ProductCamp Austin 10 - Panel Notes - Great Products Need Great People! An Executive Perspective On What It Takes To Be A Great PM

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At the core of all great products is a great team of product people of which Product Managers and Product Marketers form the foundation. This panel of exceptional Product Management & Product …

At the core of all great products is a great team of product people of which Product Managers and Product Marketers form the foundation. This panel of exceptional Product Management & Product Marketing executives will share with us their perspective on what makes a great Product Manager, a great Product Marketer and a great Product Team. They will answer your questions and share practical insight and advice on how to advance in your PM and PMM career. Each of these executives have advanced their careers through the path of Product Management and Product Marketing and have a wealth of "lessons-learned" to share with ProductCamp participants about what it takes to be successful in the role. Come prepared to ask questions and learn from the best in Austin. The session will be moderated by Tom Evans of
Session Category

Prod Mgmt Careers
Session Audience

PM Advanced
Session Leader(s)

Michael Helmbrecht, Tom Hale, David Kenyon, Jay Hallberg

Michael Helmbrecht is Vice President and General Manager of Video Solutions and manages the LifeSize video portfolio, including product life-cycle management, product marketing and pricing. Prior to LifeSize, he spent nine years with Dell Inc. in a number of executive marketing posts. Michael holds an MBA from the University of Michigan and a BA in political science from Colgate University. *****************************************************************************************************
Tom Hale is the Chief Product Officer of HomeAway, the world leader in vacation rentals. Hale has driven the platform consolidation of HomeAway as well as the reinvention of the user experience. Hale held a variety of senior leadership roles at Linden Lab, Macromedia and Adobe Systems Incorporated.
Jay Hallberg is VP Marketing and co-founder of Spiceworks, the vertical network for IT. Jay leads Spiceworks' product marketing, category management, marketing communications, and PR efforts that drive IT pro and tech vendor awareness and usage of Spiceworks for their IT management and marketing needs. Prior to founding Spiceworks,, Jay was VP Product Management & Marketing for Motive's Enterprise Business Unit.

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  • 1. PCA 10 Executive Panel Great Products Need Great People! An Executive Perspective on What It Takes to be a Great PMOn February 16th, at ProductCamp Austin 10 (PCATX, PCA10), I had the great honor of moderating apanel that was made up of three of the top Product Management and Product Marketing executives inthe Austin area. The discussion and interaction amongst the panelist was fantastic and I commend themfor making this such a great session. Below, I have compiled notes that ProductCamp participants haveshared with me as well as tweets I collected to document the key discussion points for the panel. I’msure I missed some points, but I think we got the main ones. I hope you find these notes valuable as youthink about how to move ahead in your Product Management or Product Marketing career! Tom Evans CompellingPMPanel Participants Michael Helmbrecht Tom Hale Vice President and General Manager of Video Chief Product Officer, HomeAway Solutions, LifeSize @tomeghale @mhelmbrecht Jay Hallberg Moderator – Tom Evans VP Marketing and co-founder, Spiceworks Principal at CompellingPM @jay_hallberg @compellingpmQuestion – How would you define an exceptional product manager or productmarketer? What key characteristics do you look for? Critical Skills for Product Managers• Passion* • Influence and Lead others• Intelligence • Stick to a vision for a long-time• Customer Empathy • Great writers• Technical strength • Sales strength• Synthesis of Data • Curious and want to learn*• Good person • Self-motivated*  The Product Team is a team and that means you have to have the right mix of skills, modalities, etc. on the team. Creating that right mix is more important than a specific set of skills for one PM candidate.
  • 2.  Each team needs someone who is the "spirit of the product" person.  Different prod mgmt skills required for dealing with remote teams.Good Interview Questions  When interviewing Product Management Candidates, Tom Hale asks, What MicroSoft Office product would you be and why? Word, PP, Excel, Access? The answer to that provides significant insight to the personality of the candidate.  Which products do you love? Which products do you hate?  Tell us about a great product and why its great.Question - How do you recruit great product managers?  Look for the parents of great products and hire them.  Grow locally or bring in globally your development talent.Question: Can a product manager and product marketer exist in the same body?  It’s rare when you find someone that is excellent at both, but when you find one, dont let them leave!  The Combo of great Product Management and Product Marketing people are too hard to find. The best option is if you can’t find them, grow them  Product manager is more like a movie producer now. Prod mktg must have speed to deal with todays communication methods and global customers.  A successful product marketer must be creative and an excellent writer. If you’re not a good writer, you’re just not going to be a great product marketerQuestion: What Are Some Lessons or Experiences You Can Share  Michael Helmbrecht - Avoid taking feedback from only customers. The installed base likes consistency & minor changes only and will be the last folks to talk to about radical ideas. So watch out for "the tyranny of the installed base.  Jay Hallberg - Spice Works has their user community provide feature suggestions and then vote on them. They don’t have a formal Product Management role.  Jay Hallberg - Give introverts avenues to open up and speak. Maybe chat, small groups etc. But for Extroverts - should warn people when theyre thinking out loud. As some ideas may be bad!  Tom Hale told hilarious story about product failure in Japan because they chose a product name that had an insulting slang meaning. So know your market and localization choices  Get out of the office and experience a day in the life of a prospective customer. Jay Hallberg told the story about when they were analyzing opportunities for a start-up (now Spiceworks), they visited the IT managers in 30 small companies in the Austin area and learned a great amount about their challenges, and from that were able to create a company around that.
  • 3. Question – How important is Agile Experience on your resume?  Agile is a process and you can learn a process. Agile experience is something you can learn you dont need to have it to do the job. Too much time is being spent on the process these days.  Dont be a progress by the pound guru. You box yourself in and can be perceived as slowing down the process.  Process can be a crutch, we hire talent over process any day!!!Question – How do you consider a PMs life away from work?  Everyone needs a life outside of work. We don’t really care what those interests are, as long as they have one.  Best PMs have to have something else to do, a source for creativity.Final Thought from Tom Hale (a Haleism) Based upon his story of someone suggesting that HomeAway needs to place branded dog doo bags in rental homes/units.  Don’t put dog doo by my brand name.  Don’t compete with free.