The Product Manager is responsible for planning the product roadmap, planning and executing on specific features, collaborating with your product marketing team to educate prospects and customers on new releases, and working with your customer success and sales team to figure out what your audience wants.
But what does a Product Manager truly do that you can’t find in a job description? We asked this question as well and thought we’d go straight to the source!
Enter: Yonas Dinkneh.
Yonas Dinkneh is the Product Manager at Parlor, a user relationship management system, was formerly the Product Manager at Firecracker, and co-hosts a podcast, Without a Roadmap, with Cameron Curry, where they interview customer success and product thought leaders on navigating the world of early stage tech startups.
Startup Boston (SB): What inspired you to choose this career path?
Yonas Dinkneh (YD): It was actually a person. My mentor and currently the CEO of the company I work at was the Chief Product Officer at the first tech company I interned at, Firecracker.
I was really inspired by the command he conveyed, his work, the way he spoke and the decision making process that he displayed for the team. That was all something I wanted to emulate, and I followed him in a sense and decided to work under him at the company.At that time, I was lucky enough to be able to switch over from a marketing internship to a product internship the next summer while at college. From there, I just learned more about the product field.
What really inspired me about working in product was the ability to apply my general lack of technical background to an area where I felt that I did have some control over the direction of the company or product.
SB: What are you responsible for in this position?
YD: At the moment, we’re still in the process of developing teams, product pods as we call them. But right now I am responsible for the integration pod, which essentially is building out the third-party integrations we integrate with on our platform.
I’m also responsible for communicating on a regular basis with customers who are active and willing to provide us with feedback. I keep them in the loop on what we’re working on or considering and reporting their thoughts back to the company so we can make sure their feedback is accounted for in our product development process.
Outside of that, it’s a startup, so we wear many hats. I’m also responsible for product marketing, which includes writing support documentation and documentation for new features that are released, and writing the copy for certain product announcements, and plenty of miscellaneous hats throughout the company.
SB: How did you know that this was the best career choice for you?
YD: So working in product, specifically product management, was interesting to me because I felt like it was the closest to a leadership role without having an actual leadership role. Not in the sense of telling people what to do, but I feel that it’s a role where your voice is heard and you’re able to effectively communicate your thoughts to a team and work around those thoughts to actually build something.
And also the fact that it challenged me each day. Each day I feel like I’m challenged with some new skill or issue that I have to figure out on the fly. And I feel like each skill is something that would help me throughout my career whether in product or something completely different.
SB: What are the types of qualities that you think someone should have in order to succeed in a product management role?
YD: The most important trait a product manager could have is effective communication. That touches every aspect of the role. In conjunction, the ability to be open to ideas outside of your own when conceptualizing problems and their solutions.
It’s also important to be emphatic of team members and their time and efforts, and taking those feelings of other people and incorporating that into the things you do each day.
Lastly, being a creative person. That doesn’t mean you’re good at drawing or writing, although those are both helpful skills, but being able to think outside of the box to come up with novel solutions.
SB: What is some advice you’d give to someone looking to work in this field?
YD: I would say if you’re looking to get into product management, you should do some research into the different types of PMs (product managers). There are multiple types of PMs, from startup PMs to enterprise or corporate style PMs to people who are more focused on data and analytics. It’s important to think about what type of role you’d want to take on in this space, and specifically think about the responsibilities involved in each role and if those are aligned with your interests or not.
Curious what a day in a life of a Product Manager looks like? Check out what Yonas does on a daily basis in the video below:
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