Q&A with Expert Product Managers: Patrick Haig from TUNE
Welcome to the second installation of our product management interview series, where successful product folks across various verticals share where the PM industry is going, how to overcome challenges, and general advice. If you missed our first interview with Francis Brown with Alaska Airlines, we recommend giving it a read, as well!
As mobile engagement continues to increase, companies across all industries have shifted product strategy to push their mobile experience toward the top. The product management world has gone mobile, and PMs have had to adjust to strategic changes big and small.
To explore what’s changed and what’s next for product managers, we’re bringing you the best minds in product management to share their thoughts on what’s top-of-mind, and where the industry is going. Today, we’re excited to bring you thoughts from Patrick Haig, Product Director at TUNE. Here’s what Patrick had to say!
Q: How did you get into product management?
I have a BA in History and a very partial law degree (two out of the three years completed—not a legit attorney, even though most lawyers will tell you the first two years are the hardest :)), so am not your typical PM. I actually dropped out of law school going into my last year of law school to join a startup in 2012 and never looked back.
I started out doing basically any non-technical job (there were only three of us, initially) and, as we went through Techstars and grew, I started to gravitate more towards working with product. Specifically, I’d take what I learned from dealing with prospects and customers and worked with the founder (who headed product) on what we could build to solve their problems. I drove customer development and took it right back to the product. We were acquired a couple years later by TUNE.
I came into TUNE still in my customer-facing role, but was eager to make the jump to product. Fortunately, I had an internal advocate who pushed for me and, despite my lack of technical training (and honestly, know-how), I made the leap in early 2015. That’s the second time I’ve never looked back. Product is amazing and a hell of a ride.
Q: How do you think mobile product managers’ roles in the organization are changing?
I don’t really know, to be honest. Product management, as a role, can be very diverse across different types of orgs. I’ve known some PMs who have layers of support, such as user research, design, and analytics, and are thus able to go really deep into customer problems while delegating other aspects of the job. I’ve also seen some PMs in organizations be the researchers and the data analysts themselves, in addition to focusing on uncovering and defining customer problems.
I have come to firmly believe that giving PMs the space to really explore problems and think is critical. While product will potentially always be the center of gravity in the sense that it has to work with marketing, sales, support, etc., I think there’s something to be said for allowing for—and enforcing—deep thinking and product exploration.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face as a mobile PM? How do you overcome them?
Gathering sufficient data to make decisions quickly and, well, FOCUS, hah.
For the former, I’ve really learned to be self-sufficient in terms of framing my questions properly and then identifying where I need to find data. This has been critical for me because it allows me to operate with confidence knowing that I’m aligned with the evidence. There will always be decisions you can’t quite get data for, but I think those are typically the exception, not the rule. And, if you’ve been diligent about using evidence-based decision making for the most part, then you’ll start to run into patterns that you can then apply to future decisions that are less easy to quantify.
Now, for focus, I’ve learned to be really meticulous with my to-do list and say no to anything not on it. There’s a lot of great content out there about how to create focus every single week and reinforce it for yourself and your team (like this awesome First Round article about a VP, Product at Facebook).
Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to give to other mobile PMs?
Always be learning. Not only do I think learning is super fun, but it’s reinvigorating and, if relevant to work, obviously useful. It can also have the side benefit of just making your life more interesting.
Learning may mean recognizing that you’re not the best strategic thinker and then reading up on elements of strategy (military history is particularly helpful here, in my opinion), or that you’re not as proficient at data analytics as you’d like to be and then learning SQL or Python on Codeacademy, or statistics on Khan Academy.
Q: What are you looking ahead to in 2018?
I’m personally looking to develop as a director and what that means in terms of helping clarify our product strategy, keeping it clear for our teams, and reinforcing it constantly. And, naturally, trying to take stock of any missteps along the way and what I can learn from them. :)
Q: What’s your favorite way to stay up to date on all things product management?
I pretty much live and die by Mattermark’s newsletter, Mattermark Daily. There’s often a lot of product content (though not guaranteed every day), but it’s a curation of startup/tech content from both investors and those operating startups. Outside of that, Mind the Product’s blog is particularly helpful and product-focused.
Q: With no resource constraints, if I could work on any app, it would be [fill in the blank]. Why?
If we’re talking an app that doesn’t exist, it’d be an app that either has to do with space (because, you know, SPACE!), or that mixes augmented reality and some elements of history.
I think that history is chronically under-appreciated, though perennially valuable, and I think there are some interesting opportunities in making history more accessible and exciting to people. I won’t quote all the historical quotes about knowing history and not repeating it, but I will paraphrase it.
Q: I feel [fill in the blank] without my smartphone.
Reassuringly detached. Don’t get me wrong; smartphones have changed humanity in mostly positive ways, but I still need untethered me time.
Q: Android or iOS?
iOS. I have friends who are die-hard Android, but I have an iPad and an Apple TV, so am blissfully locked into the iOS ecosystem for now.
Q: What does customer love mean to you?
Empathy. It means giving a shit about the people you build products for, understanding their situation, and that you have the power to make their lives better by some measure, and then doing it. Again and again.
A huge thank you to Patrick for taking the time to share his thoughts. Stay tuned for the next interview soon, and check out our first interview with Francis Brown from Alaska Airlines.