Design a product for drivers driving in rush hour.
I am betting every human stuck in traffic has once thought... “Dang this traffic sucks, I wish I could [insert idea].” The best answer I’ve heard is a tablet-sized visual, that is connected to the internet with key apps such as email, song playlist, podcasts, call functionality; along with the capability for partial self-driving in traffic. Once in rush-hour it kicks in, frees your attention to do other things, improves health of the driver by reducing both physical and psychological strain of commuting in rush hours and is highly scalable to autonomous-capable vehicles. I liked the answer because I’d buy this product 🤪 but also because the answer was (1) optimized for reducing real pain points (2) accounted for the future of driving (3) was a little wild, but not too out there. When I heard this answer I could tell the PM was both imaginative but grounded in solving real problems.
As you progress from PM to senior PM, competencies in these 3 areas should grow: Autonomy💪🏽, Scope 🌫️ and Leadership 🙋 . There are a few clear indications that someone is ready for the senior level, like increased scope, being a reliable partner and being results driven. Here are some less obvious ones:
#1 You recommend initiatives based on your strategic evaluation, instead of waiting for them to be handed to you. You are influential in your field and feel confident putting forward these initiatives.
#2 You leverage relationships across the org. You can drive results from partners outside of your immediate team. You are fully entrusted to tackle complex, multi-team problems with little necessary supervision.
#3 You are seen as an available and trustworthy mentor and actively seek out opportunities to help others be their best. This is my favorite by far.
What are the key stages that distinguish the different levels of PMs? I think a little bit of this depends on the problem space and company. In my mind, PMs are professional collaborators, strategic assassins and bring out the best in their peers. If you can look yourself in the mirror and say you’re doing these things at scale, well, I’d say you're on the right track.
What I evaluate: mission, people, learning potential. You may have different evaluation criteria depending on where you are in your career. Get clear on these ahead of time and never turn down the opportunity to ask questions.
How I evaluate: screening calls/ interviews provide very little time to ask about your needs. Hot tip: Ask your recruiter for the opportunity to speak with members of your daily working team – get more than 1 perspective the facets of the role that matter most to you.
Why I evaluate Mission, People and Learning Potential: Mission because I am at the point in my career where I am energized by the type of problem, not just the existence of a problem 😀. Mission is often telling of the culture, but it could also be lip service!👄 So next, I evaluate the people I'd be working with. Do we share the same work values? How’s the team’s energy? And last but not least, I ask myself, do I admire aspects of my future leadership team? These facets infuse my worklife with the things I enjoy most – connecting with passionate humans to solve important problems✨. Someone once told me, when you quit a job, you’re not quitting the company, you’re quitting your leader. I like to make sure my leader has qualities I would want to see in myself some day. My last criteria: learning potential. When I'm evolving alongside the landscape of digital experiences, I feel SO GOOD. I look for projects/teams/companies that can teach me something new- do I have room to develop here? Will I leave here with a set of skills that will make me smarter, faster and better equipped to tackle the challenges of the future? Sign me up! This may seem like a very privileged list.. I’d say it is. At many points in my career, I was just happy if the salary covered my bay area rent. One thing to keep in mind is, whatever your criteria, be honest with yourself. Evaluating the company for your needs is essential. Noone likes to waste time, and finding out 2 months in, that where you landed is not ideal, can be painful for both sides. So more than this criteria, have ANY criteria, write it down and be relentless in understanding if the opportunity or company is checking your boxes.