Product Marty Cagan

Where To Work?

You may be looking for a job because you were recently laid off, or because you just graduated college, or maybe you believe you are stuck working in a feature team and you want to experience what it’s like working in a strong product company.

If you are still at a company but not happy working like a feature team, then before you decide to leave, we always encourage you to first try improving your current situation.  Even an individual contributor has more ability to impact her work environment than most people realize.  If today you are a product owner or feature-team product manager, start by raising your own skills to that of an empowered product manager.  Encourage your designer and tech lead to try raising their skills with you.  Then propose to your management that you be allowed to run a small experiment to see if you can’t come up with an effective solution to a problem your company needs solved.  As you earn trust, you can grow from there.

But assuming you do leave your company and you’re trying to decide where to go next, I have shared publicly the names of several excellent companies that are built on true product teams.  Google, Netflix, Amazon, Stripe, Atlassian and Apple are some of the well-known names.  And there are many excellent startups and growth-stage companies, far too many to list.

However, I always try to point out that even at the strongest product companies, not every team is an empowered product team.

What matters more than the company, is the person you would be reporting to.  

That is especially true if you are relatively new to product management, and/or have never worked at a company that is strong at product.

So I encourage people looking for a good position to do their homework.  They should find out who the hiring manager is, and use LinkedIn to see where they have worked, and if you know anyone that knows this manager, ask what they are like.

When you’re interviewing, make clear to the hiring manager that you are there because you want to learn from her, and that you’re willing to put in the necessary effort, if she is willing to help you become exceptionally strong at your job.  

Realize that even if the manager has the knowledge and ability to coach you, she may not have the time, so she may be looking for someone more experienced.  But most hiring managers would love someone that has strong potential, is very serious about their career, and is willing to put in the effort.

But be warned that hiring managers at strong product companies generally take the staffing responsibility very seriously, and they expect strong candidates.  Be sure you’ve done your homework both on what strong product managers are responsible for, and on the company, products and leaders you’d be working for.

It’s not very hard to spot how a company works during an interview.  If you have never worked in a strong product company before, and you need some help on what to look for, I’d suggest you review the series of articles on the before and after of transformation.  Just remember that no company is perfect so don’t be unrealistic, but at least you should know what you’re getting into.

Another pro tip is to read the book Never Search Alone and take advantage of the advice in there.