[There’s] a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to do product. It is not code for a person who doesn’t really know how to do anything but thinks he can boss engineers around. It doesn’t refer to marketing guys who had an idea. Understanding what it means to drive a product means understanding the full scope of the vision of your company. It means understanding your engineering team, their capabilities, and their priorities. It means understanding what your next move is, and what your 6th move is from every angle.
I used to think product managers were worthless. Engineering run companies are the way to go! And why not? I was an engineer with an idea, and it turned into Posterous. When someone would approach me to be a “product guy”, I laughed. Especially if they had no engineering background or track record. What do you know about shipping a product?
Now I know better. A product manager’s job is not about coming up with all the ideas and telling engineers what to do. It’s about running a process to make sure the best ideas wins.
And a designer is not necessarily a product guy. They are different roles.
A good product guy knows your product and your market inside and out. They live and breathe metrics and industry trends. They look for market and revenue opporunities.
A good product guy takes ideas from the entire team. They talk to users and partners. They put it all together to come up with a great plan.
When starting a new company, you can build the most random thing ever and see if it sticks. You have no users, there is little risk.
But once you have users and investors, you need to take educated risks. That’s not a bad thing. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.
A good product guy will work his ass off to figure out the next 6 steps for the company, and beyond. And when you do take the big risks, he’ll have a better idea of what to expect.
A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.