How do you soften the blow and work around the conversations you must have with you engineers?

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Reporting bugs, asking for the feasibility of building a feature and timelines are conversations we must have with engineers. However, those are topics that engineers dread and can often turn into heated conversations. How do you soften the blow and navigate these discussions?

1. “It didn’t work”

It doesn’t provide any details to help the engineers solve your problem. Which part didn’t work? (The data didn’t get updated after you hit save or the page just keeps loading?) What did you do before that?

Without any “evidence”…


Being the first PM hire is exciting. You were promised that you can “build your own team”. You took the job cause you get a more senior title. You get to work alongside the founders to co-create the vision.

But be prepared for the surprises — especially if your last role is in an established company — and it is your first time working in a startup.

1. Prove that the company needs a PM even after you are hired

Misconceptions

Since you are the first PM, there is nobody before you whom they can compare with. It must be easy to prove your value right?

Reality

Your team or stakeholders don’t know what value…


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Knowing how to manage founders’ expectations is crucial to the success of your team and your work. The founders may or may not know what a product manager is supposed to do. They may decide to hire their PM because their investor or engineers told them to. Or they want someone to “take the workload off their plate”. Read on to find out how to build trust with your founders so they give you more autonomy.

Prove that you can take care of their baby

Founders started a company because they care deeply about the problem and have a strong belief in how it should be solved. Understandably, they…


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Product Managers are often told to let engineers determine the how. The “what and why “ should be the focus of product managers. The lines are becoming increasingly blurry.

Start-ups require their first engineering hires to possess product thinking to make sound technical decisions. Developers are encouraged to sit in user interviews to build empathy with their customers and wear that “product management” hat.

By the same token, product managers possessing technical knowledge can put themselves in the engineers’ shoes. They can comprehend why certain dependencies need to be shipped first — even though it offers less value to users…


Learn how to speak up when it’s the last thing you feel like doing

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I second guess myself before hitting that hand-raising button ✋. I initially thought it was the fear of public speaking. As I dug deeper and self-reflected, I uncovered the real reasons behind my self-doubt.

If you are finding your confidence to speak, I hope you will consider one of these after reading this article:

  • Raise your hand when you have something to say (even if it is for the first time)
  • Say yes to the moderators’ invitations to speak
  • Start a room or club

Avoid compare and despair

The more speakers’ profiles I read, the less likely I would want to speak. Compared to…


Uncover the transferable skills and unexpected challenges during the transition from Science to Tech

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I wrote about how I got my first job outside of the lab and subsequently broke into tech.

In this article, I want to share how the skills I developed in academia helped me advance my career in tech — from Customer Success Manager (a customer-facing role) to Product Manager (a liaison between business and engineers).

Transferable skills from Biology to Tech

I was drawn to science because I’m fascinated by how things work.

I have the same drive to understand the company’s products. I would read through all the documentation I…


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Know what and how to say intelligently in meetings is a skill product leaders need to master.

Stakeholders turn to us to understand why certain decisions are made. Our teams turn to us for advice on how to solve problems.

To practise giving more thoughtful and constructive answers, I would pretend I’m a panelist and try to craft a response. Even though stage fright is not in the way, I would draw a blank when the questions are vague. Even if I know the answers very well, I struggle to be succinct.

In awe of hearing the inspirational answers, it…


Toddler hugging a dog
Toddler hugging a dog
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A product team’s greatest fear is losing its high performing engineers with institutional knowledge. How to retain your engineers so they don’t get poached even when being offered a bigger salary?

Daniel Pink’s book “Drive” defines the four T’s of autonomy as:

The freedom to pick the task, the technique, the time, and the team.

This article focuses on providing autonomy to choose the first three: task, technique, and time.

Excitement to build things the way they want

New technologies are like shiny new toys to engineers. The ultimate dream of most engineers is to start something new and build a product from scratch. …


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Some individuals don’t respond well with rules. Develop an understanding of why they react that way, you will realize that they do not intend to question or go against you.

People are motivated by one or a combination of:

- Inner expectations stem from themselves — commit to themselves

- Outer expectations come from others, work and society — commit to others

Four types of individuals arise as a result of this, defined by Gretchen Rubin, the author of “The Four Tendencies”.


They have access to users and information to help drive your roadmap forward

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Product Managers are the glue of all the different departments, you can’t do your job until you master this. It comes down to these two rules:

Predict when your stakeholder will be the detractor in changing your plans. Mitigate these risks by involving them or adjust your timeline.

Identify opportunities to make them the promoter in pushing your plan forward. Spell out how your plan can help them do their job better or make them feel good.

As a former Customer Success Manager, I use collaborating with…

Lee Ling Yang

Director of Product @ LionDesk. Author of “How to Work with Engineers”. Ex-Biologist. Biker. Empower Women in Tech 🇨🇦

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