Janie Lee: Three Core Skills that Make the Best PMs | E1165

Janie Lee: Three Core Skills that Make the Best PMs | E1165

Intro (00:00:00)

  • Janie Lee expresses her excitement to be on the show and thanks Parker for having her.
  • Parker mentions that Janie is one of the best product visionaries he has worked with and emphasizes the importance of joining companies with high talent density for career acceleration.

A Journey into Product World (00:00:57)

  • Janie Lee shares her background and experiences that led her to fall in love with product management.
  • She describes herself as a "weird kid" who loved leadership and worked on a statewide nonprofit leading teams of teenagers.
  • Janie studied public policy and African-American studies in college, which involved a lot of writing and clarity of thought.
  • She joined a rotational program at Box and discovered product management as the perfect role that allowed her to utilize her diverse skills and interests.

Lessons from Opendoor (00:02:19)

  • Learned how to be a GM and a business owner.
  • Accuracy in pricing was crucial, as one mispriced home could wipe out the profit of many others.
  • Gained attention to detail and understanding of the full profit and loss of a business.
  • Combined automation with human touch in building machine learning or AI products.
  • Focused on building the right problems and core things to solve first, rather than aiming for full automation immediately.
  • High talent density is a key predictor of career acceleration.
  • When junior in your career, join companies with high talent density.
  • As you become more senior, create talent density by coaching people, hiring great operators, and parting ways with those who don't fit.
  • The mindset shift is from looking for talent density to creating it.

Lessons from Rippling (00:07:09)

  • Parker, the CEO of Rippling, had a deep understanding of the customer and developed customer empathy.
  • Parker was a great storyteller and salesperson, able to sell a vision of the world that didn't exist yet.
  • Rippling's unique opportunity came from combining problem-solving, storytelling, and a contrarian focus.
  • Creating a great customer experience by being integrated everywhere.
  • Balancing the minimum level of usability needed for the purchasing decision with the actual user experience to ensure long-term customer retention.

Art vs. Science in Product (00:11:12)

  • Product management involves diagnosing scenarios and selecting appropriate tools to solve problems, with product sense being a crucial skill.
  • Developing product intuition and taste can be achieved by clearly defining customer problems, articulating product value propositions, and asking questions about user experience and potential improvements.
  • Constant feedback to design partners enhances product taste.
  • Successful product experiences should be simple, fast, and easy to use, making users feel accomplished and celebrated for their achievements.
  • Opinionated product decisions can evolve based on business needs and market behavior.
  • Pricing and packaging strategies should balance revenue growth with user experience and market penetration.
  • The North Star metric, tied to revenue, ensures product development aligns with business goals.
  • Creating products that people are willing to pay for requires critical solutions that justify their investment.
  • Loom values power users and recognizes the impact of free users on brand awareness.
  • Loom's diverse use cases include empathetic founder rejections and personalized job offers using embedded videos.

From Consumer Product to Enterprise Solution (00:26:29)

  • To successfully transition a consumer product to an enterprise product, teams need to focus on long-term goals and celebrate inputs that drive pipeline growth, rather than immediate results.
  • When moving into the enterprise market, it's important to work your way up and not skip the SMB and mid-market segments.
  • Building features without a clear understanding of customer needs can lead to wasted effort and resources.
  • To succeed in the enterprise market, product teams need to commit to meeting all the requirements of large customers, rather than iteratively building features over time. This requires a top-down commitment from the company, including increased staffing, R&D, and go-to-market resources.

Roadmap vs. Revenue (00:32:58)

  • Consider deviating from the product roadmap if it unlocks a significant amount of revenue (e.g., $10 million in annual recurring revenue from a few large customers).
  • Before committing to enterprise sales, set a revenue threshold to determine when it makes sense to deviate from the roadmap.
  • As a company grows, it may need to move beyond product-led growth (PLG) and consider investing in sales and lead generation.
  • The article "The PLG Trap" discusses why PLG companies need both PLG and sales and lead generation to become truly enduring companies.

What Makes a Truly Great PM (00:34:18)

  • Writing is a powerful tool for clarifying one's thoughts and explaining complex subjects to others quickly and effectively.
  • To improve writing skills, PMs should write more, including PRDs, team updates, and meeting agendas, goals, and summaries.
  • Common writing mistakes include sharing writing before it's refined and not considering the intended audience.
  • Janie Lee recommends setting a tone of vulnerability and openness at the beginning of meetings to encourage sharing and giving.
  • She emphasizes the importance of being comfortable with silence after asking a question, as valuable insights often emerge during those moments.

How to Structure Hiring Process (00:43:19)

  • Early-stage companies can hire junior PMs with high IQ and EQ, a strong work ethic, and a coachable attitude to save costs and make an impact.
  • In initial interviews, assess candidates' track record of impact, problem-solving abilities, and alignment with the company's opportunities.
  • Exceptional candidates can articulate the importance of their work and tie it to the business rather than just building for scale.
  • Proactive outreach candidates tend to impress more in interviews compared to inbound candidates.
  • Use take-home assessments before the final interview to test for harder skills and assess candidates' fit with the team.
  • Janie Lee evaluates candidates based on clarity of thought, creativity, and high effort and preparation.
  • Approximately 25% of candidates progress from the initial conversation to the take-home challenge.
  • During the "super day," candidates participate in a 45-minute deep dive on their take-home assignment with a small group from the team.
  • The first 2-3 months are crucial for assessing a new product manager's ability to deliver real impact, even if it's not reflected in specific metrics.
  • Bad hires often spend the first 3 months still onboarding and assessing the situation, rather than making an impact.

How to Do Product Reviews (00:54:23)

  • There are two types of product reviews: exec reviews for high-stakes products and product crits for specific aspects of a product.
  • Before an exec review, the product leader sends out a Loom pre-read with prioritized feedback and questions.
  • Questions are categorized as cheap (critical), expensive (important but not critical), or curiosities (not essential) to focus discussions and avoid wasting time.
  • Prioritizing questions, context, and thoughts during meetings enables faster decision-making while maintaining focused discussions.
  • Product managers should close the loop after executive reviews by sharing and scaling context, even if decisions are not universally popular.
  • Openly discussing decisions, including the reasons behind them, known risks, and why they were made despite potential drawbacks, fosters a culture of "disagree and commit."

Quick-Fire Round (01:00:29)

  • Storytelling is a vital skill for product leaders as the audience and reach change during company and team growth.
  • AI has accelerated product development, requiring product leaders to build experiences that improve over time with the assumption of rapid AI advancements.
  • AI should be used as a tool to solve customer problems, not as the sole focus of product development.
  • Kindbody, a women's healthcare provider, impressed with its exceptional physical space, transparent pricing, and user-friendly software that enhances the overall healthcare experience.
  • The best product managers possess three core skills: problem-solving, execution, and storytelling.
  • Problem-solving involves identifying and understanding the root cause of a problem, while execution entails effectively implementing solutions.
  • Storytelling is crucial for effectively communicating the product's value and vision to stakeholders and customers.

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