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Over to Diego now 👇
I’m originally from Mexico, was born and raised there.
I started to have an interest in engineering but never had coding classes. Although, I did have a passion for technology.
However, I found myself working in a consulting firm for over 5 years but I still had the urge to go into tech so, after 5 years, I realized I need a change and MBA is the next step for me. That’s when I came to the US, studied for my MBA and that’s where I discovered product management.
I instantly fell in love with the role, going into tech finally. From my internship to working full-time at Cisco for around 2 years and then next 2.5 years at Microsoft, working in AI & ML, as a Product Manager.
What does your typical day look like?
Well, it depends.
My day depends a lot on the stage of the product. If I have a few features to be released then, I’m working more closely with marketing and support teams and making sure that everyone is ready for the feature to be launched.
If I have some features where I’m in the ideation phase then, I’m going to build the roadmap, start talking to the customers so I work with my user research team a lot, every couple of days, to figure out the right set of questions and interviewing the right set of people to make sure this is where to want to test our hypothesis.
The other big chunk of my time is for those features that I have already released or that I’m in the middle of development, talking to the engineering team making sure everything is clear, more on the execution phase.
Ultimately, it depends on the lifecycle of the product.
Why did you choose to become a product manager? How do you see things differently than the rest?
When I started learning about the role, I looked at the skills and the day-to-day and, I realized that a lot of things that I already did in consulting and even in school were applicable to product management. Those were the things that I really enjoyed doing. That’s also to say that the way I was able to break into PM was by telling my story the right way.
To me, a product manager is a person who’s going to bring a team together to solve customer problems the right way. Features and products are a way of solving the problem but the main focus should be. or as Amazon puts it, obsessed with the customer problem. That should be your one thing to do.
What's the one thing that you absolutely love about your job?
The one thing that I love about being a product manager is that it’s constantly evolving. Not necessarily changing but evolving because you’re at the front, you’re the person who’s going to help the team and bring clarity, but also ideate new things and talk to customers.
You’re right at the front, learning everything that is new, making plans, ideating new solutions, helping the team and that’s something I really, really enjoy. It’s also something scary for many people because that's part of the deal since many times you don’t know what to do next or what should happen next and as the PM, you’ve to go and figure it out. It's nerve-wracking but it’s exciting too.
What are some of the emerging trends in your industry that excite you? And why?
I think that one of the big trends disrupting the industry is that we’re going to be in a "cookie-less world". With this idea of not tracking people, how are we going to do a good job in terms of marketing?
How am I going to be able to predict something as “simple” as a recommendation of a product for you? Everything that has to do with you and your experience is going to be harder so I’m excited to see how things and companies are going to evolve, thanks to this cookie-less world, but it’s definitely not a thing to keep an eye on for.
How far are we from this cookie-less world?
(Follow up question)
What I can tell you is that at least I see in the market all of us in the field of customer data platforms, analytics and basically analyzing customer’s behaviour, everyone’s working on a cookie-less world. I don’t know if it’s going to come in 6 months or 3 years or 5 but all the companies are working on that.
Do you follow any product/prioritization frameworks when making decisions? If yes, what are some of the top frameworks that you recommend, and why?
One of the things I do is, for example, I have a big team of data scientists and they were not using Agile in our development of the product and what I did was I spoke to the team by asking them to use Agile little by little and see if it’s useful for us.
If there is something because of some reason that it’s not worth it, we’re not going to use that piece of Agile.
That being said, that’s exactly what happened.
We took the parts of Agile that worked for our team and other parts, we simply didn’t use them because it was creating much more friction than the positive response that we were getting.
I don’t specifically use a framework. What I do with my team is I detect if there’s something that we can improve, we adapt as much as possible but we stop at the moment that creates friction because my goal is to make the team more efficient but also comfortable.
What’s the one tool you couldn’t do your job without, and which very people know about?
I mean I have many. If I have to condense everything into one, it’ll be Excel. The thing is that a part of the job of a PM is to analyze data.
Of course, I don’t use Excel for analyzing data, I use SQL for that.
But then, when I think of the one tool, it’ll be Excel because I could dump the data in Excel, analyze it, run some numbers but also I could store some information and we use Excel for collecting ideas. Definitely, that’ll be my tool to be able to do my job.
What's the one mistake you've done and will advise others not to repeat?
How to say, “No” and as a PM, to know it’s a part of my job to say, “No” because you are going to get feedback, messages, emails from everyone in the team but as a PM you have to be the gatekeeper and know exactly which ones are great ideas that will contribute to the product and which ones are great ideas but don’t have a future.
Especially, in the beginning, when you are a new PM, you are afriad to say no because you don’t want to be that person who says no all the time. The point is that it’s a part of your job to say no and how you say it, maintaining the relationship, explaining why it won’t be a part of the product is also a skill that you need to learn.
What are some of your biggest inspirations that help you get up and do your best work?
There’s one book that changed the way I think about products or the way I look at products and that book is called ‘The Design of Everyday Things’ (by Donald Norman). That book changed my life when it comes to product management because every time, now, I look at a product and if something is not working for me as the product manager, it’s really not working for my users.
What would you recommend to people who want to start their careers in your space?
So this is for the ones who are already PMs, so starting with someone who is in entry-level or associate level PMs, what they should focus on is understanding everything, for example, understanding their teams, how their product is working, and see how other PMs do it and also focusing a lot on execution making sure that they are great at making a project and run with it.
And it's not about project management or a program manager it's more about making sure the execution of the product comes out impeccable. Become a PM that people can trust by picking up a project and making it completed.
So now that you might know how your product is getting built or probably you to move from Associate Product Manager to Product Manager, you will be in a mix of 20% strategy, vision, and 80% execution right now but you gradually need to make those number shift to 50-50% over time. As soon as you start focusing on the mix of execution and vision that will be taking you to the Senior PM level which will focus on the high-level picture.
But one thing to clear here is that jumping from one level to another doesn't happen magically or just the next day, when I was promoted to senior PM I was already doing a job as a Senior PM 6-8 months before I got promoted. So it's about showing, "Hey, I am at this stage, but I can perform at the next stage" you do it for a while you prove that you prove that you can do it and you ask for a promotion and show them the evidence of why I am ready and capable of doing it and then you get promoted
Anything you want to promote or plug?
People can find me on Youtube for content like breaking into PM as a Career, early stages of your PM career.
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