You Need to Make a lot of Mistakes as a PM

It was a sunny afternoon when I waited for someone in front of Starbucks. He was one of my interviewer that interviewed me for a PM position. I didn’t get the job, so I wanted to get a feedback from him what could I do better based on his experience in interviewing me. So, he asked me to catch up in Starbucks and here I am.

There are several things that he mention for my improvements, but the one that he emphasized most was that I’m not a go getter person. I was thinking too much in the interview and less trying to do something to figure things out and make something. He said that it might be good to think thoroughly before deciding something, but too much thinking will hurt you and hider your progress.

I didn’t understand what he mean at that time. I was thinking that as a PM, we must ensure that the decision that we make is correct or we can jeopardize the business if we make a wrong decision. I believed that a well thought decision is necessary to prevent us doing the wrong thing or build the wrong solution for our users. It surely will cost the company a huge fortune if we decide something wrong.

And, that’s exactly where I was wrong.

It is true that as a PM, our job is to help the company build the right thing. However, it’s not by thinking too much and considering a lot of options thoroughly before we can make any decision. We build the right thing by go out, talk to our customer, build a prototype, and test it. That’s the best way to get a quick feedback and keep learning about what our customers need.

As a PM, we are not expected to know all the answers and to be right at the first attempt. Most of the time, we need to work with something new. Some problems or opportunities that require us to master a new field that we’ve never heard before. Hence, we are expected to be wrong quickly with the least cost possible and learn from it. That’s why there are a lot of methods like lean start up that could help PM to learn fast by building prototype and test it before building a full blown product.

Looking back to the meeting with my interviewer, I am glad that I can finally understand what message he want to convey to me. What I learned so far from my little experience as a PM can be summarized as those points:

  • The main job as a PM is to prevent your company to build the wrong product that could cost them a lot of money.
  • To build the right product, you must talk to you user instead of just sit in your desk and thinking that you know everything about them.
  • You are expected to make some mistakes. A lot of mistakes perhaps. But it needs to be small and used for learning what works and what don’t work for your customers.
  • Get feedback as soon as possible with the lowest cost possible. You can build a mock up or prototype for the product and get the feedback right away.

Let me know if you have any additional points or thoughts. 🙂

Nanda Firdaus

Ex-engineer who is switching to product management role in Traveloka. Passionate about new technology and have interest in product development, business, and investment. Ex-Microsoft Student Partner. Master of Information System Management at Carnegie Mellon University. Bachelor of Information System, Faculty of Computer Science, Universitas Indonesia.

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