Over the course of our own experiences, we noticed that there was a dire need for an in-depth, comprehensive look at product management as well as the PM hiring process. We also saw an opportunity to advance the discussion regarding the fundamental skills that PMs ought to have. Although there are some books on product management that address bits and pieces of these topics, we couldn’t find any that were based on extensive experience in a variety of product development environments, written by PMs, for PMs. So we took on this challenge.
My foray into product management actually started as a career in game design.
I had always been a gamer as a kid, my game of choice being Magic: The Gathering. I met most of my friends through the game and played on a regular basis, and because of this I wanted to see if I could make a career of building games. During college I got the chance to become a game-design intern at Wizards of the Coast (maker of my favorite game, Magic)—learning the ins and outs of designing cards for the game that I loved. I discovered that working on game products, and learning the business behind building them, was really fascinating to me. I also liked the fact that the products and businesses do well when people are having fun.
Although I didn’t stay a game designer, nor in table-top products, I did transition into digital-game product management. Throughout my career I’ve always stayed in game companies such as Activision, Unity, and Electronic Arts, and I’ve noticed that in the various facets of the gaming world, as well as in other types of tech companies, products and players are thought of in largely the same way.
I took a more circuitous route into product management than Pete did. Despite being a geeky kid who spent many of my weeknights and weekends playing video games, I was very fixated on a career in business and majored in Accounting and Leadership Studies during my time as an undergraduate at the University of Richmond. My goal was to work for a few years and then complete a full-time MBA program at an elite school. After a few years as a public accountant at a firm in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, and then as an internal auditor at the United Service Organizations (USO), I was fortunate enough to be accepted to Columbia Business School and attended from 2011 through 2013.
Since those early days in Product at Zynga, I’ve worked in several startups as well as at McKinsey & Company, working to improve the Firm’s app and the publishing platform on McKinsey.com. Each job has been very different from the last, and I’ve learned a great deal just observing and defining how different product development teams function given varying circumstances. For the last two years, I’ve been coaching CBS students who are interested in product management, a role which inspired me to better define my own concept of the profession through writing and led to the initial conversation with Pete about collaborating on this book. It’s been a great couple of years putting this all together!