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Parking the Car as a PM, Coming out as Trans at Work, and the Perils of Customer Discovery

One Knight in Product newsletter
One Knight in Product newsletter
Great Scott!
Great Scott!
Parking the car as a Product Manager
This is your regular reminder that product management is difficult and that no two products, or indeed companies, are the same. There’s plenty of idealism in product management circles, and a sense of failure if you’re not “doing product properly”. But there is no “properly”, just a set of guidelines and norms to use as inspiration and adapt to your reality. Do your best, but don’t beat yourself up!
Jason Knight
"Inspired" & all the other product management books are like studying for your driving test. You need to internalise as much as possible but they're not going to help you park a car in a space the size of the car with screaming kids etc. The sooner we accept this is OK the better
Podcast Episode: Coming out as Transgender at Work
I have known Saielle DaSilva for a little bit now, and we’d been planning to do a podcast episode for a while. As a product and design leader, Saielle has plenty to say about building and scaling product teams. But we felt that there was an even more important topic to talk about; the difficult journey people go through when coming out as transgender at work.
We had a fascinating, and hopefully helpful, discussion about the trans “release roadmap”, sending that letter to your colleagues, and some of the ways we can all be better allies to our trans colleagues. Check out the episode here!
Podcast Episode: Using Improv Comedy Principles in Product Management
I also had a chance for an interesting chat with Amogh Sarda, formerly a PM at Atlassian, Intercom and now co-founder of Eesel. Amogh is a keen improv comic, and wrote an article called Your Product is a Joke which explained how improv principles transfer to building great products. We had a great chat, and I managed to avoid taking too many pot shots at JIRA. Check out the episode here!
Customer Discovery - Buyer Interview mistakes
“The Customer Whisperer” Katelyn Bourgoin posted a good thread about the mistakes that people make when interviewing buyers. As a B2B product guy this occupies many of my thought cycles.
Katelyn Bourgoin ⚡️
I did 300 customer discovery interviews before launching my tech company

We still managed to build the wrong thing

5 big mistakes that people (including me) make when interviewing buyers:
Classic wisdom will tell us that it’s all about the users. And, of course, unhappy users often make for unhappy buyers. But happy users don’t always make for happy buyers! Buyers can have different success criteria and different motivations. And you’re never going to get a chance to have happy users if you can’t get past the buyers.
I generally oversimplify this as
  • Happy Buyers = Year 1 (the sale)
  • Happy Users = Year 2+ (the renewal)
Make sure you keep on top of both!
But can untrained people do user research anyway?
Jeff Gothelf asks whether the Lean movement puts too many poorly trained researchers in front of people, asking low quality questions and getting low quality responses. He suggested “The Magic Interview Question” to help change that.
Jeff Gothelf
The Lean Startup brought talking to customers (aka “customer development”) mainstream — to many trained research & UX professionals’ dismay.

“How can an untrained person produce trustworthy research?”, they asked.
From my perspective, it’s really, really important for everyone on the product team to have some level of comfort interviewing users. If you have a user research team, that’s fantastic, but also a bottleneck. If they’re too busy or stretched thinly, you can get them to help you with interview techniques & writing discussion guides. Check out one of the various books about interview techniques - Deploy Empathy (by my former podcast guest Michele Hansen) is my top recommendation.
Customer feedback is a gift - make sure you’re ready to accept it!
Take it easy out there
Thanks for reading! Hopefully, it has been interesting & relevant, but I’d love to get your feedback. I’d also love it if you shared this with your product-curious friends & frenemies so they can sign up too.
If you fancy buying me a coffee, you can do that here!
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