What Does a Product Manager Do at a Silicon Valley Tech Startup?

In Silicon Valley and other tech hubs, Product Management ("PM") is referred to the leadership role whose responsibility it is to manage the intersection of business, technology and design towards the fulfillment of specific objectives.

product management venn diagram business technology design Image Credit: Tech In Asia — What we learnt about Product Management in Silicon Valley

I have been really fortunate in my short career to have gotten just enough experience in each of these domains to enable me to dutifully fulfill this role at OpenGov for a product called Open Town Hall.

I worked as a Ruby on Rails developer for a few months as I graduated through The Firehose Project, I started my first eCommerce business at 16 and have been deepening my passion for human-centered design over the past eight years.

Product Management is definitely a role suited for the generalist as it requires balancing different timelines, vectors of work and competing priorities. It seems to be a constant tension between planning for the long-term while executing for today.

30 Days In

In the 30 days since I started my role as a consulting Product Manager for Open Town Hall at OpenGov, I've learned a lot about being a good product manager. My mentor Tom Zayan has been an incredible resource (and overall awesome guy) to help me transition from design leadership to product management.

What a Product Manager Needs to do to Succeed

Here's a few things I've taken away so far:

  • A PM is focal point for the business regarding the products position within the competitive landscape.

  • A PM needs to understand the sales cycle of its company and obstacles that prevents a prospect from becoming a customer.

  • A PM is 'voice of the customer' representing the human needs of the people your product serves.

  • A PM needs to understand how engineers work and how to articulate product requirements in a way that satisfies both technical and design concerns.

  • A PM needs to understand how designers work and be able to establish research plans, run usability sessions, customer interviews and facilitate design critiques.

  • A PM needs to develop long-term strategy and while delivering short-term tactics.

  • A PM is responsible at the end of the day for the success or failure of the product.

Sharing What I've Learned

I've decided to go into greater detail about what I've learned in this role so far. Check out my next post "30 Days As a Product Manager" if you're interested to read more.