This week we have invited Gerald Weith, one of our key Ambassadors for the Product Management Festival to share his experiences and opinions on our blog. With over 5 years experience in product management, Gerald is an active member of the community and currently he works as a consultant for Leanovate in Berlin.
1. What motivated you to become an ambassador for the Product Management Festival?
When the Product Management Festival first started in 2013, it was the only event truly focusing on “product”. Everyone was welcome, no matter whether they were using agile or waterfall to create their product. That’s what makes the PMF so special in comparison to other events across Europe.
I work at Leanovate as a consultant, and I have defined my role as being the evangelist for good product management in Berlin. Therefore, signing up as an ambassador for the Product Management Festival was just the next logical step.
2. How did you become involved in product management?
I studied economics and computer science in the 1990s. That was basically a training course in translating between two worlds: The “absolute truth” of zeros and ones, the black and white of technology on the one side, and the 32 million colours of business and marketing on the other. Since then, I’ve worked as a Developer, Project Manager, Product Manager / Product Owner and Head of Product in very different companies. At any given point in my career, I was more or less responsible for delivering a product, and the level of complexity it takes to create simplicity in a product always fascinated me.
3. Who do you think is/was one of the best product managers out there?
I don’t think that there is “the One“. Even for excellent product managers to become truly great it takes so many different things. Their work is always influenced by the organization they work for, the product they own, the team they are working with, and many, many other things.
The first step to becoming a good product manager is to improve yourself within your own context.
For example: Take a junior product manager who starts relying on measurements and KPIs rather than opinions – and then has the confidence to contradict their boss based on these numbers; or product managers who start discussing hypotheses rather than solutions.
Another sign of good Product Management is when you understand that what to focus on next absolutely depends on where in the lifecycle of a product you are: product vision, delivering the product, product marketing, sales, SEO, BI, stakeholder management…
But this also means that a product manager being great in one area doesn’t guarantee excellence in any other. There are famous product managers who are great in coming up with an engaging and motivating product vision, but at the same time have poor leadership skills and are rather bad at developing the team. That can lead to less learning within the organization – which is a risk rather than an advantage.
A truly great Product Manager – the “One” – is the one that your organization, your team and your product needs at this moment, and in the future. Not the one who was great somewhere or sometime else.
…and anyone thinking they are the best product manager has already ceased being it.
4. What product do you love?
Oh, I really love my original Vespa scooter manufactured in 1975; a true MVP. It doesn’t even have a horn, but the indicators are ex-works as these are obligatory on German roads! It’s just a great, simple product with high quality.
5. How is Product Management viewed in your local business ecosystem?
Well, there are lots of product management flavours out there! From junior backlog secretaries to real Product Owners. But over-all, the role is still underestimated. That’s why I liked the discussions at the PMF 2014 about what constitutes part of the role of a product owner/product manager. I don’t think that there actually is a difference between them: it’s just two different perspectives of the same job.
6. What are the perks of being a PMF Ambassador?
Advocating the need for exchange between product managers to broaden our horizon. I like the direct contact with people with the same mindset and interest in creating models for good Product Management. And the extra badge!
7. Why should somebody attend the PMF? What benefits has attending the PMF brought you?
Usually, there are one or two messages that you can take home from the PMF.
If you are a product manager, the PMF reminds you of aspects of product management, which might have become lost in your daily business. An example is last year’s talk by Teresa Torres about product analytics that drive success – after that talk, I started challenging all of my product KPIs, which I had never done before. KPIs are like old furniture: You often keep them around… just in case, or because you’ve simply grown used to them.