Product Marty Cagan

Good Product People

Recently Shreyas Doshi published a reminder that the vast majority of the best product people are not likely to be spending their time on social media.  His point is that the best product people are busy practicing the craft of product, and not trying to attract followers.

His thoughts resonated deeply with me, and got me thinking further about this.

So many aspiring product people look to social media for guidance, and while there is certainly some real value in certain corners, it is increasingly like finding the needle in the haystack.  In fact, to be brutally honest, I consider it an overall terrible source for good product education.

But back to the best product people. In this article, I’d like to take Shreyas’ observation one step further: 

Many of the best product people are not actually product people.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m boasting here, but one thing I think I’ve really got quite good at over my years involved in product is identifying very high potential product people.

I’ve never believed that you must be a product manager or a product leader in order to excel at, or even lead, product.  In fact, recently I wrote about the alternatives to product managers.

I define a strong product person as someone that is obsessed with solving tough problems in ways that are loved by their users and customers, yet can sustain a business, and are just now possible.

Certainly this is what attracts many people to product management.

However, the subject of this article is that I do not think it is a coincidence that so many of the best product people I know are in fact engineers.

Many people gravitate towards engineering because they see technology as the means to enable them to solve these tough problems.  But the best engineers don’t constrain their thinking to just feasibility and the enabling technology.  They care deeply about value, viability and usability as well, and spend real time and effort educating themselves about these factors.

This is such an important point that I want to try to bring this to life for you.

Recently, two such people that I follow did a podcast together.  The first, Mike McCue, I’ve known since Netscape days, and the other, Molly White, I discovered about a year ago, and while I don’t know her personally, I have been reading her content for a while now, and she is a truly exceptional thinker.

The content of the podcast (the future of the Internet) is I think very interesting and relevant to all of us, but that’s not why I’m sharing this with you.  

I want you to hear how these two people think.  I want you to see what real product sense looks and sounds like.  I want you to get a taste of what it’s like to work with strong engineers that care just as much about what they build, as how they build.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch this podcast, so that you can see two engineers, neither of which would probably consider themselves product people, but that are nevertheless, exceptional at product.