Ask any SaaS business in Singapore about Product Management and they’ll tell you it ain’t easy: from structuring the process, to hiring a Product Manager (PM) to building a great product. That is the reason why we brought together the SaaS Business Asia community on May 12th over some glasses of wine and coconut shakes at Sequoia’s office: to tackle the topic and exchange best practices.
With a lineup of speakers from Zendesk, TradeGecko, ViSenze and Hubspot, and a great audience mix of SaaS and non-SaaS Product Managers, as well as SaaS founders and managers, we went behind the curtains of the Product Management role.
Here are the main 3 myths on Product Management busted during the meetup:
1) A Product Manager needs a Computer Science background
With 10 years of experience in Product Management, Graham Kennedy, Head of Product at TradeGecko, says the best PMs he’s seen had backgrounds in philosophy, music or they didn’t even have degrees. “As a PM you own the why and what, the how belongs to the engineers and designers. So you don’t require a computer science degree.” He admits though that while PMs don’t need to go to code level, they do need to be able to understand conversations between engineers and designers, and therefore his early days in programming did help a bit.
This is pretty much in line with how things are run at Hubspot. Danielle Greco, Product Manager at Hubspot’s Headquarters in Boston, says that the product is co-owned by the PM and the Tech Lead, and together they manage a team of engineers and designers. “The PM owns the problem, and the Tech Lead owns the solution.” As a matter of fact, her background prior to the PM role was in Content Marketing, and that didn’t stop her from becoming a great Product Manager once she set her mind to it. The transition was smooth though thanks to a special program that is gaining popularity in the US: a well-organised training as Assistant Product Manager (APM).
Jeremy Seow, Product Manager at Zendesk, also comes from a non-CS background. More precisely, his previous role was in Sales, for the same company. But by managing to have an appreciation for CS concepts and how engineers talk, he had no issues gaining trust as a PM.
Even a PM with a deep technical background agrees that a PM doesn’t need a Computer Science background. Ruixin Xu, currently Product Manager at ViSenze and previously Program Manager at Microsoft, says that because of her engineering background, sometimes she gets too deep into details, only to realise she needs to re-focus on the bigger picture. And while her background allows her to have great communication with the engineering teams, she had to put on an effort to understand the business teams too.
2) Product roadmaps should be defined quarterly
Not really. It seems like the real product roadmap is only accurate for 4-6 weeks ahead, but in some cases a 6 month roadmap is needed.