Product Gym, a company that provides tools for people looking to transition into product management, invited me to speak at their event highlighting Women in Product Management, and interviewed me on crucial soft skills that make for effective product managers. The interview, originally posted on their blog, is pasted below:
PRODUCT GYM: What is your definition of Product Management?
NICOLE LENZEN: Product Management involves the definition, build, launch, and iteration of a product. In terms of the role itself, I think what you said about product management being so different depending on the organization is really key. Maybe you’re very technical, or design-oriented, or have a strong business mind. However, there are some general areas of expertise that overlap whether you're working for a product-based startup, doing digital transformation within a large company, or working within the growth hacking space.
I think one of them is being able to communicate at all levels to all different types of backgrounds. It’s really having that right brain/left brain thinking to understand either a designer, engineer, or business person and communicate and translate the ideas and concepts of each of those various groups to the other. There’s also a lot of communication up and down, so at one moment you may be working in the weeds and the nitty-gritty, and the next moment at a very high level with executives and key stakeholders, so being able to again translate and communicate with the right fidelity is important. Does that make sense?
PRODUCT GYM: Absolutely.
NICOLE LENZEN: That's just one thing. There are other things too that I can quickly tick off. I think one of them is just being generally super organized and the source of truth. Being great at planning, documenting, and getting people on the same page to ensure they're all tracking towards the same vision is another that comes to mind. It’s making sure everyone is motivated towards achieving the same objectives and goals, which may be short term or long term depending on whether you're looking at an MVP, a pilot, or a really long-term calendar.
That kind of leads me to another one which is focused around leadership, and being able to really nurture your people. You're in a position where (as everyone always says) you manage product, not people. So you don't necessarily have a hierarchical position. You may not be above the people who are working on your team. However, you own the deliverables and the success of the product, and in many ways, the culture of your team. To that end you have to keep everyone engaged and feeling like they are individually contributing and growing, and that their voices are heard.