In today's episode, Grant Duncan speaks with Diego Granados, Senior Product Manager at LinkedIn. Diego has over 37,000 LinkedIn followers and 12,000 plus YouTube subscribers. That's because he consistently shares great PM insights, especially for those early in their career! Let’s jump in.
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Grant Duncan (00:05):
This is the Product Management Leaders Podcast in which you hear from some of the top PM leaders about their real world strategies and tactics for building world class products. It's sponsored by Voximplant, the leading serverless communications platform and no code drag and drop contact center solution. Voximplant enables product leaders and developers to integrate communications into their products, such as embedding voice, video, SMS, in-out chat and natural language processing. Join over 30,000 businesses trusting Voximplant. Now, let's jump into the show.
Grant Duncan (00:40):
What's up folks? This is Grant Duncan. This episode is with Diego Granados, Senior Product Manager at LinkedIn. Diego has over 37,000 LinkedIn followers and 12,000 plus YouTube subscribers. That's because he consistently shares great PM insights, especially for those early in their career. Let's get into it.
Hey Diego, it's great to have you on the product management leaders podcast today. To start, could you give people a quick background about yourself and what you do?
Diego Granados (01:11):
Yeah, absolutely and thank you so much for inviting me. I'm really, really happy and excited to be here. Yeah, so some background about myself. So I'm originally from Mexico and the funny thing is that I didn't know about product management until about five years ago. In Mexico, I worked as a business intelligence consultant so I was working one on one with customers, understanding about their data, working with engineers, designers, and it was really exciting, but ultimately I always felt some passion for technology. I started as an electric engineer and I always wanted to make that jump into technology, but I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do. And not knowing exactly what I wanted to do and how to do it, I started to do research on what I could do next in my career and that's what led me to my MBA. And I still wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do during my MBA but that moment when I joined my school was when I actually discovered product management and I really fell in love with the role.
Diego Granados (02:07):
I thought it combined a bunch of different things that I really enjoyed about my time in consulting, working with customers, engineers, but also using technology to help hundreds, thousands, millions of customers at the same time depending on the size of the company, right? I ended up spending then two years later after business school, as a product manager at Cisco. Two years after that, now I found myself as a senior PM at Microsoft working on AI in machine learning and that's what I've been doing. And ever since we... like a year and a half ago, I also started to create content. So it's been a very fun ride to grow in the product management community, but also as a content creator.
Grant Duncan (02:47):
Awesome, thanks for that background. And for those of you who aren't following Diego, I would definitely check him out on his social channels, and website and YouTube, he's got a lot of great stuff to share. So one of the things that I've seen you talk about is about how PMs can grow in their career, or for those beginning people, how they can break in. Can you speak to those topics?
Diego Granados (03:15):
Absolutely. I think when there's... before you become a product manager, there's a lot of mystery around what is product management? How do I enter the role? You see some people that right out of college go into the role, versus some others have 10 years in an industry and they're like, "Now I want to do something else, I want to do product management." And so there's a lot of mystery around how to break into product management and we can talk about, well, what are some of the most common ways or how do we classify those things, but I'm just going to kind of give an overview of these two topics. Everybody at some point prepares for a product management interview, regardless of the path that you took to get the initial interview, you have to prepare for that. It's really interesting, because preparation is pretty much standard at least to big tech companies.
Diego Granados (04:05):
You have to practice for what we call the product design, product science, product case questions, you learn how to do the PM job in about 30 minutes of an interview and then you do metrics estimation and all these sorts of things that you think a product manager does. But then it comes to a point where you get the job and now you become a product manager and you've been studying for months, what is product management? And it's day one and you're like, "Okay, now what do I do?" And this big moment is where the imposter syndrome really kicks in, especially in the first few weeks of a new PM journey, and it is just very overwhelming because you don't know exactly what you need to do and how you need to do it. So there has to be some sort of shift in the way you think about the role and it's almost like - forget everything that you did for your preparation for an interview, and now start learning again how to be a product manager.
Diego Granados (05:02):
And so I'm always really excited to read about... from all these CEOs, and CPOs and VPs of products and it's always amazing to hear things about strategy and all these amazing things that we could do with products. But when you're early in your career or about to enter the role, I feel that there's still a lot of things to explore. There's still a lot of things that we can talk about and that's what... I'm really passionate about that and helping others not only to go do the break into the PM role but also how to navigate your journey or your career early on as you ramp up in the role. So yeah, I'm happy to talk more about that but as an overview, I think those are kind of two broad topics that I typically cover when I create content.
Grant Duncan (05:48):
Yeah, that's a great overview and I appreciate how you're not losing the view from the top like you can still recall and remember people... or help people in those early spots where maybe the advice for how to be a CPO is different than the advice of how to first start out. So that's awesome. So you mentioned common ways to break into product management, can you talk about your framework and thinking for that?
Diego Granados (06:22):
I think over time, things have evolved quite a lot. We used to have, I don't know, like 5, 10 years ago, we used to have this very structural approach where you go into computer science and you spend a few years as an engineer and then you break into PM very easily, or at least easier than other roles. Then we started to get into different paths where, "Well, what if you take some courses? What if you do this? What if you do that?" And I think now we're getting into a stage where we are breaking that myth of the “traditional backgrounds” and the fact that you have to spend some time as an engineer to go into product management, and we look at different approaches of how people are actually breaking into PM. Not necessarily saying that, "Hey, this is what I wrote." But I've talked to opera singers who've become PMs, I've talked to somebody who used to own a barber shop and there's also a... she's a professional basketball player who is now a PM, and all of them were able to make that decision in different ways.
Diego Granados (07:28):
So taking a step back, the way that I've seen people do it is in general... regardless of whether you are a student or somebody in the industry, some of the most common ways are internal transfers, people just talking about, "Hey, can I help other PMs? Can I learn from that?" Doing some internal transfers there, done some psych projects there.
Grant Duncan (07:48):
Diego Granados (07:48):
I've seen people do sort of like volunteering with startups or even with non-profit organizations and saying, "Hey, I have this experience I can be your PM," and that's how they bump up the resume. Another one that I think is to me the most interesting one, because to be a product manager, you have to build products. But when you tell an aspiring PM, "Hey, go out there and build your own product because that way you're going to show that you can build products." Almost nobody does that. People believe that just by tweaking your resume a little bit and putting buzzwords here and there, somebody's going to pick it up and like, "Oh, this person knows about product management." When you tell me go and do the job, most people don't actually want to do it. And one last topic, just to finish this idea, is that also a lot of people think you need an MBA, and I'm a really bad example because I do have my MBA and that's how I broke into PM, but I didn't know about product management before my MBA.
Diego Granados (08:48):
So do I need it? Not really. For me, it was just the case that I just didn't know about it and I think most, if not all of the PMs that have an MBA agree with me, that you don't need it. It's just one of the many ways to break into PM.
Grant Duncan (09:02):
Yeah, I'm sure that's comforting to many people listening right now. You've shared before about resume advice and LinkedIn advice for people when they're looking to make sure transitions or advance their career, can you share some of those tips here?
Diego Granados (09:19):
Absolutely. I think starting with the resume, I help people... and I do this just from the kindness of my heart and I do it because when I moved to the US, I didn't have any friends, family, or anybody in this country that could help me. All of my family was back home, Mexico for me, and so for me, it was trying to make connections, building those relationships and it took me a long, long, long time. So now fast forward to this point, I'm thinking, "Well, there are many people like me who don't have those connections and so how can I help them?" That's what I've been trying to do, to say, "Hey here's some content, here's how you can learn about the basic stuff." And what I try to teach there is the most common things to do or to avoid in a resume, is that number one, don't think that just because somebody else gave you the resume and that somebody else made it into Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, whatever you want, is not going to work for you because just copying things... And by the way, I made all of these mistakes at the beginning.
Diego Granados (10:35):
Just copying things is not going to work, my story is going to be very, very different than yours and so don't just copy somebody else's journey, you have to understand what is your story and how do you translate your story into what the company's looking for. The second biggest mistake that I see is that people tend to describe what they are doing versus what they accomplished in a company. Put yourselves in the shoes of a hiring manager, what they want to see is what did you accomplish during your time as a... whatever your role is in your company. I'll give you an example of product management. I see a lot of product managers that in their resume they put, "Well, I prioritized and worked on a backlog." And when I asked them like, "Well, don't all product managers have to do this, what made it special about prioritizing this backlog?"
Diego Granados (11:28):
You have to think of it as an accomplishment, you have to quantify your work. Maybe because of that prioritization, you were able to reduce the cost of XYZ other project or ship things three times faster because you implemented something new, whatever it is, but quantify things because that's what's going to make sure that you are relevant to the hiring manager, recruiter and so on and so forth. So that's number two, people describe their job versus actually listing an accomplishment. Number three, is not tailoring the resume to a job posting and this is the other point where people suddenly become very lazy and they're like, "No, I'm just not going to do it." But a lot of people have just one version of the resume. What you have to do is look at the job description, look at the required section or the preferred skills, preferred qualifications and make sure that you touch on two or three or all of them if possible, and make sure that those things are on your resume. If you don't do that, and I'll make a small parenthesis here…
Diego Granados (12:31):
I had the opportunity to interview a former Google recruiter and she told me, "Listen, I would spend most of my days reading over 300 resumes every single day. The first thing that I would check, is does this person have the skills that we're looking for?" And it was literally the job description and the resume and if the answer was no, at that moment that resume was discarded. There's no ATS system, there's no automatic system that processes these things, there's no AI stuff. There's some horror stories about AI trying to do this and we can talk about that but before it, just to finish this thought… So if you don't have those required skills in your resume, you're not going to get called. And just to finish all of this with LinkedIn... and I think LinkedIn is a very different tool.
Diego Granados (13:21):
People should not confuse resume with LinkedIn, they have to serve two different purposes. LinkedIn can help connect with hiring managers, with recruiters and it's a very special way to do that, but LinkedIn is a great way to connect with people. And at the same time, we have to be very conscious of what we post. I've seen some very hateful posts where people interact and express their hate for recruiters, or companies and this and that, and then when they apply or when they reach out to people in the company, everything that we do on LinkedIn, or social network, or internet, everything is visible. So we have to be a bit more conscious of what we do there but let me pause there, because I talked of a lot of things. As you can tell, I'm super passionate about these topics.
Grant Duncan (14:05):
Yeah. No, I think that's super helpful info for people. I think the part you're talking about of making the resume more quantitative, accomplishment, outcome based is really great advice for just jobs in general. I mean even if you're thinking about, let's say, prioritizing that backlog, thinking about the ones that will produce real outcomes again is going to be applicable there. So it's almost like applying this general advice to the resume itself.
Diego Granados (14:39):
Yeah, exactly. It's, in fact… Today I was reviewing one resume and it basically described everything that you can find about product management in any book or any video. And that was the resume and I told the person like, "This is awesome for a description of the index of a book but this is not going to get you anywhere in a job. You have to think of what did you accomplish and how do you measure that accomplishment."
Grant Duncan (15:04):
Yeah. Can you speak to your opinion of the difference between managers and product owners?
Diego Granados (15:14):
Yes. Yeah, absolutely. It's definitely... I'll even say there's not just with product owner but even with program manager and sometimes with project manager.
Grant Duncan (15:25):
Diego Granados (15:26):
But let's start with product owner and product manager. Let me start with the definition from what I remember. So if there's any scrum master or anyone with a certificate who might be able to correct me here and there, but a product owner is part of scrum, it's a role within scrum. It's the person who... let's keep for a moment the responsibilities, but is a person who would act as the product owner / product manager in a team. But the biggest difference, and I'll start there, the biggest difference is that if we just stick to the theory, if a team is not doing agile, if the team is not implementing scrum, the role of a product owner does not exist. Product manager will exist regardless of whether the team is using agile, waterfall, hybrid or whatever it is. That's the very high level definition of what makes them different, that product owner is only a role within scrum.
Diego Granados (16:33):
In practice though, that's completely different and that doesn't actually apply, and what ends up happening is that not only candidates who want to apply for the role are confused, but also companies are very confused and they end up actually mixing these two terms. They made them very interchangeable, they give the title of a product owner to a product manager or the other way around, or they're actually extending to what I said at the beginning, they gave the title of PM product manager to a program manager or a project manager. So there's a big confusion in the market. If anybody's listening to this, if you're confused, don't worry you're not alone, we are all confused about that.
Diego Granados (17:11):
But going one level deeper into this. So the biggest difference I've seen is that the product owner, yes, is responsible for things like keeping the backlog clean, making sure that the team has enough stories to accomplish, interacting with customers, interacting with other stakeholders, making sure that the communication flows, that the team is say taking feedback from customers and making sure that... I would say one very, very important thing for both PM and PO is making sure that they understand when to say no and why to keep not only the backlog but the product clean and make sure that it really solves the problem. And if I had to draw a line, and it's just for the sake of the example, the PM besides doing those things, or if there are two PO and PM together, the PM will take more of the role of the long term strategy, the vision, they could even go into other things like pricing licensing and all that stuff, but there's a big, big gray area of well who's in charge of working with designers? Who's in charge of working with the user research team?
Diego Granados (18:23):
But typically the strategy vision of a more long term, will fall on the PM but the rest on the PO. But like I said, and just to finish my comment here, there's a big confusion in the market and this line is not clear and so if anybody's looking for a role as a product owner, or as a product manager, the best way to figure out what you're going to do is read the job description, talk to the people, talk to the hiring manager, grab a book or a video and product management, understand the role and ask questions to figure out exactly what you're going to do, because the title itself is not going to tell you absolutely anything about what you're going to be doing.
Grant Duncan (18:58):
Yeah, yeah, great points. Can you talk about differences in product management, when your end customers are actual consumers or businesses versus internal teams? Like let's say your product is internal tooling, or in some cases AI that's just for use for other people.
Diego Granados (19:22):
When these differences happen, the role itself continues to be product manager. What I think starts to be shaped in a different way is the level of decision making that you have, and let me go deeper into that. When your product is external facing, whether external facing meaning other companies or whoever, you of course go through the entire development cycle of, "Well, I have an idea hypothesis. Let's use research, get together the feedback, blah, blah, and so forth." But at some point you're interacting with your users, you're getting the data, you understand the market could suddenly change and you have to constantly be feeding yourself and your team with as much information as you can to make sure that if you need to pivot, or make a decision, or make a change, the whole team is aligned for that and whatever you do is dictated mostly by customers and or even competitors, right?
Diego Granados (20:27):
So you have all these signals coming to you to make that decision, and that changes a lot, because at that moment, with all that information, you do have the power to make a decision to go left or right. But what changes in an internal tool, whether it's like you said some AI capabilities for other teams, is that you depend on other people's priorities. And at that moment, your decision power is very limited because as much as you're still going to get signals, those internal teams will still be your customers. So product A for my own same company can come and say, "Hey, I have this problem, this is what I'm trying to do." We can do a user study with internal groups, we can do this design, we can do all of those things, but there's a moment where we have to implement stuff and that thing that we're going to implement depends on probably some integration with that other team.
Diego Granados (21:22):
So if our backlog has 10 items that we believe are going to solve some of their problems or most of their problems and they come back and say, "Well, but we have this change of plan and now we can only do 3 out of 10." There's not much that you can do there. There are some techniques that some teams do. For example, we sometimes do, at Microsoft, some internal teams do this where it's like, "Well, I can lend you some of my engineering, or design, or whatever resources and we can co-develop this thing and whatever." But still you're very limited in these types of decisions, you depend on other team's backlogs, on their decisions and so well, yes, you will do hypothesis, discovery and all of that internally. When it comes to the decision part, when it comes to the backlog, the priorities, I believe that that's where you are most limited compared to having a product that is external facing to the company.
Grant Duncan (22:16):
Yeah, great insights. And in your career, have you done one more than the other and do you prefer one type of role?
Diego Granados (22:27):
It's funny because I actually done both the same amount of time now that I think about it. At Cisco, I had an external product, it was a B2B product of course type of Cisco, and at Microsoft, I do some sort of hybrid internal, but also external where I work in AI and my features are surfaced through other products at Microsoft. So I still have to interact with the external customers, I still have to understand their pain points, I still have to do user research and what's not. But ultimately, I do depend entirely on what other teams want to do in that prioritization, so I've done both equally. In my personal preference, I really enjoy working externally or with external customers because I think there's some amazing internal tools and amazing AI capabilities that we can do to enhance all our products, not only at Microsoft but in any company. But for me, it's very exciting when you talk to customers and when your product solves the problem and you see the response and you see what is happening to their business, thanks to your product.
Diego Granados (23:42):
That is really exciting and to me, that's much more exciting than internal tools, but that doesn't mean that working internal tools is bad or... it's just a different feeling.
Grant Duncan (23:52):
Yeah, sure. How do you influence without authority?
Diego Granados (23:58):
I am a data guy. I love data. I will try to bring data to as many conversations as I can, and it can take many shapes and forms. For example, for my engineering team, or data science team, or even other engineering teams, I have to first understand what is their motivation for saying X, Y, and Z or for doing or not doing something. But I have to understand that probably they're getting requests from so many other teams and so many other stakeholders, that they're just going to be overloaded with things to do. And so if there is as much data as I can get about the project, the costing, if we have additional resources, as much groundwork as I can do and bring that into the conversation, it definitely helps me to build that rapport. But also to build trust with the team to let them know that I'm here to support them, not just to throw more work at them.
Diego Granados (24:55):
And so in the same way with every person, stakeholder or team, I try to have a very similar approach where I try to understand, where are they coming from? Are they being pressured by their boss, or another group, or customers and is there something that I can do? Can I collect data, whether it's from customers, from the product, from other teams? Or simply sometimes it's literally about just putting a document together. There's 20 emails flying around and it's literally about just bringing people and saying, "Hey, let's have a conversation. Here's my ideas, let me put it on a piece of paper." And once they start seeing that piece of paper with things written on it, suddenly they start to agree. But it's something that nobody has done before and in respective, when I think in general PMs, when we influence without authority, when you read it in a book, it sounds like have to be this NTT that floats around the office, convincing people of just with our presence of doing so, so and so.
Diego Granados (25:57):
But I really think it's more about just knowing how to help the team and when you help your team, there's a point where you not only earn trial and respect but also they know that if they have a problem, they know that if they need something, they're going to come to you. And at that moment, I'm sure that in some conversations they can simply go into a room and say, "Hey, no, we're going to do X because I think so." And they're going to trust me and I'm going to influence them without any authority whatsoever. But I still, as a responsible PM, I still try to bring as much data as I can to the conversation.
Grant Duncan (26:33):
Yeah, that's great. What does the pie chart of your time look like?
Diego Granados (26:40):
Favorite PM answer, it depends. It depends on the stage or life cycle of the product, for example, or features. I own about four to five features, different AI features in different products. And for some of them we've launched them a year and a half ago and so it's more about the growth stage, for others it's more about... we're planning new features so more in the ideation user research, all that kind of stuff and for others is just the halfway through development, right? And so my pie chart is divided into four. Some of these features, especially the ones that we've already launched, is more focused on customer feedback on doing research on how do we take this to the next level? Another big part of, if not the biggest part of the pie chart, two thirds of it is going to be working with engineers and data science teams to make sure that the execution is going as expected, that we're delivering stuff.
Diego Granados (27:49):
And then the other one third, the first part of customers was one third, the other one third is divided into a little bit of interacting with other PMs, because I need to figure out what my other peers are doing, design, because right now part of the things that I'm doing don't require... are not design intensive but I still need to meet with them. And then the others could be, especially in AI, we work a lot with legal, we work a lot with AI and fixed committees. So it's spending my time there. But for all of this, if I could put one constant, there's going to be meetings all day every day, basically.
Grant Duncan (28:29):
Yeah. Well, I guess you've probably gotten pretty good at the video conference thing then.
Diego Granados (28:35):
Yeah. I've tried, yes. It's funny I think starting to do content videos for Youtube has got me used to already be like 24/7 on video calls. So at this point I feel comfortable, but at the beginning, it was a little bit tough, especially for a PM and I think for every PM, just being completely remote and not having your team around or being able to pop into their office and just have a conversation. Yeah, I've got better at it.
Grant Duncan (29:08):
Nice. So you're pretty active on LinkedIn, why do you think others should be active on LinkedIn as well?
Diego Granados (29:18):
There's one thing, that I don't believe most of us think about our career or our personal life as we go into, whether it's a PM role or any other kind of role. We always think that speaking of product management, but it applies to any other type of role. We believe that you're going as a PM and you start executing, you start gathering requirements, you start doing this, this and that and we never think of our personal brand, and our personal brand is incredibly useful inside and outside of the company. Inside because the more I start to get that reputation of hey... I'll use myself as an example, "Diego is a person to go to for execution and making sure that things just continue being pushed forward and customer empathy." But then that other PM is amazing at conveying stories for upper management and so we started to create this repetition inside the company, and I believe the same thing applies outside.
Diego Granados (30:28):
I've always hated the word influencer and I don't consider myself one and people... my close friends mock me with that because when we think of influencers we think of these Instagram people with millions of followers that all they do is travel and put on pretty clothes and fancy food. But in reality, when we start thinking about our personal brand outside of work, it's not about becoming an influencer. It's about just knowing that if you are passionate about... in my case product management, but you could be passionate about, I don't know, traveling, or food, or resumes, coaching, whatever it is, you're building this brand for yourself in a network like LinkedIn or Twitter, whatever you want, and people start to know you for it.
Diego Granados (31:20):
And then that could continue as a passion project, that could continue as your own company or even... I'll use a few of these things as an example, I had mentioned earlier that I met a basketball player and an opera singer and somebody who used to own a barber shop, and now they're PMs. Because of the things that I do, I've made so many amazing connections, friends... just to give another example, I also was reached out by the University of Washington to help with a project to increase diversity and inclusion in product management, helping-
Grant Duncan (32:00):
Diego Granados (32:01):
Those with an underrepresented voice and so I'm part of the steering committee and I review applications and I mentor, and I coach, and I helped with this program and it was not because I applied to a position, it was not because I had a friend who connected me with someone. It was because I started posting about product management and because people believed in the things that I really enjoyed doing. So building a personal brand inside and outside and posting in LinkedIn is not just with the goal of becoming an influencer. If that's your goal that's awesome, but if not, it's about connecting with people, it's about building relationships. It's just about enjoying more of the things that you probably already enjoy.
Grant Duncan (32:43):
Yeah, that's great. And how do you go about writing your post? Do you have templates or frameworks you like to follow, or just what you're pondering at the time?
Diego Granados (32:56):
I should be better at doing this systematically but I have not found a great way to do that, but I'll tell you what I do. I don't have... I have a plan for the things that I post on YouTube and I do have a script, and a template and everything for that, but I don't do that for LinkedIn and I've been really bad about it. But what I do is I put myself in the shoes of myself years ago before I became a PM and I think about, "what is it that I wish I would know more or less at this time of the year?" Like, for example, the holidays are approaching and people think that it's about time for recruiting when it's not. So now I'm going to post more about, "Hey, stay active, stay reaching out. It's not about time to continue working on applying to companies or your reps, some or mock interests, whatever it is."
Diego Granados (33:42):
And I combine that with thinking, "How do I wish somebody would explain this to me?" Because I see the most common mistake I think people do when they try to post things, is I'm going to tell me, Diego to another me Diego at the same level, the thing that I know about and then people wonder like, "Wait, wait, why am I not getting traction? Why do I not get people to interact with my post?" I'm teaching them who know less than I do about this topic but your words, the way you're crafting your story, it's geared towards yourself and people at your same level and they're not interested to learn about that, because they already know about it. So I combine those two things but I should definitely have a system and I've been really bad about it.
Grant Duncan (34:30):
I mean it sounds like you have some kind of framework already, maybe it's just not systematized, but I think that's a great way for people to think about how they could actually take a step in starting to be active on social and build their personal brand. Rather than making it some ethereal thing, you've given them some good action steps. So I think that's great.
Diego Granados (34:52):
Just to add two things. One is, the key is consistency. I've been very fortunate and lucky that a lot of people have decided to follow me in my journey and I'm super grateful for that, but I did not get to the point where I am yesterday. I've been doing this for more than a year and I've been consistent, and at the beginning it was nobody and now I have a lot of people that I interact with, and that's awesome. And then the other thing that I very recently read was that you have to stop trying to build something you're proud of and you need to start being proud of building something. Essentially, it's don't wait for that perfect thing, don't don't wait until you have the perfect idea, the perfect post, the perfect whatever, and just be proud that you're doing something, that you're putting yourself out there and connecting with people and posting things. Yeah, it's about the journey.
Grant Duncan (35:57):
Yeah, that's great. What other advice do you give to people trying to grow in their product management career?
Diego Granados (36:05):
For people who are new to product management or are new product managers, rather, the advice that I give them is just, number one, be willing to listen and learn. You're going to be learning for a long time and just stay there and learn as much as possible. Imposter syndrome is real, it's going to hit you hard and all you have to do is ride with the wave and trust yourself, because we've all been there and I think we've all felt it. I'll share something personal which is when I became a senior PM, I've been doing product management for five years now, and I had just recently become a senior PM. As soon as I got the change in title, the imposter syndrome hit super hard and I panicked for like half an hour and I was like, "Oh God, what am I going to do now? I'm a senior PM. What's expected of me. Did I do the right thing? Am I ready?"
Diego Granados (37:07):
And then I stopped and I said, "Well, that's just silly. I've been doing the work of a Senior PM probably for more than a year. It's just I didn't have the title. It was not a promotion cycle, it's whatever." I've been doing this work, it's not that I'm going to do much more work. I've been already doing that and it's the same advice for anybody new to PM, is just hang in there, listen, learn, ride with the wave. To me, that's the best advice that I think I can give. Everything else about learning about the products or books and what not, with time, you're going to learn a bunch of stuff, but trusting yourself I think is the best advice that I give to people.
Grant Duncan (37:45):
Yeah, yeah, I really like that. I think in many ways you're saying also like be authentic and be comfortable in who you are and kind of believe in yourself.
Diego Granados (37:57):
Grant Duncan (37:58):
I think everyone is dealing with imposter syndrome sometimes and so to be able to embrace that, as you're saying, is great. And I think the other thing that is maybe worth noting to listeners too, you obviously know this, but being, let's say like a senior PM titles, mean different things at different companies and different sizes of companies. So a senior PM at Microsoft is different than a senior PM at a two person startup.
Diego Granados (38:30):
Right. Let me actually push even that way further. We typically talk in terms of yes, startup and large tech companies in the US. But when you go outside the US... I'm from Mexico. In Latin America, product management is a relatively new concept and so you are going to see all these CPOs and VPs of product and in Latin America and many parts in Europe and probably even in Asia where they've been in product management for two years or one year, or maybe three. My conclusion to all of this is, titles are meaningless. If you have the right responsibility, at the right stage and you are learning the right things, then whether you're called a PM, or senior PM, or you’re a CPO, in the end, it is not going to matter. What's going to matter is your roles and responsibilities. And just to finish this with an example of big tech companies, I think a principle... I might be wrong in this, but a principle PM at Microsoft is senior PM at Amazon, which is PM at Google. So, even if in the big tech companies there's absolutely no relation between the titles.
Grant Duncan (39:42):
Yeah, yeah, those are great points. And it kind of comes back to what you were saying earlier, it's about outcomes and about what you're actually accomplishing.
Diego Granados (39:51):
Grant Duncan (39:53):
Yeah. You talked earlier about encouraging people to build side projects as a way to build products if they aren't doing that in a full-time capacity or they want to add on to their experience, what have been some interesting side projects you've seen people build?
Diego Granados (40:15):
I've been very intrigued by side projects much more recently and now share my personal experience with it, because like I said I think people always relate side projects with, "I need to code, I need to build a complicated product." Or they go to the extreme simple which let me put on a website and that's it. And so I just feel that it's hard sometimes to visualize that your product doesn't have to be complicated or not as complicated, it could be tons of no code applications out there. Some of the great ones that I've seen is, there's one about, I don't know how much I can talk about it, but there's one about just being nice to others and so it's sort of an app where it kind of reminds you and encourages you and gives you these sort of like...
Diego Granados (41:14):
So it gives you like tokens about just doing something nice for somebody else and I like their project, because when you're going through, "All right, so what's the pain point and the users and all of that?" It's very focused and centered on what we are experiencing with COVID and so it's just about being nice once a day. And there's a full study and all of that about what they did and blah, blah, about product management but I just find it fascinating because it's not that they're solving the problem of cloud storage in a complicated thing. They're solving the problem of just people should be nicer and that's what they were passionate about and they built it, and I think it's a great idea.
Diego Granados (42:00):
And then let me take that into my own personal experience. Sure, I'm already a product manager but this is what my project would be if I were not a product manager, my YouTube channel. So sometimes projects don't have to be a physical thing, they could be a blog, a podcast, a YouTube channel, anything like that and for example, some things that I've learned through YouTube that I've never had because I've been working on B2B all this time, I've never had to experience in these companies is AB testing. And something as a concept, as simple as AB testing, that typically doesn't occur to that big level that happens to B2C.
Grant Duncan (42:42):
Diego Granados (42:44):
I've learned it through YouTube by simply saying let me change the title, let me change the thumbnail and let me watch the numbers and let me see if there is enough audience for me to declare that this is statistically significant or not. And so a ton of concepts that you can learn about product management, data analysis, talking to users, user research, they don't have to be an app, they don't have to be a physical product. It can be a blog, a YouTube channel, or a podcast.
Grant Duncan (43:12):
Yeah, I love that. Those are two fun examples there. Where do you see AI tools going in the future and how do you think product management will be related to those?
Diego Granados (43:28):
I'll speak to the one that I'm really excited about, because I think AI is such a broad field but-
Grant Duncan (43:35):
Diego Granados (43:35):
What I really like... it's also part of the things that I'm working on but what I really like that I'm seeing is that AI is more and more increasingly more democratized and can be accessed by people who don't necessarily have an understanding of how AI works. And that's something to me, super powerful, because years ago we started with no code with apps, right? When before that it was impossible to think of building a product without having to code on it. Now, imagine being able to use AI in your day-to-day at work, whatever you want, and more importantly trust AI without having to know how it works. So that to me... I just think it's incredibly interesting and I'm looking forward to where it's going to take us. But where the PMs come into this space, there are two big areas to me that PMs have to pay attention to in this area of AI.
Diego Granados (44:36):
One, is understanding whether we really need AI to solve a customer problem, because building AI, working with data scientists, working with engineering to surface AI products, it takes time, it takes resources, it's very expensive to develop. And the first question is, do we actually need AI to solve this problem? I think it should be crucial to any PM in this area because sometimes you may actually not need AI and you can build something easier and much more simple, less expensive and still solve the problem. So I think part of the PM role is to not use AI as a fancy... the golden ticket of, "Yeah, we have AI in our system." And it's more about, "Are we really solving the problem?" And then the second one, which I think it's actually much more important and in fact, I would even say there has to be some exam, or course is something, it's around ethics because it's something that I think we've seen some horrible, horrible examples of AI going wrong.
Diego Granados (45:42):
Speaking about jobs and recruitment, there's a story, super quick, about Amazon trying to implement this and they used of course an AI model, or a machine learning model, trained with past historic data. So they put all of the people who have worked at Amazon, I don't know if it was all the way to Jeff Bezos when he started, but they put tons of resumes into the model to try to predict who to hire and of course it was biased towards white males. And at that point, it is not the machine was badly programmed or it was biased on its own, but that's the data that we have. So starting from that is they should have known that that was not going to take you further. So I think ethics is one of the things where PMs have to be very, very, very focused because I don't know if somebody else in the team will take the responsibility, and if not, the PM should definitely take that.
Grant Duncan (46:42):
Yeah. Yeah, and especially because this is going to affect so many people. And you give that example of... it's like people's hiring and their jobs-
Diego Granados (46:53):
Grant Duncan (46:54):
Are at stake in this model, so I totally agree with you there.
Diego Granados (46:59):
Yeah, even just... sorry, just to have another example so that people don't say that I don't talk about Microsoft. We even had at Microsoft... our own Twitter bot I think it was launched and it had to be shut down. I don't know if it was an hour later or something like that but there was… The bot learned from what people would feed to the bot and I think it became like this Nazi, like a serial killer crazy, racist Twitter bot and so it was a very, very failed experiment.
Grant Duncan (47:34):
Yep, definitely made the news.
Diego Granados (47:38):
Grant Duncan (47:39):
On a related note, you talked about your experience working with UDub to help them think about increasing diversity in product management. How would you advise companies to do that as well?
Diego Granados (47:55):
That is such an interesting question. I think that the most important thing in this process is recognizing that diversity inclusion should not be just a number, meaning we should not hire a person from this origin or yeah, we should not hire this person just because we need to hit a target.
Grant Duncan (48:21):
Diego Granados (48:22):
That's one thing, right? And then the second is that-
Grant Duncan (48:25):
Right, you don't want a DEI to become just a bumper sticker and that one person is the token.
Diego Granados (48:30):
Grant Duncan (48:31):
Diego Granados (48:31):
Exactly, you don't want that. And then in terms of hiring, so that's one and then the other in terms of hiring is, I think there are a lot of things that companies can do, if they're not doing it already, to try to protect as much as possible, the identity of the person. Because whether we like it or not, as soon as you read a name, country of origin, a whatever, we have our own personal biases and recognizing that is absolutely essential. So it's both the, "What can I do to help when we screen resumes to hide that information?" And I'm sure there are tons of softwares and companies that do that but also it's how do we train our own company to recognize our bias, saying let's eliminate our bias. I think it's impossible because we will always have them but recognizing that we have them-
Grant Duncan (49:19):
Diego Granados (49:19):
And knowing how to counter that effect, I think that's crucial when we analyze candidates, when we look at resumes and yeah, it's something that I think companies have to work on.
Grant Duncan (49:34):
Yeah, totally agreed. Any last parting advice you can share today?
Diego Granados (49:43):
Getting into product management, it's a marathon. It's not a sprint. And just because one person, one company, one system said no, doesn't mean it's the end of your career. I've known people who take two classes and become PMs, I've known people like myself that after five to seven years of experience, we got into PM and I know people who said, "I'm not going to be a PM”, and then they had a startup and now they are VPs of product at another company. So every person's journey is different, hang in there, there's plenty of resources, there's tons of things to do. But if you are serious about breaking into product management, don't play with your resume to figure out if a few keywords will help you. Go out and build something and show the world that you can build a product, be a product manager of your career.
Grant Duncan (50:36):
Love that. Thanks Diego for coming on today, have a good one.
Diego Granados (50:38):
No, thank you so much for inviting me, a pleasure to be here.
Grant Duncan (50:40):
Thanks for listening to today's podcast, and thanks to our sponsor, Voximplant, as well. If you are looking into how to improve your communication and customer engagement, check them out. Lastly, if you enjoyed this episode, please leave us a review and tell your friends so that others can find it more easily. Have a great day and feel free to reach out to me, Grant Duncan, if you have any questions you want asked in our next episode.