Five ways to be a better Product Manager in coronatimes

Adrienne Tan

In the current climate it’s hard to tell which businesses are surviving and which ones are sinking. Without the face-to-face interaction that is usually so much a part of our professional lives, it’s also much harder to tell how our friends and colleagues are going. How are they managing their work during these crazy times?

Product Talks hosted a townhall meetup recently where four Product Leaders spoke frankly to our community on how they and their companies are handling the current crisis. They also shared their tips on how to become a better Product Manager in this new, chaotic world.

Here are the top five tips:

  1. Innovate – don’t hibernate

The big question everyone has on their mind right now is: what is Product Management’s place in this new world? Thankfully, we all thought we have a big role to play! Though many companies have had to halt projects, freeze hiring and unfortunately even shut their doors, others are adapting and have been able to grow despite the turmoil.

Difficult times call for innovation and Product managers innovate the best. The main goal right now is producing Products that alleviate a customer’s stress or fulfil their basic needs. No one has an answer to the current situation, and no one can predict what the business world will look like once doors re-open. What a person can do is gather as much data as possible, find the areas that need work and fix those areas. It’s time to innovate not hibernate!

  1. Focus on the long term

In stressful circumstances it’s very hard to balance short term challenges with operational and strategic goals. As such, some large companies have put teams in place to specifically respond to the constantly changing climate of this virus. Obviously, this is not possible for all companies. For the companies that do not have these resources available it is important to focus on your long-term goals first. Consider the risk vs. reward; is your Product worth the financial impact?

There is no shame in pulling back on some of your short-term goals in order to extend the runway for as long as possible. This is going to be a marathon not a sprint and focusing on keeping your company’s doors open is most important.

  1. Band together

The best resource a person has is their community. Firstly, of course, your team but also the broader community which includes the rest of your company and your customers, advocates, influencers, partners and even your friends and family. Just because we can’t chat face-to-face anymore this DOES NOT MEAN the flow of ideas must end. Your community is out there. Debate, discuss and strategise. It’s important for us all to band together and find the common good for a business and customer as a whole so when the smoke clears as many companies as possible are not just standing but primed and ready to bounce back.

  1. What about the customer?

Right now, we must ensure our customers are impacted as little as possible by the shift to online. From a Product perspective this is simpler because most of the tools used in customer interaction were already based online, such as email and forums. What becomes more important is a customer’s security and access to these tools.

Security has always been a focus of the online market. Ensuring the customer feels safe sharing information within a company’s applications should be a number one priority right now. However, these unique circumstances have also highlighted that certain groups are less likely to have internet access and even if they do, be less comfortable using online tools – think elderly, young kids, homeless people, many in the less developed world. Introducing an entirely online market has increased the importance of better understanding these marginalised customers.

As Product managers we can use this time to try to reduce marginalisation and make a better world for our customers and our business.

  1. This is all well and good but what if you have been made redundant?

Redundancy is hard, we all know this. And what makes it harder is that everyone’s experience is very personal according to their own circumstances. There is no hard and fast rule on how to handle redundancy. However, it is important to remember that you are your most important asset and improving that asset will always be beneficial in the long term.

  • Devour knowledge – Put down that TV remote and take an online course. Udemy, Allison and many more websites offer in depth, skill-based courses completely free of charge!
  • Do not miss an opportunity – If there is a job possibility that does not fit your ideal career path, consider it anyway! Some companies have experienced exceptional growth during this period and although it may not be the role you were looking for it offers an opportunity to learn a brand-new skill set.
  • Reach out – There is a massive community out there where many are experiencing the same feelings as you. Your mental health is important and the best way to get through a difficult situation is to lean on the support of others.

What you do during this time matters! All our experts said that when the inevitable hiring surge happens, recruiters will be willing and ready to give that unconventional CV a chance. What matters more than a career gap will be how you adapted and grew from these circumstances.

The world is changing but the underlying need for innovative products and the people who run them remains and will continue to grow! We hope some of these tips will help you to make the most of this weird time that we’re living in and get your Products, your company and yourself ready to make the most of whatever opportunities arise. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for any more informative ProductTalks events coming up in the future!

Many thanks to our fabulous Product Talks panel:

  • Adrienne Tan, CEO and Co-Founder, Brainmates
  • Ritesh Chandawar, Senior Product Manager, Tectus Dreamlab, Singapore
  • Rakalene Condon, Executive, Strategy and Performance Corelogic Australia
  • Shipra Mahindra, Senior Product Manager, Xero, New Zealand
  • Liz Blink, Lead Product Manager, Envato, Australia

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Adrienne Tan

Adrienne Tan | Author

Adrienne is Co-Founder and CEO of Brainmates and Co-Founder of Leading the Product. She has been championing Product Management since 2000, earning international recognition for raising the profile of the Product Management profession. In this capacity she regularly consults to the Asia-Pacific's top businesses and speaks at business and Product events around the world.

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