Saturday, October 26, 2013

What I have been building at Lattice Engines

Some lessons on Networking

A few months ago, I had written a post on Recruiting for a Startup role. Which involved a lot of Networking. Ever since, I have a few more reflections to add on the topic.

  1. Recruiting network lasts - I had been networking for a while before searching for a job. But even the connections I had reached out to explicitly seeking a job have been great in staying in touch. So don't approach networking during a job search as a transaction affair. There are several roles that I recruited for, where I was not the right fit. But those people have offered me help, advice, guidance on my current role at Lattice
  2. Introductions - this is more expressing a pet peeve than anything else. If you reach out to a friend  or acquaintance (lets say its Mr. F) to make an introduction to someone (lets say Mr. VIP), and your friend sends an email introducing you to Mr. VIP, make sure you reply to email expressing enthusiasm for being introduced to Mr. VIP Right away. Definitely within 24 hours, and ideally before Mr. VIP responds. There have been cases where I have introduced someone to Mr. VIP, and said 'I will let you two connect' - but NO ONE followed up.
  3. Same way, if you are reaching out to someone for help, you have to make time for them. Canceling on someone repeatedly, or requesting several time changes makes is clear what your priorities are.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Product Manager - a Vague Job

Look here for a Sample Job Description of a Product Manager (from

As Product Manager, you will guide a team that is charged with a product line contribution as a business unit. This extends from increasing the profitability of existing products to developing new products for the company. You will build products from existing ideas, and help to develop new ideas based on your industry experience and your contact with customers and prospects. You must possess a unique blend of business and technical savvy; a big-picture vision, and the drive to make that vision a reality. You must enjoy spending time in the market to understand their problems, and find innovative solutions for the broader market.
You must be able to communicate with all areas of the company. You will work with an engineering counterpart to define product release requirements. You will work with marketing communications to define the go-to-market strategy, helping them understand the product positioning, key benefits, and target customer. You will also serve as the internal and external evangelist for your product offering, occasionally working with the sales channel and key customers.
A product manager's key role is strategic, not tactical. The other organizations will support your strategic efforts; you won't be supporting their tactical tasks.


  • Managing the entire product line life cycle from strategic planning to tactical activities
  • Specifying market requirements for current and future products by conducting market research supported by on-going visits to customers and non-customers.
  • Driving a solution set across development teams (primarily Development/Engineering, and Marketing Communications) through market requirements, product contract, and positioning.
  • Developing and implementing a company-wide go-to-market plan, working with all departments to execute.
  • Analyzing potential partner relationships for the product.


  • 3+ years of software marketing/product management experience.
  • Knowledgeable in technology.
  • Computer Science or Engineering degree or work experience a strong plus.
  • This position requires travel to customer and non-customer sites in North America and Europe (25%).

What this job description - and indeed any PM job description - does not answer is: what are the activities you will do on a day to day basis? Would you run usability tests? Attend sales calls as the product expert? Run the Product Steering Committee meeting? Help shape the company's strategy? Help select the shade of blue of the Reports button?

Product Managers are both very detailed and very strategic, and so need to be strategic about how much time they would spend on each activity. Here is a framework that I use to determine how much I need to engage.

On X and Y axis, I plot my initiative and expertise in the topic, and initiative and expertise of other people in the company (THESE ARE JUST SAMPLE ACTIVITIES/VALUES). This does assume all activities are equally important, but let's use a simplifying assumption for that, for now.

The orange circle indicates activities I can trust other people with, and contribute, when asked for my input. I might contribute on occasion, or engage when I think that some product needs/objectives might not be met, but I largely stay away.

The green circle is my core areas of focus.

The red circle is the danger zone - the areas where no one has good enough expertise. Either I need to develop my skills here, or make sure we get someone who has this expertise.

I don't formally track activities on such a graph, but is it on a subconscious level on day to day basis.

What decision framework do you use when you determine where to spend your time?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dear JIRA: Your product's usability sucks

Who asks for dates in this format? Where were you when the rest of the world was asking for dates? You are never going to get a good date and will die alone (pun intended - my master sense of humor at work :)).