Product Ramble with Ed Shelley
I truly enjoyed my conversation with Ed Shelley – Director of Product Management at Chartmogul. He shared his insights from following a very unique path – from engineering, through product management, then to marketing and finally back to product.
Listen on to learn which skills were crucial for an engineer to become a good product manager and later a marketing guru. Product managers – learn how you are perceived by external teams and what mistakes to avoid when working with the marketing camp. Enjoy!
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Detailed notes and links to resources mentioned: https://productramble.com/ed-shelley-engineering-marketing-product-pr02
(0:00) Welcome to Product Ramble!
Here comes the first episode with not only me rambling 😉 Lots of goodness ahead. Enjoy!
(1:15) Ed’s road to product management
Ed started as a software engineer and had no clue about product management when his career started. The first time he met a product person was in his office, but the product people there were mostly business side focused and left most of the tech decisions to him and other developers.
Being empowered to take decisions and shape the product, he became fond of this part of product development. When looking for a new role he gravitated towards ones that required a strong technical background and were providing an opportunity to learn & practice product management.
(6:27) Learning the craft of product management
Being fresh to product management, he grew quickly, mostly by necessity — there was not much onboarding and he needed to learn while doing. What turned out to be critically helpful and allowed him to grow in these tough conditions was mentorship from more experienced product managers and excellent knowledge sharing within the team.
(9:38) Skills needed for a tech to become a product manager
Ed identifies two areas in which he lacked experience coming from engineering and where he needed to power up to become an effective product manager:
- stakeholder management – addressing people from e.g. the management or sales and being able to manage their expectations
- communication both inside the company and with external partners.
(11:38) Advice to engineers moving to product
Ed needed to step up in the area of personal productivity as product people can’t easily rely on clear daily responsibilities. Increased disruptions and context switching increases the need to be more independent when planning work.
He advises putting in the effort upfront to
- understand the details of your product and organization around it
- build your network to get support when you need it later
- identify decisions that need to be taken early and evaluate the consequences of deferring them
(15:33) Move from Product Management to Marketing
Ed, being an entrepreneurial soul, joined a founder at a very early stage – initially the need to contribute was in marketing, branding and marketing strategy.
(19:09) How being in Marketing differs from Product and learning new skills
The biggest shock actually came from the change of organization size – being the “most experienced in his domain in the house” meant there was no one to mentor him and help or advise him — he needed to teach himself. He learned mostly by just doing and by learning from other leaders of saas businesses whom he interviewed for the podcast.
(22:50) How his product experience influenced the way he did marketing
He was always considering the work he published as products. Additionally, the ability to translate deep technical concepts into human language was something valuable for his audience — one of the key qualities of a good product person. Again — communication skills and the ability to speak the language of the user and identify what has value for users — the users being the audience of his marketing & content.
(26:16) Mistakes product people do working with other teams in a company
Product managers routinely release products and features into the world without providing enough info and time in advance for other teams, especially marketing. Even in small organizations it’s easy for product and tech to become isolated from marketing. Product people quite often are not aware and may not appreciate the amount of work that goes into supporting a launch with marketing activities.
There is a tendency for product to work very closely with engineering and they easily develop a bubble and forget about the poor old marketing team.
Product managers often believe that good features and products will be discovered by users organically. But thinking that the job is done when the feature is “live” is generally short-sighted. The “build it and they will come” mentality is a false promise, more often than not it doesn’t work that way — especially in B2B or products that lack a social network element of virality.
(35:05) Back to Product – is he better PM due to his Marketing experience?
The product process now involves Marketing early on (from the early kick-off) — from the early stages all sides are aware of WHY they are working on something, what is the value for the users and how it will be communicated.
(41:02) What tools Ed recommends for product managers and startups
- Zappier – service for connecting different web services and pushing data around. It empowers non-technical teams to use data for e.g. marketing or automation. It’s kind of a glue that sticks together a lean marketing stack.
- Notion.so – it’s a Swiss knife for a knowledge base, meetings documentation, and possibly even alternative to some spreadsheets!
(45:42) Books that Ed recommends
- “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni – a very good classic about team organization and team dynamics, still relevant and powerful today.
- “Principles” by Ray Dalio – good way to get a distilled essence of this book it to listen to the author being interviewed on The Knowledge Project podcast
(49:09) Come say hi to Ed
(50:21) Tell your friends!
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