perfect one. Don’t worry as much about time off or pay or anything like that when interviewing with a hiring manager or a product manager. One type of question that I always like to hear is about how I can tell whether the decisions I’m making are contributing towards my company’s end goal.
Ultimately, the best interviews I’ve been a part of are ones where I legitimately had fun, so be friendly and figure out a way to enjoy your conversation. Ultimately, these are people that you want to work with, so they’re going to notice if they enjoy their conversation with you.

What books have helped you?

  • User Story Mapping, by Jeff Patton – An amazing book that taught me the importance of viewing product through the frame of a users’ experience, rather than a bunch of functional pieces.
  • The Elements of Scrum – by Chris Sims and Hillary Louise Johnson – This book teaches what I like to call “textbook scrum”, and is a great foundation for understanding what it means to be a part of an agile team.
  • Inspired, by Marty Cagan – Marty Cagan is one of the foremost voices in the product management world, and his book is one of the quintessential guides to practical product management.
  • Lean Startup, by Eric Ries – Ideating & building products quickly and efficiently are one of the most important things that a product manager can push towards. Lean Startup Circle does an amazing job of showing you how you can quickly and easily figure out whether a product is going to be successful.
  • Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman – People have some incredible built-in biases and tendencies. This book will guide you through some of the nuances of human thought and how use them to your advantage.
Those are the highlights, but If you’d like to see a full list of the books that I recommend for product management, I’d invite you to check out my website – jackmoore.us/books

What can you recommend on a CV?

Product Management is a mile-wide, foot-deep sort of job. By that, I mean that it’s your job to fill in the gaps of your teams’ product development process. User research, design, testing, data analysis – these are all potential areas of responsibility for a product manager.
The best thing you can do in a product management interview is to make a case for why your past experience fits into what a prospective job is going to ask of you. Just because you spent most of your time doing some part of your job doesn’t mean that it’s the most important part of your experience. Make sure to emphasize the things from your past experience that best line up with a particular job that you’re interested in.

What advice would you have for someone looking for a job as a product manager?

Product Management is all about furthering a company’s mission. Going back to my notion of the “cathedral builder”, focusing on a few companies whose mission you truly believe in will yield better results than a shotgun approach of applying to every opening under the sun. Reach out to the people at companies you’re truly interested in and figure out what you can do to be of value to them.

Why do you think you were selected among other candidates?

I think that I interview well. Practicing interviews is really important, even if it’s just in a mirror. When I was interviewing for my current job, my girlfriend at the time constantly pushed me to prepare for interviews better, and that was incredibly helpful. My advice would be to find a friend who’s also interviewing for new jobs and switch off interviewing each other. Look online for common product management interview questions.
Additionally, I specialize in product management as it pertains to data products. Data platforms, data science features, data reporting features – these are the areas that I excel, and that specialization shows in my interview responses and my past experience. Compared to the average product manager, I think I looked like a good candidate for the jobs that I was applying to, even though I might not have looked quite as ideal for a consumer software type of job. You only have to be 1 company’s perfect fit to get a job.

Things are changing very fast in Product Management field, how do you keep yourself up to date?

I love a good meetup. The shifts in how product management works in practice happen fairly quickly, and hearing from the experts at some of the top companies is a great way to hear the latest.
Platforms like Medium and Twitter, and publications like Hackernoon are great ways to keep up to date on the happenings around tech, and are valuable both in terms of learning about what’s going on, but also connecting with the experts who are doing the things that you want to be doing. I’ve found that people tend to be much more approachable than you might assume. Just because someone’s written a book doesn’t mean that they won’t reply if you DM them on Twitter.

All-in-all, I can’t stress enough how amazing I think product management is as a career. It’s a great way to exercise an entrepreneurial spirit in a wide range of environments, and it offers the opportunity to understand the impact of technology on real peoples’ lives in a way that no other position does.
If you’re interested in product management coaching or consulting, please drop me a line – [email protected]
“Product Management is a mile-wide, foot-deep sort of job” Says Jack Moore sharing his Product Management Journey

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