Definitely correct assertion that bias is a huge problem. Think of all those buzzwords that permeate the "meta" of product and you get the result I've seen (as a black man):

Me being asked intern questions at director level interviews (e.g., "so, tell me why you like product?) And being given the same exact rebuttals as my entry level black product colleagues, mentees and people I've actually led as head of product.

Or having entire interviews where the interview asks no payment questions that *would actually determine my capacity to define vision, assemble a world-class team and begin testing and iterating a designed solution to some problem out in the market*.

It's being denied entry into a thinking field from the least interested or creative interviewers.

How can you prove you're able to "be creative" when interviews are absolutely unimaginative when they are speaking to you.

There is a long way to go for us to see more faces in the field. For my part, I'm not waiting for permission anymore.

Expand full comment

This is my favorite newsletter yet! As someone who was product hire #1 and interviewed hundreds of PMs over the last three years, I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and challenging the biases you point out. I don’t have any answers, but a couple of things I’ve tried, and things I think about:-

-a tactic: blind resumes: I have my talent team remove the company names on resumes before initial reviews. I find that eliminates a lot of affinity bias towards companies and focuses on the accomplishments. This is a small thing but is very effective!

-a thought starter: Brene Brown measures how effectively an organization is living its values by identifying the behaviors they expect to see aligned with them. Using that, what behaviors would we expect someone to exhibit to display product sense? Is it keeping a living document of your users needs and the product opportunities to address them, then running experiments to find the highest leverage one? Is it continuous discovery habits? I think the intercom job ladders get near this, but I wonder if any orgs out there think about it this way.

This is a topic I’m passionate about that you don’t see discussed enough. I love how you framed it. Thanks for writing and sharing.

Expand full comment

The answer is that makes no sense. A person doing product 10 years ago was working on Java and c++ client server stuff with intranets and lotus notes...

Expand full comment

Soft skills will continue to be the differentiator in many roles in the 21st century. As to what specific soft skills are meaningful in Product Management, I expect some of the key ones come from outside the discipline.

Expand full comment

"I'm just worn down by the constant need to "spar", debate, dominate every discussion, and outdo each other. It is a slugfest. There has to be a better way." This is such a fascinating comment and says so much about our economies and culture, zero-sum, winner takes all mentality.

It's great to see this being openly challenged, even if it leads to so many more questions...what IS value? For who? What are our societal blind spots. Love it.

Expand full comment

“But we can't describe culture with shorthand jargon, and we must use stories to decode the jargon”

^ I think this point, buried near the end, is especially important. As you pointed out, one person’s “high agency” is another’s “insubordinate”. One person’s “facilitative” is another’s “indecisive”.

I use the “tell me a story that illustrates what it’s like to work here” gambit frequently.

Expand full comment

This is a great topic to unpack, thanks John! One other angle worth thinking about is how product management is defined outside of the tech bubble and what language is consistent across the board. Tech likes to think we created PMs :)

Expand full comment

In case helpful, I find ASHEN is helpful for considering these sorts of questions. You already touched in most of the elements in the post - convergent evolution is always good!


Expand full comment

Found this post pretty meaningful, tho the catch about losing the reader actually helped me stay on too 🤣 would love to repost this from LinkedIn if you were gonna post 🥳

Expand full comment