Interview Q&A on Product Management

Everything I learned during my first 8 months as a Product manager at a fast-paced EdTech startup

Questions provided by Khongorzul Davaajav; she invited me for this interview for her thesis research on Product Management practices in Mongolia.

First of all, I have to disclose a few things:

Here are some of the questions that I’m interested in regarding your product management:

1. Product strategy: What are the concerns when you develop your product strategy?

In a company, unless you are one of the initial team members to do everything from scratch, there are already lots of resources and practices that the people before you have already tried out. In this regard, I would first seek out these resources as soon as possible:

Now as for the actual product strategy, these are the main concerns and main steps I tried to take for each and every product I was involved in:

2. Product roadmap: How do you prioritize your tasks/ideas when building a product roadmap?

While getting the fullest possible picture of the product ecosystem we are building in the given time limit (usually 2–3 weeks), I try to understand the necessary constraints such as human and technical capacity, management and market expectations and big deadlines (usually tied to marketing and sales efforts). I call these the restraints.

Given the restraints and early defined product strategy, I would try to put everything together on timescale, maybe on a monthly or a quarterly calendar. Here I try to use something called the 3D Eisenhower matrix to get everything in order. Restraints inform us the urgency of a certain effort and the product strategy informs us the importance of it.

2D Eisenhower Matrix

On top of the normal Eisenhower Matrix urgency and importance coordinates, I added a frequency coordinate and used it with the following logic.

One-time tasks are dealt the same:

Frequent tasks are handled a bit different:

These steps will result in near-future product backlog, long-term product roadmap as well as general logic for prioritizing a stream of tasks.

3. Product management/development role differentiating from project management: In companies, it is difficult to differentiate the role between project and product manager. How do you differentiate and what criterion do you use to distinguish them?

I have mainly worked in companies where either projects are run or products are developed, so I don’t have much idea on the differentiation of those two roles.

It’s true that at TomYo, product and project managers worked alongside on big products, but we had totally different deliverables and our resources did not intersect much. For example, technology deliverables were regarded as products while content, marketing and sales deliverables were regarded as projects.

If I am to differentiate the roles, I would consider the general scope of the responsibilities of the roles and day-to-day deliverables for comparison. If delivering mainly to end-users and managing product deliverables end-to-end, I think they might be product managers. If delivering mainly to internal stakeholders and managing well-defined parts of product deliverables, I think they might be project managers.

4. PM methodology: There are several product management/development methodologies such as waterfall, agile, and lean etc. What methodology do you preferably choose to apply on your product and why, how do you install it into your product cycle?

I have tried Lean for my side projects and Scrum methodologies to develop products as a team as TomYo. Recently I have become a fan of Product Manifesto principles and if I am to become a product manager with a big team again, I would like to try putting these principles into action.

5. Idea to launch: Please take me through how your company manages a feature or product idea from conception to launch

I believe I explained every step of the way in the above steps, so it will be straightforward.

6. Tools: What tools and approaches do you use for your product management? /e.g for roadmapping, flowcharting, user survey and analysis, project management, collaboration and team managing/

  1. IRL whiteboarding / drafting on paper for almost everything;
  2. Lucidpark, Miro for flowcharting, roadmapping and visualizing ideas in general;
  3. Figma for prototyping;
  4. Google Forms, for user survey and analysis;
  5. Google Workspace, Slack, Trello, GitHub for team collaboration;
  6. Google Sheets, Amplitude, Metabase for all things data.

7. Opportunity cost: How do you manage the opportunity cost when there is a loss and waste during the product development processes.

Opportunity costs come up at the stage where an idea or a feature is analyzed against the existing product strategy in the process I defined above.

I recently learned that it’s important for product managers to take return of investment and time to make decisions along with opportunity cost when comparing options.

It means choosing to make a series of decisions that will result in the most return of investment and the least opportunity cost overall in a given time instead of choosing a single option with the most ROI at a single time point or one with the least opportunity cost for that specific regard again and again.