I am hiring a product manager. Interested? Send me your resume

I am hiring a product manager to join my product management team at Gazelle.com. If you or anyone you know is interested and is local to Boston or is planning to move into the Boston area, please send the resume to gopal [at] gazelle[dot] com. The job description is given below.

What does Gazelle do?
Gazelle.com allows consumers to trade-in used electronics in 20 categories (cell phones, digital cameras, camcorders, laptops, iPhones, MP3 players, GPS devices etc.) for cash. Our vision is to change the way consumers consume by allowing them to trade in their devices when they upgrade to newer devices such that the older products do not end up in the landfill. In case you are wondering why it is better for a consumer to use Gazelle as opposed to trying to sell on auction sites such as eBay or listing sites such as Craigslist, read the top 11 reasons to sell on Gazelle. We are experiencing tremendous growth and are looking for a rock-star Product Manager to join our product management team.

Job Description
If you enjoy creating web products that deliver an awesome customer experience and if you love to work in a very informal, fun environment where you are expected to do what it takes, you should apply. The product management team at Gazelle is responsible for the product planning and execution throughout the product lifecycle, including: gathering and prioritizing product and customer requirements, defining the product vision, and working closely with engineering, business development, marketing and support to ensure revenue and customer satisfaction goals are met.

Gazelle focuses a lot on our company culture and we will hire only those who will fit strongly into our culture that is focused on having fun while we work hard on our vision of changing the way consumers consume used electronics.

The Product Manager is expected to:

  1. Assist the Director of Product Management to define the product strategy and roadmap
  2. Create requirements documents for features and/or new products
  3. Lead a cross-functional team to develop required products and/or features that meet the customer needs.
  4. Work with the business development team to assess partnerships and licensing opportunities
  5. Run usability tests, beta and pilot programs with early-stage products or releases
  6. Have a keen sense for product usability and customer experience.
  7. Act as a leader within the company

Required experience and knowledge

Skills

  1. Minimum of 5 years experience as a Product Manager of an ecommerce website (consumer products a plus)
  2. Demonstrated success defining and launching successful products
  3. Experience interviewing prospects/customers to understand their pain points and then creating products that successfully solved these pain points.
  4. Proven ability to influence cross-functional teams without formal authority
  5. Samples of effective requirements documents delivered in the past
  6. Bachelor’s degree required

Intangibles (to be heavily weighed)

  1. Organized, methodical, process-driven.
  2. Proven ability to work independently with minimal supervision.
  3. Excellent written and oral communicator and sound teaming skills.
  4. Impeccable problem solving and analytical skills, as well as the ability to develop innovative alternatives and recommendations.
  5. High level of ethics and integrity, as well as the strength to stand behind them.
  6. Results- and detail-oriented with ability to manage and execute multiple tasks.
  7. A proactive, “hands-on” self-starter who will prosper in a fast-paced small company. and
  8. The ability to have fun while doing all of the above.

10 reasons why you want to work at Gazelle

  1. Competitive salary with quarterly bonus (based on individual performance) – we want you to focus on making our customers happy and not worry about money.
  2. Stock options – we want you to have a stake in the company. We all sink or swim.
  3. 401(k) match – we want you to start saving for your retirement – your long-term happiness matters to us.
  4. 100% paid medical, dental and vision benefits for employees and a generous contribution towards coverage for dependants.
  5. Flexible hours – we don’t care when you come in and leave as long as work gets done. But, we are very serious about getting work done and we hold everyone accountable.
  6. 15 days of paid vacation plus 3 floating days per year plus national holidays – we want you to have a life outside of work.
  7. Free lunch on Mondays – that is if you like pizzas and sandwiches – we love both of them. Oh, we also have free coffee and espresso – you will need the caffeine. And if you like junk food, we have free snacks as well.
  8. Open office floor – we don’t have cubicles, offices and name plates. All employees including our CEO get a desk and they are old desks, no mahogany or cherry here, because we are frugal and also environment friendly.
  9. Get to work in an old building – yah, the bathrooms occasionally don’t work, we may have to double-park, but we absolutely love the startup feel.
  10. No dress code – yes, you need to wear clothes, but we don’t care if you want to wear a suit or come in shorts or flip-flops. Did we tell you that all that matters to us is doing excellent work that delivers an awesome experience to our customers? Oh yah, we did.

7 questions software product managers must ask during a job interview

I was asked by Jeff Lash to answer a question for his blog on what questions a product manager could ask during a job interview to better understand the role of product management in the company. Here are my recommendations –

1) Why are you hiring a software product manager? – This is an important question to ask especially if you are going to be the first software product manager in the company. Why has the company decided that they need the first or an additional software product manager? Is it because they realize that they need to listen to the market needs more, is it a replacement for a software product manager who has left the company, or is it because the company is expanding into new markets? The answer to this question will reveal a lot of valuable information that will help you make a decision. Yes, job description that was advertised will give you an idea, but job descriptions tend to be too generic.landscape

2) What does product management do today or what is it expected to do going forward? – Unfortunately, product management’s role is so diverse from one company to another. In some companies, a software product manager is responsible for running the business – market research, product requirements, product packaging, pricing, go to market launch etc. – the role is truly strategic. In other companies, it is all about writing specs with very limited exposure to the customer (believe me such companies sadly exist). You want to know where the company you are interviewing with falls in this spectrum. Are you comfortable with how the company views the role of product management?

3) Who does product management report to? – Companies that truly understand the value of product management have product management reporting to marketing. The ones that least understand the value of it, make it report to engineering. Engineering is the last place for product management from an organizational point of view. If you want to truly build market driven products, you want product management to be independent of those folks who build the products. I have worked in both the organizations and the case where product management reported to engineering was an outright disaster. There was no healthy tension between those that understand the market (external facing) and those that build the products (internal facing). You cannot have the fox guard the hen house, can you?

4) Who determines the future direction of your products – marketing, sales or engineering? – This again helps you understand how the company values product management. If sales drives the future direction, then the future direction is forever changing based on what was heard at the last sale. If it is driven by engineering, then it is usually determined by what can be build. If it is run by marketing it is fine as long as it is “market” driven and not “marketing” driven. How much voice does product management  in determining the future direction based on the market needs?

5) How does the company listen to the customer needs? – Dig deeper into this because all companies will tout that they are customer driven, but there are a lot of companies who don’t walk the talk. Ask for specifics such as customer visits, focus groups, user surveys etc. – how often is this done and how is the input incorporated into the product development process? The best way to do this is to find names of some of the company’s customers and ask them. This will give you the true story of how the company is viewed in the eyes of the customer. It is harder to do this with enterprise software, but with small business software, this is easy to do. Dig into discussion forums, do Google search and you will be surprised as to how easily you can unearth names of some of the company’s customers.

6) How would you best describe the company culture? – If you get a blank stare when you ask about the “culture”, then you need not ask anything more. Companies with good culture will give you specific examples of how well they treat their employees. If you are being interviewed by multiple people, ask each one of them this question. Look at sites such as glassdoor.com to see if there are any reviews of the company by current or former employees.

7) What are the company’s short-term and long-term challenges? – Great companies will be able to give you a detailed answer to this question. This is because they are very clear on what they are and where they are headed. Yes, the future is not guaranteed. Beware of pompous claims of “we are the market leaders of this market and we have no competition” etc. Another way to do this is to ask “What could derail the company going forward?” – how credible is the answer you get? If you get an answer that nothing is going to derail the company, then beware.

Yes, we are in an economic climate where it is hard to find jobs, but not asking these questions in fear that you may not be selected would be a big mistake. Good companies that truly value their employees will appreciate candidates asking these questions because it exhibits diligence the candidate does before making a decision. Would you not want your employees doing due diligence before making decisions? And if you sense the company or the person who is interviewing you is irked or bothered by these harmless questions, then beware – the company may not be a good fit for you after all.

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Image Courtesy of : Cavern.com

Companies should not be “customer” focused

Yes, companies should not be “customer” focused first, I strongly challenge them to be “employee” focused instead and then the customer focus will come.

I have been a great proponent of being customer driven, listening to customer’s unmet needs and then creating products that serve those needs. But when it comes to focus for companies, I would be “employee” focused first. Why? Because if you hire the right employees, treat them right, give them the authority and responsibility to do the right thing for the customers, the customer focus will come automatically. The vice versa does not work.

The example I always use when I make this point is that of airlines. They all tout how they care about their customers and guess what – when I get on a plane I meet flight attendants who care less about the customers – why? they are not happy, they are probably worried about making their ends meet because their compensations are being squeezed by the airlines every time they get a chance – all in the name of cost cutting. So do I expect these employees to serve their customers very well so that the airlines can tout great customer service? These days they are even asked to bring their own food and drink on board. Imagine this – what would four to six extra lunch boxes and sodas/water cost to make sure that these flight attendants (whose primary job is to serve and ensure the safety of the passengers) stay hydrated and not hungry? All of this when I have not seen any major cuts in the airline executive compensations that makes these executives start worrying about how they will pay their bills. Who would you rather see motivated to turn the airline around – the executives or the flight attendants and the pilots in whose hands your life depends when you are flying?

Contrast that with companies such as Ritz and Nordstrom – do you think these companies have such high customer ratings by sheer luck – no – they focus on making sure they hire the right employees, develop them, make sure that they are well treated and empowered to make their customers happy. After all, hiring decisions better be the most important decisions you make in your company. Folks, It is all about relationships with people and not products.

Eight traits of good hiring managers

Good managers mostly hire good people and sometimes hire the wrong people whereas bad managers always hire the wrong people. This is the conclusion I have come to in my 15 year career. What do I define as a bad hiring manager? – one who does not have good managerial skills, feels insecure and hence tends to hire someone worse than him/her because they feel threatened if their hires are better/smarter than them. I have seen at least four such managers in my career based on the quality and hence the resulting performance of their hires.

So what are the traits of good managers:

1) They hire people smarter than them: The whole purpose of hiring people is to get work done. Good managers don’t want to lose sleep over the performance of their reports. They want people who can work with minimal direction, whose work will reflect their pride, who will go the extra mile to get the job done.They do not micro manage, they allow you to put your artistic touch to your work as long as you meet the business goals. They realize that ownership brings the best out of good people.

2) Their success is defined by the team’s success: They are fully aware that their success is determined by their team’s success. They work to remove the hurdles limiting their team and to ensure that the team is marching forward.

3) They identify and credit their team members in public for job well done: They don’t take any credit for the work done – they identify in public the people who toiled to get the job done. They relish their team’s success. They make sure that their team members get the visibility in front of their superiors or executive management. You will see them use “we” more than they would use “I”.

4) They praise in public and advise in private: People need constant encouragement and direction when things go wrong. Managers work with team members privately to reflect on mistakes and work out an action plan to fix it going forward. They use the feather to slap one’s hand and never the hammer unless they are forced to. They give immediate feedback good or bad so that successes get repeated and mistakes get corrected.

5) They train their replacements: Good managers want to move their career forward. They realize that they cannot do this until they groom someone to eventually replace them in the current job. They realize that they owe it to their current employer if they choose to leave the company.

6) They never treat all of their direct reports the same but fairly: They realize that people are different and hence one cannot treat everyone the same. Some need more assistance than others. It is more important that they are fair and transparent in the decisions they make. They set goals for their team members and reward good performance and more importantly penalize bad performance. The process is transparent and the team members don’t hold any ill will on decisions made.

7) They treat their direct reports as human beings: After all, it is not just all work. They encourage their reports to take time off to recharge themselves. They remind them to get a life outside work. In essence, they care about their team member’s well being because it directly impacts your productivity at work.

8. They cut their losses when they make hiring mistakes: When they make those bad hiring decisions, they cut their losses when it is clear that things will not work out in spite of their best efforts. They are not afraid to admit their hiring mistakes. This sends message to the rest of the team that good performance is valued and everyone is expected to equally share the workload.

So how do you find out during the hiring process if you will be working for a good manager or a total jerk? It is tough because it is easy to hide but you may be able to get some early warning signals. Here are eight ways you could possibly find out:

1) Ask the hiring manager directly about their management style.

2) Ask them about some of the successes of their team – see if it is all “I did this, I did this” and not “we did this” – do they name people on their team while they talk about the successes?

3) Ask others who you would be interviewing with (in an indirect way) including those who would be your peers about the manager’s management style. If someone takes issue with this, it may not be a good place to work after all.

4) They let you ask questions during the interview that let you get a better understanding about the job and about their management style.

5) How much do they grill you to make sure you are the right person for the job? Good managers want to make sure you indeed have the “smarts” or “skills” that you claim in your resume.

6) How well do they talk about the company’s success and work that needs to be done?

7) How long is the interview process? In good companies, interviews are likely to be multiple rounds because the company cares a whole lot about their hiring process.

8. Are they excited when they talk about what the company is doing and what the team is accomplishing?

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Software product manager’s elevator pitch?

When I interview software product manager candidates, the first question I ask them is to give me their elevator pitch in one minute. Many candidates resemble a deer caught in the headlights and I am very surprised. If you cannot explain who you are, what you can do for the company, your strengths in one minute or less – are you a good software product manager candidate?

I give them one minute only because I have sat through 4-5 minutes of torture when I used to ask the question “Please tell me about yourself” – believe it or not, I have heard everything from how the CEO in one of their previous employers sucked to how the candidate filed a patent on some esoteric stuff that had nothing to do with what we do. If the open position is for a software product manager, it is a good question to ask because a software product manager has to help create product positioning statements and give an elevator pitch about his/her products to prospects. This also displays the communication skills of the candidate.

Elevator pitches should highlight your strengths so that it piques the interviewer’s interest that he wants to know more about it – now the ball is in your court where you can further substantiate on your strengths and make the connection as to how those strengths can help the company.

So what is your elevator pitch?

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Working with recruiters – set the ground RULE !!

Once I finished my previous two posts on job hunting tips, I was asked by a friend who is now looking for a job on how to work effectively with recruiters during a job hunt. I have recently spoke to some HR Directors/Managers where this issue has come up as well and hence It occurred to me that this is something worthy of a post.

Here is what I have learnt about recruiters (and if I have a wrong perspective, I encourage recruiters out there to send in their comments so that I can get it right :-))

1) Recruiters are hired by companies usually only after their own recruiting efforts have failed – why – because recruiters need to be paid a hefty fee – usually a good percentage of the first year’s salary of the candidate they refer and gets hired.

2) Recruiters are in the business to make money – they work for the client more than they work for a job candidate – they are getting paid to get the best candidate to their client who hired them and not to make a case for you into a role that may not be an absolutely perfect fit (hence my comment in the previous blog post of “you need to be a round peg in a round hole”)

So what could go wrong where you as an innocent job hunter gets caught between a rock and a hard place – here is a typical sequence that could get you into trouble

1) You apply for a job at company X by sending in your resume (through a friend, apply directly etc.)

2) You get in touch with a recruiter who asks you to send him your resume. Unknown to you, he has been hired by company X to look for candidates for the same position as you have already applied for. The recruiter sends in your resume to company X.

3) You get hired

4) Controversy breaks out – who got you to company X first – your friend/yourself or the recruiter.

I have been told by HR managers that this is their worst nightmare when it comes to working with recruiters. I have also heard about companies getting sued by recruiters for just the above scenario. Last thing you want to get involved in as a new employee is this mess with your new employer.

So how do you protect yourself – set one ground rule right upfront before you engage with any recruiter- THEY CANNOT PRESENT YOUR RESUME TO ANY COMPANY WITHOUT TALKING TO YOU FIRST AND WITHOUT GETTING YOUR PERMISSION. Get them to agree to this before you send them your resume.

Good professional recruiters will know very well why you are asking for this and they will be more than happy to comply – the last thing they also want is the nightmare described above – unfortunately like every other profession, there are a few unscrupulous recruiters out there looking to make a fast buck.

If a recruiter does not want to agree on the above ground rule, don’t engage with them – it is not worth it. After all, your resume is your prized marketing material about the greatest product you have – YOU !! So you have the right to demand where it goes

Happy job hunting !!