Transcript from the "Program & Marketing Management" Lesson
>> So let's talk about TPMs. And I also was informed recently that they, those can be called PMTs, which that was new to me. I think that's an Amazon term, maybe. I don't know. What is a TPM? It really depends on the company you're at. This strongly depends on your company.
[00:00:15] I think Facebook calls products managers that work on technical things, so that would be me a TPM. Which is extremely strange to me. I've seen other companies, Stripe comes to mind. They call their process managers or like you know project managers but like projects on like a much grander scale, they call those TPMS.
[00:00:37] So, yeah, like project manager is concerned with process and intercompany relations, they call those TPMs. So I'm not gonna really draw too much on what I think a TPM is because that one is so strongly contextual to the company that you're working at. It's nonsensical to try and define it.
[00:00:56] The only time that I really worked with TPS was at Stripe and what's funny is I brought, her name is Maggie Johnson Pinto. She's awesome. We were together at Microsoft. We were both program managers on sister teams, and then we went to Stripe at the same time within weeks of each other.
[00:01:14] She was a TPM and I became a PM And it kind of like delineates that at Microsoft those were the same things, and they consider us the same position and at Stripe, they was like, you're in very different tracks now, right? So you'll find that your abilities kind of snap to different positions at different companies.
[00:01:33] Which is always it's always strange to me but in particular, if I was gonna start a company, and I was gonna define what TPM meant at my company, it would be, you have ten teams working on a similar project. How do those teams work together? That's what I would have a TPM do.
[00:01:52] They would define the process and the overhead, basically, of like, okay, before we have anything go out we're gonna have a product review. We're gonna have an end review, and they would run those kind of like reviews, and they would have those kind of like checkpoints. And like they wouldn't necessarily concern themselves with what's in those product reviews, but they would concern themselves with running those kinds of processes to make sure that everyone's aligned and moving correctly, right?
[00:02:16] And then you would have project managers defining the sprints for all those individual teams. It sounds complicated, it's cuz it's complicated, right? There's no really no two ways about that. Program managers, this was my title at Microsoft, another just it doesn't make any sense unless you're talking about, like, I'm a program manager.
[00:02:39] The next question you should ask is, at what company? Because program managers can be managing, like, horizontal initiatives, kind of what I was talking about here. So that's what I did a lot of Microsoft was I would manage like developer experience across all of Azure, which affects every single team at Azure, right?
[00:02:55] And so I was a program manager because I managed the program of developer experience. Other program managers that I worked with at Microsoft just worked on one product. They were product managers, right? So it's really gonna depend on what company you're talking about there. I was gonna call out PMMs, because you see that one quite a bit.
[00:03:15] Product marketing managers, they're typically people that are like paired with a product manager that market that particular product. So they're a function of marketing they're not a function of product. Though, famously, Apple has combined those positions, so if you're a PM at Apple, you also market your product as well, right?
[00:03:35] And I think recently Shopify did that as well, so that's there's kind of some tailwind behind product managers doing more marketing functions. I've never done marketing. I don't know if I'd be particularly good at it. I guess I've done developer relations, which is essentially marketing, though I'm pretty sure I just offended a ton of people by saying that out loud.
[00:03:57] I said the quiet part out loud. But, I mean, whatever, fight me, I don't care. [LAUGH] Wouldn't be a Brian Hall, of course, if I didn't offend a lot of people. So anyway PMMs, if you have a good PMM that works with you, it's awesome because you get to build really cool stuff, and then they get to go tell people about it.
[00:04:16] So you get people using your stuff. So a good PMM is worth their weight in gold. I mean, hopefully I'm communicating across all these positions are they're all people that if you work with them, and they're good at their job. They're extremely valuable to you and even if I don't wanna do their jobs, I'm very happy that someone is doing those jobs, right?
[00:04:34] When you're evaluating PM positions, make sure you are evaluating what am I actually gonna be doing at your company? Because it's actually wildly different between companies, and there's some product management positions that I just wouldn't be good at, and I wouldn't wanna do. Because again, you're you are the space between teams.
[00:04:51] You are the glue that kind of holds teams together, and you might not end up doing the things that you like about it like I love strategy and there's a lot of there's positions at Microsoft that are like no strategy, right? It's really just execution over and over and over again and like I can do that I just don't wanna write like I wanna be on like defining like what are we gonna be doing.
[00:05:13] How are we serving customers? I love talking to customers it's one of my favorite parts about being a product manager, so it strongly varies. And I think it's a steward of you to observe that companies always ship their org chart like 100% of the time, no matter what happens, how are you formed your company is how you're gonna ship products.
[00:05:33] And I think that also, the product manager is always a function of what the org chart looks like. So that's probably another good thing for you to ask is like, how is your company organized because that'll tell you a lot about what you're about to get yourself into.
>> I feel like it would make sense for the product manager to own the marketing as well, cuz if you own the strategy and the long-term vision, I think you should be held responsible for selling it. Cuz if you build a product that nobody wants to use, then you just spent a lot of money and time on something that nobody's gonna use.
>> You're straight in Tim Cook's camp, you are like right there with them. Just give them a high five and ask him for another iPhone, right? I don't know, I don't think I disagree with you. I think the only issue, if you made me tomorrow responsible for all of my own marketing, I'm just not good at it yet, right?
[00:06:24] I could figure it out, I think I will even like it. But it's not some, I could not replace Krista who I work with who is phenomenal at marketing, right? That's the only concern that I would have with that. So it's good that Krista owns that part of the company.
[00:06:42] But I think, the bridge that I could add to that statement is like, if you don't own your marketing, you should work extremely close with your marketing. All of my products that I before I even start working on, I meet with legal, I meet with security, I meet with marketing.
[00:06:58] I meet with developer relations, and so all of them are kind of like aware of the stuff and start building. And so sometimes marketing is like, hey, maybe let's do this, this has had a better fit here, or we can sell this better or blah, blah blah, right?
[00:07:11] And so I get input really early into that system. Using those partners is critical to shipping the right product.
>> How important is being tactical when being a product manager, having coding skills?
>> Let me give a roundabout answer to that. It served me. And so you have to acknowledge my survivorship bias here that like, for me, it's been extremely useful, and I call on it a lot.
[00:07:44] I write a lot of demos from the stuff that I work on. I write code. Whenever I'm creating a product spec, I'll go write sample codes. I hope it looks like this by the time that we're done. So it's a tool that I leverage personally a lot in my personal journey as a PM.
[00:08:02] I'm gonna loop around say some of the best PMs, I've ever worked with have zero coding experience. So this is another kind of invitation for people to consider their PMing journey personally. And that here's a tool that worked for me, but there's other tools that are equally or more effective than what I have leveraged to get to where I am.
[00:08:24] So is it critical to be a good PM? Absolutely not. Is it a cool tool to have as a PM? Yes. It certainly helps that, like when I walk into a room full of engineers that they try and talk over my head and I can say, no, I've built that before.
[00:08:38] That's not like this has happened to me before, like when I started trying to talk Kubernetes over my head, I was like, man, I taught a course on Kubernetes. Like, you can't talk over my head here. I used to work on Kubernetes at Microsoft, right? And I think in particular for marginalized people, that happens even more, right?
[00:08:54] So, it can be a critical skill, but also, there's ways around that one, having some familiarity just in general with it can help. And then, also having good tech leads that you bring with you to these kind of meetings so, that you know where it's gonna happen, that can help a lot as well.
[00:09:07] So, there's strategies around it as well. So I like, I just wanna drive home the point of like, you're special is what I'm trying to say, but you're different, and you come from a different background. And I've seen people come from like, all sorts of wild different like one of the PMs I've worked with came just came directly over from marketing, and he had such a good sense of like, what people wanted and like what the community wanted to build.
[00:09:33] That he's really leveraged that to become a really good PM, despite the fact that his background is all in marketing. And so he's learned enough about the platform to, like, speak intelligently about it. But like, what makes him a really great PM is that. He thinks about what do people want, and how can I get this to them as a marketer?
[00:09:50] And that particular thing makes him different and special than me, that I don't have that marketing background. I have some intuition about it, but I don't have the discipline that he has. So, it's about finding your unique strengths and leveraging those as tools in becoming a better PM.