5 Minutes with Duke Fan, Product Director (REALTOR.com)

Recently we caught up with Duke Fan who has been a product development and management professional for over 15 years. As an avid user of the Internet, he also has a strong passion for user experience and design. He is currently Director of Product Management at Move Inc, which operates REALTOR.com the #1 web site* for real estate in the USA.

Duke shares his insights on Product Management with us.

What are the main responsibilities of your role as Product Management Director of REALTOR.com?
My main responsibilities are the product and business objectives of our REALTOR.com web site. To achieve those objectives, I manage a team of product managers, oversee their efforts and projects, and develop our talent and resources.

In your words, how would you describe Product Management?
Product Management serves different functions in different companies. I personally prefer Product Management to act as the central point of accountability. That means articulating clear objectives – be it product, business, revenue or other metric. It means articulating a strategy, competitive position, development roadmap and priorities. And it means working closely with cross-functional counterparts across the company — and possibly picking up the slack where needed, especially with project management, product marketing, business analysis, customer service, business development, production and heaven-forbid, creating visual design assets.

What are some of the challenges that you & your Product Managers face?
The most common challenge is bandwidth. How do we get everything done with not enough resources? Communication skills and a prioritization framework are crucial for effectively managing this ongoing challenge. Many other challenges eventually bump into the bandwidth problem, because if we had more bandwidth, we could better handle those other challenges as well. A recurring theme related to bandwidth is dealing with urgency vs actual importance.

The most interesting challenge is often crafting, validating and selling a strategy in the face of fierce competition. The pressure is usually on here, and the stakes may be for all the marbles. How do we play to win!?

What is the best part of your job as a Product Management Director?
There are two best parts. The first is working across all our product efforts to achieve our company goals. It’s not just about working on more than one investment at a time; it’s about aligning all our investments for the same strategy and objectives.

The second is developing our talent and their careers. It’s amazing to see what people and teams can achieve. It’s not just about investing in projects; it’s about investing in people.

What qualities do the best Product Managers you have worked with have?
Not all these qualities are necessary for a great Product Manager, but the ones I’ve known demonstrate the following qualities:

CAN-DO ATTITUDE: Great Product Managers believe there is a way to get something done, and they pursue options and executions until they are all exhausted. They set and reset clear expectations. They follow-up promptly. They hold themselves and others accountable.

KNOW THEIR PRODUCT: Great Product Managers are often technical folks. They don’t have to be former engineers, but they do understand the intricacies of how their products work. This is the only way to truly understand what you have to leverage and what challenges you have to overcome. At some level “magic” is acceptable, but technology cannot be entirely in a black box.

LEADERSHIP: Great Product Managers are great leaders. They are team captains and team builders. They often manage cross-functional teams, and must lead and inspire a team of people who don’t report to them. They lead by example and contribute individually. They are the generals who lead their army into battle, not the ones who oversee the field from higher ground.

EXCELLENT COMMUNICATORS: Great Product Managers are skilled communicators. Whether writing Product Requirement Documents, running team meetings, negotiating with partners or presenting to executives — being able to craft and deliver clear messages is the most valuable skill. How well you effectively practice all previous qualities depends on your ability to communicate.

*Comscore: REALTOR.com is #1 in unique visitors, engagement and time-on-site in the real estate category.

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