Tag Archives: Advice

How to reward your engineers

As a product manager, I take great pride in my work and getting the job done.  But let me be honest; I do not write the software products I manage.  My engineers do, and they do an awesome job of it.

These engineers do not directly report to me but I am one of their leaders.  I craft the stories they work on to deliver features to market that our customers love and pay us lots of money for.  Without them, I would not have a product to sell nor, a job to pay my bills.  So how do I show my appreciation?

Well, it starts with two very simple words.

Thank you.  

Pretty simple, I know, but it is powerful. James Kouzes‘ book The Leadership Challenge explains in detail how powerful these words can be, as I have stated before.

Often times, verbal appreciation is not enough.  I find I need to do more, simply because I cannot express how thankful I and the company are for the teams’ contribution.  My teams work hard for me and for our customers.  They pull all-nighters fixing important issues that jeopardize customers’ environments.  They sustain long days and nights, including weekends, to get a major feature or new product out.  Throughout it all, they put up with my incessant questions, minor changes in scope and constant feedback, validation and product acceptance processes.  They do, in fact, deserve more.

Pretty regularly, I take small groups of my teams out for lunch, coffee or dinner.  Sometimes we celebrate a particular milestone or accomplishment.  But often times, I am just spending time with the guys, getting to know them and to break some bread together.  I try to pick up the check more often than not, irrespective of whether the company will reimburse me for the team outing.  Part of the successful working relationship I have with my team, and the reason they are willing to work as hard as they do, is because we have a personal relationship founded in more than just “my function requires me to work with you Mr. Product Manager”.  We trust one another, and believe that we have each other’s back.

Some milestones warrant more than a meal.  For those really big feats that move the needle for the company, the words “go big” come to mind.  In the past, I have thrown a party in one instance, and taken the team go-carting in another.  The important part of these activities was to focus on having fun.  We laugh about the insanity of the last few weeks and months in getting our release out the door over food and drink.  At the race track, we had a great time competing with one another for bragging rights on who had the fastest course time.

Maybe it is obvious, but why should I bother rewarding my engineers?  For one, good behavior and actions deserve good things.  From a business perspective, there are compelling reasons to recognize and reward a job well done.  Spending company time and money on employee appreciation nets so many things.  It fosters healthier team dynamics, creating trust and respect.  It energizes employees to work harder knowing that their work means something to someone that they know and can talk to.  Finally, it has other soft benefits including promoting company loyalty and greater overall employee satisfaction.  I strongly recommend all product managers take the time to appreciate their teams’ efforts in building the product they manage.

To MBA or not to MBA?

http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20131002144820-95015-should-i-get-an-mba-entrepreneurial-finishing-school

Good read.  I’ve come across the question a few times in my career thus far.  For the record, I don’t have an MBA.  I do have a graduate degree, though, and that helps me sleep at night.

Do I wonder I’m held back because I don’t have a business degree?  I used to think so.  But instead, I think I’m just not ready to be where I think I should be.  It takes a fairly honest look at yourself to come to this resolution.  “Why haven’t I been promoted?”  “Why didn’t they give me the job they waited 9 months to fill?”  Well, the answer is…”You’re not ready for it.”

Regardless of whether you’re in school or not, there are opportunities to learn in the workforce.  Often, I’ve found myself learning what not to repeat ever again.  But lately I’ve seen more and more examples of things I should emulate in the future.  It will help me get closer to my 5 year goal and what I want to be in business and as a person.

My advice?  Keep at the path you’re on.  If MBA is required for that path, you’ll know pretty quickly, either because you’ll explicitly be told so, or the universe will align and you’ll get into your dream school.  I don’t think you should go get an MBA unless you really need it to be successful and if you don’t get into your dream school.  The cost just doesn’t justify itself otherwise in this day and age.

Another thing to consider is the disruption happening within MBA programs.  More schools are offering 1 year mid-career programs for those who need a booster with emphasis on certain skills they are lacking to make a jump in their career (horizontally or vertically).  I can’t say that the cost is any cheaper, but it’s worth a look-see.

Happy educating!

Loyalty can be rewarding

In a day an age where upward mobility and career growth are characterized by jumping ship and changing jobs every two years, its pretty amazing to read about the few exceptions, notably one Dolf van den Brink of Heineken.

Enjoy!

Interview questions

I’ve been in so many interviews and conducted so many where I’ve walked away shaking my head that I wanted to share an important point – ASK QUESTIONS!  If you are an interviewer – be able to ask good questions and leave plenty of time to let the interviewee ask questions.  And then ANSWER them!  If you’re an interviewee – you have to ask good questions to help convey you want the job.

A few good questions to always keep in mind that I’ve particularly liked:

Questions to HR:

What benefits do you have?  Really the heart of this question is to understand what your compensation package is and how to value it.  Ask details here.

  • Do you have a 401k?
  • Do you get an employee match?
  • How much is it?
  • Who manages the 401k?
  • What benefits does a spouse or child get (medical / dental / vision)?
  • What about short-term and long-term disability?
  • Life insurance policy?
  • Relocation assistance (if applicable)?

Part of your compensation will likely be equity in the company.

  • How many stock options would I get?
  • How should I evaluate them?
  • What is the current strike price?
  • When was the last round of investment?
  • How much money is left in the bank?
  • How many outstanding shares are there?
  • Is there a profit sharing plan?
  • What does that look like?

Questions to your Manager:

What kind of manager are you?  When I’m either interviewing my to-be manager or looking for a new job, I want to know who I am working for.  No, I’m not trying to understand my employer.  This is about establishing rapport with my direct supervisor.

  • Is s/he a micro-manager?
  • Does s/he delegate all the work or do they partner with their team to enable them for success?
  • How will they facilitate your growth, professionally and personally, in the company?
  • How will they help you get visibility across the organization?

PUCCKA – A Sales Methodology

This post is a catalog of Mark Suster‘s posts on a sales methodologies.

What is PUCCKA?

P – Pain

U – Unique Selling Proposition

C – Compelling Event

C – Champion

K – Key Players

A – Aligned Purchasing Process

Pretty awesome!

What is change?

The following are thoughts reflecting my impressions after reading Penelope Trunk’s latest.

What is change?   What is progress?  Does progress mean we stop worrying about things that are currently stressing us out?  Or does it simply mean that we start worrying about things that we don’t consider yet to be stressing us out?

In Penelope’s article, she says that you can stop worrying about bad grades, poor communication skills, sketchy backgrounds, and reading online negatively affecting your job application.  The key is to identify a way to stand out and differentiate yourself from the pool of applicants.

But when unemployment is high, does it matter?  Unless you have specialized skills, how do you differentiate yourself?  At the end of the day, unless you know someone, an employer evaluates your application based on a cover letter and a resume.  When I review resumes, I rarely review anything more than the skills someone has.  In fact, most of the resume leg work is handled for me by HR.  The mere fact that I speak to you means you have an honest to god shot at the job.  But then, it comes entirely down to communication skills.  Can you do the job?  Can you communicate with your peers, subordinates and superiors?  If you can’t demonstrate those skills in a 30-60 minute interview, it doesn’t matter what capabilities you have on paper.  I don’t believe you can do the job.

Note, I’m considering the job you’re looking for is in product management so the lens I look at may be different than what Penelope was talking about.

Student Always

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A colleague recently pointed me to Sabrina Simmons‘ 2010 commencement address at Berkeley.  What she said about a principle called ‘Student Always’ really resonates with me, mostly because it’s advice I can’t help but ALWAYS give out myself! 🙂

If you love your job I truly believe it’s hard not to be successful. The hours will surely be long, but they’ll go by fast and they’ll be rewarding. It’s rewarding because you keep learning and growing both professionally and personally. And here’s another thing about doing what you love: your passion can’t help but come through. And the thing about passion is it’s contagious. Others will want to join and support you in the drive for results creating a virtuous cycle.

Check out the full transcript here, it’s a really good read.