Recently, I took on a new challenge that has stretched my boundaries a bit. If you’re into product management, I recommend it to you, too. I opened a store.
Product management is one of those gigs where it just takes time and experience to build your skills. But like a lot of things in life, I’ve found that I’ve improved and gotten better not when times were easy and good, but rather when I’ve struggled. I’ve long said that the best training ground for becoming a product manager is not to hop right into working with a first-class, dominant product, but instead, to start in the bottom/middle of the pack, where you have to fight and scramble. My first PM gig was perfect in this way: we were fighting tooth and nail against a much larger, aggressive competitor on one end, and commoditizing, “free” solutions on the other. Interesting times.
Any product manager, but especially in enterprise software, has to try to build empathy with their users. We usually do this through tried-and-true methods like customer interviews, job shadowing, questionnaires, and many other forms of research. These are all effective when done well, but they’re really attempts to make up for the fact that most of us just don’t have the same experiential background that our users do. The career paths that lead into a software vendor’s product team and a retail brand’s digital marketing group are usually quite different. I’ve never run a digital analytics group for a major corporation, or a brand’s data science center, or a company’s digital marketing division, and nor have the vast majority of my peers. I know most of these folks’ pain points pretty well… but do I really get it? That’s been a nagging doubt that has always bugged me.
I was pondering this not long ago when an idea struck me. Why not open my own ecommerce store and give it a go myself?