Product Q&A with Justin Watt


Justin Watt

About: Whereas attending college for psychology, Justin ventured into venture & product administration the place he took half in inside merchandise creation for Shaw and IBM. He labored on tasks with MetaLab on the aspect beginning in 2012 and formally joined the staff in 2015 the place his formal title is Undertaking Supervisor, which at MetaLab contains product administration as a spotlight. He’s labored on and launched merchandise for Fortune 10 firms and startups. When not doing this, he’s a giant fan of operating, music festivals, and steady studying in all issues product administration.

About MetaLab: MetaLab is an company specializing in constructing world-class digital merchandise for firms large and small. They concentrate on A+ design and accomplice carefully with their shoppers in technique, product administration, design, and growth. Some notable work from the previous few years contains Slack, Notarize, Coinbase, and Sudo with many new, thrilling merchandise coming in 2016.

On the internet:

AMA Particulars:

Date: Tuesday, March 29
Time: 11AM PT / 2PM ET
Location: #ama channel

To hitch in on the Q&A, take a look at our Product HQ group!

Choose questions and solutions from the AMA:

How do you retain folks motivated who work ONLY on company work?

We maintain groups motivated with a lot of freedom and the understanding that they will transfer to completely different tasks over time. They’re not saddled with one and so they have quite a lot of autonomy to each do the work they know they wish to do together with elevating their hand after they wish to dig into one thing else.

How do you distribute fairness/incentives to workers in order that they really feel they’re a part of the staff when doing mundane stuff?

Fairness and incentives are available many types for us. The mutual respect all members of the staff has blown me away, so there’s an inherent need to really feel a part of a staff. Outdoors of this, the groups in any respect ranges have a HIGH degree of enter into merchandise, so all of us really feel like we’re constructing one thing collectively. This creates quite a lot of engagement and ends in very low employees churn right here.

So that you don’t really feel that there’s a misalignment of motivation? If I’ve a staff of three builders – we personal the product and eat sleep and breathe getting issues accomplished vs a consulting agency with it’s personal agenda and optimization methods round making as a lot cash as doable?

This may occasionally sound too pie within the sky, however we rent individuals who wish to construct cool stuff. That’s the place we differentiate between a consulting agency and product accomplice. We are likely to work on merchandise that the staff is impressed by and needs to work on. This removes a lot of the misalignment of motivation. We put the product first, all the pieces else second in terms of the work.

What’s your prime tip for a venture supervisor?
Ruthless prioritization. Particularly in an company setting: you haven’t any alternative however to consistently reprioritize your to-dos. There are solely so many hours in a day.

What’s your prime interview query to ask junior to mid-level builders interviewing for a task in your staff?

“What requests make you probably the most annoyed and probably the most uncomfortable from these exterior of your developer teammates?” I discover this tells you numerous about how they take care of strain, conflicting priorities, and the way they have interaction with their work. It’s one among many favourite inquiries to ask devs, however I discover that is one query that tells you numerous.

How a lot time do you spend on anybody product and the way do you go about addressing their particular person KPI’s?

PMs listed here are on not more than 2 tasks. I’m presently on 2 and I’d say it’s a few 60/40 cut up. One requires extra product work because it’s a V1 product in order many right here know: that’s an even bigger enterprise in some ways. We measure our success by our shoppers’ success. We accomplice closely at a product degree so we share analysis, efficiency metrics, product KPI’s and many others. Begin and use that as a staff to make merchandise higher. Our objective is to accomplice with our shoppers for a long run and in reality, we are saying no to many who need a “one and accomplished”.

I presently work in a digital company. How is PM work completely different in an company surroundings vs non-agency?

I’d say company vs non-agency is the competing priorities. We work on this by getting our groups closely embedded with our shoppers and making all of it really feel like one staff. Outdoors of this, I discover the distinction is tempo: company work is WAYYYY sooner transferring than non-agency work.

What makes an incredible shopper?

An important shopper is somebody who treats you as a accomplice, not a vendor. We do our greatest work after we collaborate as a substitute of getting prescriptive work fed our approach. Whereas we respect the shoppers as we try to work cultural suits solely, we at all times get pleasure from working as a accomplice greater than something.

How do you differentiate venture administration vs. product administration work at MetaLab?

They’re a really blended position presently. Undertaking aspect of the position is accountable for timelines and budgets and resourcing. Product aspect is accountable for roadmap, options, and technique. Now we have a technique division so it’s not a solo present the place individuals are unfold too skinny; it’s positively a staff sport.

What can smaller businesses ($1mm income) do to extend income? (exterior of elevating charges) – additionally, do you assume it’s higher to concentrate on month-to-month retainers or one-time jobs?

Smaller businesses can concentrate on pursuing shoppers that will probably be very long time companions and have a product you wish to develop with. The income comes out of that. I firmly imagine one-time jobs are one to keep away from. If the “one-time” job is a way to construct a relationship in order to proceed working collectively, that’s nice. But when the intention is merely to do one thing and transfer on, it dilutes the funding your staff has in engaged on the product.

What was it prefer to work with Slack throughout the design course of? What design rules did they combat for?

I wasn’t working immediately with MetaLab when Slack was being born, however I first met Andrew in 2012 and have accomplished some work on the aspect with him since that point. I’ll say that the groups principals on that venture carry over to all of our tasks: serve the meant person first.

We’re not robots and Slack doesn’t deal with folks as such. It has a “life” of its personal (aka persona) identical to the those that use it. Subsequently, it creates that connection and it’s grown from there.

The place do you see your self in 5 years?

Main a staff of Product Managers. I like engaged on product and looking for out new methods to convey “outdated” methods of doing issues into the twenty first century. is one among my most fav latest examples of this.

Are there another industries or particular verticals that you simply’ve personally been concerned about in terms of bringing “outdated” methods of doing issues into the twenty first century?

Automobiles are fashionable within the grand scheme of issues, however my god the ergonomics, GUI’s, and UX of these GUI’s are so…dated. That’s one thing I’ve a eager curiosity in. Outdoors of that, issues which are managed by antiquated firms with antiquated methods of doing issues is a giant curiosity. I look to looking out, reviewing, signing for, and dwelling in a rented house/apartment a HUGE alternative. The methods by which you possibly can streamline that course of, make it simpler for each renter/rentee (not a phrase, however going with it) all through the entire course of from transferring in to transferring out is one thing I’d love to unravel for.

What’s your strategy to constructing a roadmap with a shopper? Even after we keep actually versatile, the shopper tends to need some kind of agreed-upon characteristic set very early within the course of. How do you steadiness that?

We often get all the intentions out of the best way first after which from there: who’re the meant/objective customers? What does success on this product appear like? and many others… As soon as everyone seems to be on the identical web page there, I discover it’s a lot simpler to get buy-in on a product roadmap that serves these wants. There are at all times competing priorities – you simply should be proactive about that vs. reactive. Board members, competing stakeholder concepts, and many others. all should be accounted for. It’s a balancing act, however I discover that defining the person and success first are keys to roadmap success.

We use the technique time collectively to both reinforce a characteristic request or make it clear that’s not an excellent/excessive precedence proper now. Inquiries to a shopper/stakeholder akin to: what’s the enterprise worth for this characteristic? does it resolve an issue for the meant person? is it differentiated or aggressive available in the market? is it a constructing block to a significant, future characteristic?

Questions like this have a tendency to permit the shopper to determine for themselves if a characteristic they need is certainly a characteristic they want.

We are likely to assign “Enterprise Worth” and “Technical Complexity” rankings to product options. That approach, it’s clear if one thing is 4/5 worth and 1/5 tech complexity, we will all agree that we pursue that. If it’s 1/5 biz worth and 5/5 tech complexity, it tends to be straightforward: “let’s not do that proper now”

Tech feasibility is a giant one. I’ve learnt the lesson the very onerous approach: engineering groups have to be concerned at the very least considerably on the technique/product roadmap section to outline if a characteristic (even at a excessive degree) is possible within the launch timeline.

How do you monitor worker hours/work?

Harvest is our go-to for that. We respect the time that the shopper has paid us for and we respect the autonomy that we try to supply employees so we work to steadiness these.

How usually do you will have inside workshops regarding product and technique? Who’s concerned and are these recurring occasions?

We are likely to do quite a lot of inside, casual data sharing on Slack. Now we have a complete analysis channel in Slack the place PMs, Technique, and design leads put up issues usually and share ideas round product & technique there. As for precise workshops: that’s one thing we’re engaged on implementing. The staff has greater than doubled within the final 6 months, so it’s one thing we imagine to be important however simply have to search out the time to make occur.

I respect the template of questions you will have given for speaking to a shopper/stakeholder. How have you ever gone about dealing with intense disagreement over technique? Physique language, or different stakeholders to again you as much as come to thoughts or communication kinds?

Due to the best way we try to border these questions (we’re working to construct an incredible product vs. turning it into an us in opposition to them strategy) I discover that the stakeholders are likely to take it effectively. When it’s clear that the intention of the query is to serve their product greater than anything, it dilutes the depth of the dialog. There have been events the place you simply know that there are particular hills you don’t have to die on however I imagine that goes for everybody working in product, in every single place.

When shoppers rent your staff to go in and assist with product, what’s the large ache level or want that they’re experiencing which ends up in their resolution that it’s time to get critical about having company assist? In a approach, what’s the drawback that Metalab, as a product, is tackling? How did work with firms like Slack come about?

Q2: Most work we do is referral from nice companions we’ve labored with prior to now together with that venture. As for the opposite questions: There are such a lot of solutions to that, to be trustworthy. Typically it’s that the shopper doesn’t have the assets/capability to do the product work within the timeframe they wish to get it accomplished, typically it’s that they’re new to the patron product business however have an incredible concept and wish help with product and execution of getting that to market, and typically it’s as a result of they’ve a big staff and we assist that enormous staff with complicated wants kind out what makes the very best product. I wouldn’t say there’s an ordinary cause, however a mixture of all of these.

If you happen to may advocate as much as 3 books/thought leaders to observe/articles for somebody new to the world of PM, what would they be?

E-book-wise, I’m a giant fan of: Hooked & On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Sure, a e book on writing by Stephen King. That doesn’t appear essential however with the quantity of written communication {that a} PM has to do, that is a vital learn. As for articles, I’d level folks to and sort in “product supervisor”. There’s a wealth of assets and I believe it’s extra about what resonates with every PM. There is no such thing as a clear, one option to do issues. Each scenario we’re put in as PMs is completely different so I believe it’s discovering what works for you and studying from others alongside the best way.

That’s a imprecise reply, but it surely feels as many are in quest of that one article or e book or individual to information them when it’s a group of steering and insights from many various areas and making use of it in a approach that works for you and your position and your staff.

At Meta Lab – you probably did end-to-end product growth – so shoppers primarily come to you with an concept behind a serviette? what do you cowl within the first assembly?

It actually is dependent upon the stage the shopper is at. I’ll put it this manner: with my two present tasks, one is a Fortune 10 and one is a startup launching V1 of their product. Each needed to begin with a dialogue round: who’s the product for? what issues are they attempting to unravel? and what excites them concerning the potentialities of their concept/product? From there, you will have a good suggestion of what they need and what they’re attempting to realize. Then the product is fleshed out from there.

So irrespective of the scale of the venture & shopper, it is dependent upon the stage the product is at and understanding what the objectives are.

How do you’re employed with founders or executives who’ve a powerful private opinion about product/characteristic, however it isn’t primarily based on person analysis/suggestions, solely on their intestine?

Illustrating very tactfully and respectfully why idealism and guts are proper far much less usually than analysis, person interviews, suggestions from goal teams, and many others.

Everybody has seen The Social Community and thinks, “His intestine was proper! Mine will probably be too.” However illustrating why that’s the exception, not the rule is essential.

Not that each one of our shoppers assume that, however in all facets of product growth, displaying why analysis, knowledge, and focused suggestions are the best way to go is crucial I discover.

Somebody who has a mature product and traction/DAU’s to help their guts findings prior to now is a special story, however once more, that’s the exception, not the rule

And I discover with exec degree, pure bullet factors of findings are key. Give all of them the dates, however they need the outcomes, not the context of it. That’s purely private expertise, however helps promote the concepts higher I discover.

Each startup workplace wants a poster giving a 10-second explainer on affirmation bias and the way to keep away from it.

To hitch in on future Q&A, take a look at our Product HQ group!

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