How to Become a Product Manager

Many aspire to become product managers, and yet very few actually do anything to become one.  I gather it’s because most of us think that it’s very difficult (if not impossible) to perform the job of any given profession until we have acquired the title.  But what if the only way to really become one is by demonstrating to the world that you are capable of doing the job before you get the title?

Finally, the best thing you can do to become a product manager is build products. You don’t have to be a PM within a company to do that — you can work on your own side projects and build skills needed to be PM — from ideation, doing customer research, prioritizing requirements for an MVP, designing and building the MVP, marketing, showing it to customers, getting feedback and growing the product. The products you build need not be world-changing — but they will help you learn the art of building a product from scratch and dealing with tonnes of ambiguity. After building the product — showcase it to the world. What if the product fails? No problem, you would have learned some valuable lessons from its failure. Share your journey with others. Ask them for feedback. An easy way to do this is to write about your experience or capturing it in a portfolio. These are great ways to showcase your product journey to teams hiring PMs.

Read this Medium article in full here.

Blogs over Books

Is there a future for the publication industry?

That’s one loaded question that certainly cannot be answered in a short, single post.  But here’s how Ben Thompson makes a case for why (and how) the blog has taken over the book and is the future of communication for the masses.

To put it another way, at least in my experience, the lowly blog has fully disrupted the mighty book: the former was long thought to be an inferior alternative, or at best, a complementary piece for an author looking to drum up an audience; slowly but surely, though, the tools have gotten better, everything from social media for marketing to Stripe for payments to WordPress for publishing to tools like Memberful for subscriber management. It became increasingly apparent, to me anyways, that while books remained a fantastic medium for stories, both fiction and non, blogs were not only good enough, they were actually better for ideas closely tied to a world changing far more quickly than any book-related editorial process can keep up with.

Read in full here.

Marketing Technology and Israel

I have never really thought of Israel as an industry leader in marketing technology. After all, there is already so much we hear about and associate with this nation that it just never occurred to me to see it as a hub of some of the most prominent marketing technology startups in the world (see this map).

At the heat of this army of marketing tech startups is:

Content marketing.

Just what is it, and why is it such a buzz word? Does it still work? Should aspiring marketers care about it at all?

Content marketing allows businesses to build customer relations, showcase industry expertise and draw consumers to their websites and social media pages. In 2015, 88 percent of B2B marketers employed content marketing, and 76 percent of those companies planned to increase the amount of content they produce going forward. In addition, a recent survey of marketing professionals showed 21 percent felt content marketing would have the greatest commercial impact in 2016, which was more than 5 percent higher than any other marketing activity.

Read in full here.

Content Strategy

We live in a day and age flooded by information and data.  As I sit down to write this post (and as you are scrolling down this page), our inboxes are ringing with notifications of new messages while our Google News feeds are being updated with news from all over the world every second.  There has never been a time when so much information was made accessible to so many people with such ease, and many of us don’t even stop to think how we have gotten here.  Just a little over a decade ago, most of the tech giants that dominate (and basically control) our lives did not even exist.

With the advent of this information-ridden era, we have welcomed in a new discreet challenge — in fact, so discreet that many of us don’t even think this is really an issue.  The challenge is now on us to figure out just what information to take in (or toss out) and just how to do so.  When there is simply so much just floating around the web (most of the time, free of charge, accessible to all), where do we even begin?

Content strategy is about answering that question.  Specifically, it is about how to navigate the web space in order to filter through the massive amount of data to extract the things we want so that we might put that piece of info (data) to work.  That is, a good strategist is a tech-savvy, fast-learning, information architect who does all this quickly and accurately in visually appealing manners.

Not sure if that’s really what a content strategist does? Don’t just take my word for it — here is what some others have to say:

Karen McGrane defines content strategy as:

helping the world understand what makes the web different from print and how we fully take advantage of this new medium. It’s exciting! It’s Gutenberg-level stuff.

According to another content strategist Brigid Auchettl (emphasis added):

Being a content strategist is a mix of editorial writing, organisation and management skills, analytical abilities, developing marketing know-how and being a communications whiz. My day-to-day responsibilities include creating and managing social media campaigns, monitoring engagement and analyzing data, implementing SEO and building strategic partnerships with a variety of clients.

All in all, in this day and age, there is an increasingly high demand for a good content strategist who understands his roles and has mastery of his art.

Journalism isn’t dead — it’s simply changed over time.

Read Karen McGrane’s take on the future of content strategy here.
Read the Auchettle piece in full here.

Making Arabs Employable

Is the education sector saturated? Yes — but only in some parts of the world.  Not a day goes by without a news (or an ad) of yet another education-based startup (including coding camps) making its debut.  While the education sector in the U.S. prides itself on its wide offering of resources (both proprietary and free) for learning online and offline, many other countries still struggle with trying to attract enough supply to meet their burgeoning need.

Below is an excerpt from a McKinsey publication I read today (emphasis added):

Elsewhere in the world, the private sector, both education providers and employers, has played a critical role in providing opportunities for young people. Given the right conditions, it can play the same part in the Arab world as well. The report therefore highlights these messages: demand is substantial for private-sector involvement but supply is limited; vocational education and training, private universities, and work-readiness programs are the major categories of private investment opportunities; and several critical enablers of private participation are missing, such as rigorous standards to ensure that students are taught the right skills. Surveyed private employers tell us that only one third of new graduate employees are ready for the workplace when hired.

Read in full here.

DOTW (Do One Thing Well)

Which is better? A toaster oven or a toaster?

Let’s try that again: which do you use more often? A toaster oven or a toaster?

For the vast majority of us normal people out there, the answer to the question above is short and clear: a toaster.

But, you might ask, don’t toaster ovens come with more functionalities in general?

Yes — and that is precisely why most people end up not using them nearly as often as they use toasters.

A toaster is designed to perform a single task.  It is easy (straightforward) to operate.  And in most cases, it comes with only one (or two, at most) nob for operation.  A toaster oven, on the other hand, tries to do too much.

Click here to read a fascinating post by Anthony Palicea.




The Dreaded “F Word”

Why is fundraising so difficult?

Why is it that I think that fundraising isn’t somehow “real work”?

Why is it that we feel uncomfortable sharing with others about what we feel is really the best thing in the world?

Maybe we don’t believe in the awesomeness of what we are trying to sell after all.

Seth Godin wrote an excellent piece years ago:

If your ideas and programs and people and vision are so great, shouldn’t people be willing to reach into their pockets and fund them?   If it’s worth spending your life doing this work, shouldn’t you or someone in your organization be able to convince someone else that the work is worth supporting?

In the for-profit world, nothing happens if you don’t have a compelling product with a compelling story that wins out in the marketplace of ideas and gets people to act.  People get so excited about Apple’s products that they blog about the next release, scour the Internet for registered patents, spread ideas and rumors about what is coming next, and convince the people around them that Apple = cool.  Do you think this would happen without Steve Jobs living and breathing the brand each and every day?

So how is it that in the nonprofit sector we create this illusion that growth and change and impact can happen absent this kind of energy and engagement? “



PD or Programmer

Here is a short story of a former journalist (program director, or PD) turned a programming instructor. She might not be voicing her ideas and findings to the thousands (or tens of thousands) as she may have originally desired to do as a PD, but she is now transforming the lives of 30 people every term through her classes. A change smaller in scale but definitely not as less worthy.

Read here.

The Power of Building

Living in an era of side gigs, we read, hear, and ponder about more ideas than ever before.  So many so-called “thought leaders” and yet still so few “do-ers” in comparison.  Why is this so?  Might it be that doing actually requires far more energy, discipline, and focus than thinking?

This advice applies to all creators. Once you start building and launching your projects, you won’t be able to stop. Building will become part of your identity. And even if your project fails, you’ll keep at it.

The steps you take today will compound over time. Look at great product makers like Drew Wilson, Pieter Levels, and Sebastian Dobrincu. They don’t wait for the right opportunity. They build and ship weekly.

H/T to Jonathan Z. White.  Read in full here.