What’s a Product Discovery Coach? This week Teresa Torres joins Paul and Rich to break down the mystique of her job title and the important work behind it. They discuss all things product development, and Teresa shares how unearthing product assumptions can help you achieve a better final outcome. Teresa also explains why you should expect your ideas to fail — and use that failure to your advantage.
Rich Ziade Paul, conspiracy theory. Teresa is a Fubo TV PR person. This was all a setup to get us to buy into Fubo TV.
Teresa Torres I’m advocating for streaming companies to get better at sports.
Paul Ford That’s right. [music ramps up, plays alone, fades out]
PF Hey, Rich.
RZ Yes, Paul.
PF You want to know a good website?
RZ Am I in the regular browser or in Incognito?
PF You’re not in Incognito.
PF Okay. Product talk.org.
RZ Okay, so it’s a nonprofit.
PF Yeah, absolutely. It’s part of the UN–no. It is the work of a person named Teresa Torres, who is a specialist in product discovery. Got that?
RZ Got it.
PF Okay, so I have really good news for you.
PF I didn’t just mention that at random.
RZ She’s here?
PF Right now. Teresa, welcome.
TT Hi. Thanks for having me.
PF Can you give us the basics on yourself, the title and all that good stuff?
TT Yeah. So I work as a product discovery coach, most people in the world have no idea what that means. It’s not that complicated. It’s that as we build digital products, somebody is making a decision about what we should be building. And discovery is really a term that has been used to capture all the work we’re doing to make those decisions. And then good product discovery usually includes the customer as part of that process. The way that I explained it to sort of the average, like a Lyft driver or something like that is I say, how many apps do you have on your phone that don’t really work well for you. And they always say something like all of them.
PF With a Lyft driver, that’s incredibly dangerous. Because they’ll be like, first of all, the Lyft app.
RZ Way to break the ice with the Lyft driver, Teresa. [Rich laughs]
PF It’s true. Okay, so how many apps on their phone?
TT Yeah, how many apps on your phone don’t really work? Which for a lot of us, is most of them, why does that happen? This product teams are just not spending enough time with customers. Product is really hard. We’re still evolving our practices, how do we get good at making software that actually works for humans. So that’s the world that I work in, I coach teams, I coach them on this product discovery process. I teach courses, I wrote a book recently called Continuous Discovery Habits, and I blog at producttalk.org. So that’s kind of me in a nutshell.
RZ You’re hitting a nerve as you describe what you do and what you focus on. Because I think for a lot of people, it’s like, let’s design it out, we got the blueprint, ship it off to engineering, and the real thing will come back, right. And so it’s one of the things at Postlight that we try to advocate for. And we do that like right down to the contracts we sign with people, which is, there’s got to be some flex here. This is not going to be what you thought it was at the very beginning.
PF But nobody likes to buy that. Nobody likes to buy ambiguity and uncertainty.
RZ They want to know they’re gonna get the thing that is shiny. And if there’s a prototype if there’s designs, but it always I don’t think I don’t think we’ve ever done a project where on the other side, we’re like, wow, it’s crazy how exactly we thought it was going to be.
PF Contract just nailed that, man. Why even bother with prototypes when a contract can do all of that for you?
RZ Exactly, exactly. Talk to you about the different constituents you’re dealing with, right? Like, there’s different actors in that process. And they all kind of focus on different things, the engineers, the stakeholders, the business people and how your narrative lands with those different people.
TT Yeah, so I think some of this is related to sort of our history with technology and how we got here. So I think for a lot of companies, they’re still operating under an IT mindset, right? Where an IT team existed, they were a cost center at an organization and they existed to sort of fill order tickets, which is a little bit what we still have, it sounds like in your situation where you’re somebody is contracting with you. They’re basically giving you some order tickets to deliver on. And what have we learned in the last 30, 40 years of building software? Is that we can’t, at the beginning, predict what’s going to work out in the end. And some of that is just normal human stuff. Like we’re all horrible at predicting the future. So some of it is just that, we’re just not very good at predicting the future. Some of it is that we have this myth of like, oh, all I need is an idea. Ideas are cheap. And we forget that we forget that there’s a million ideas, and there’s and really all ideas start out pretty terrible. And we have to iterate on them over time. And that’s how we get to mediocre ideas. And then we have to keep iterating on them to eventually get to good ideas. So that’s kind of one element of it. And then another element of it is that software inherently is complex. And so even if we did land on the right idea at the beginning, and we managed to communicate it effectively, which never actually happens. As we start to build it, we run into all sorts of constraints and limitations that we didn’t know about on day one. And we have to change everything. And it’s always a moving target. So that’s the first piece of why I just don’t–I think we have to let go of this idea of we’re going to predict the future. And hopefully, the year 2020 taught all of us to stop doing that. And then who were all the people involved? This is part of the complexity as well. So like, we have product managers, and designers and software engineers, maybe you have user researchers or content marketers, or that’s just on the team that’s building the product, then we have everybody else in the organization who has an opinion, like sales reps and account managers, and your CEO and your marketing people. And it becomes a pretty big mess very quickly.
RZ First off, I think you’re the first person I’ve spoken to who has gone through this pandemic and said to themselves, wow, I hope everyone finally gets product now. [Rich & Teresa laughs]
PF It’s good to put it down on the podcast, right?
RZ Yeah. Yeah. What do you look for? When you say discovery?
PF What do you look for in the people she’s coaching, or in the product that–
RZ I’m bought in, I’ve decided to have an open mind. I’m not just building a front stoop for my house. This is complicated, and I’m going to be flexible. What do I look for now that I embark on this journey?
TT Yeah. So we’re going to go back to a really old idea, Stephen Covey in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which I think was written in, like the 1920s. Maybe the 30s said, begin with the end in mind. So what’s the impact you’re trying to have? And we’ve been hearing this a lot in our in the product world about shifting from an output mindset to outcome mindset. So let go for a minute, outputs are going to matter. But for a minute, let go of what exactly are we trying to build? And take a step back and say, okay, we’re gonna build something. Imagine that we built that thing. How do we know it was successful? What impact did it have? And really starting with an outcome, and then giving teams flexibility to go discover through interactions with their customers, what’s the best way to have that impact? And the reason why I talked about 2020 is like a good lesson in this is that if, as a product team, you started January 2020, with a fixed roadmap of go build these 10 features, I don’t care where you work by March 2020, I’m guessing at least half of that roadmap was no longer relevant, right? Because the whole economy slowed down, everybody started working from home, needs changed. Whereas if that team had started with, here’s the impact we’re trying to have, but we have flexibility on the how, then when March happens, it’s okay, they are going to change course, but that their stability around the impact they’re trying to have.
RZ You know, this is all echoing and resonating for us. How do you frame this for, I’m gonnna call them the buyer. Let me just be blunt. I mean, and by buyer, it could be it could be in a startup, it could be, you know, visionary, I need this by Funtech Conference 2022 in March in Vegas, and it’s got to be live. I had a boss, who said, we’re going to Miami, and I better have this app in my hand, he didn’t care. He just didn’t care one bit. And so if I had sat him down, and essentially, you know, restated what you just said, which is we got to be flexible and open minded and adjust and tweak. So I can’t really commit. Make the case for the person that thinks that okay, this is the dollar amount, and this is my deadline.
PF Well, you’re not gonna win them all. This is somebody who could be swayed. Let’s make that case.
TT Yeah. Okay. So let’s take this example. Yeah. What’s the impact we’re trying to have with this app? We want to have a successful conference. Okay, I can work with that. Right. So right now, we’re assuming the way to have a successful conference is to launch this app at the conference. That’s one possibility. First of all, that founder just made probably 40 inferences between go to this conference and launch the app. So I want to first uncover all those inferences. Why does my founder think that launching the app is going to lead to success? Why do we need to do it at this conference? What are all those assumptions in there, that I can start to tease apart? And then I can look for opportunities for okay, what’s most important in here, and I might be willing to commit to having an app by the Conference of it looks like it’s in the realm of possibility. What I’m not going to do is commit a year out or six months out, whatever our time timeline is, to, we’re going to have exactly this feature set on exactly this date, it’s going to look exactly like this. Because we know from past experience, like what’s more crazy to ignore 100% of our history, where we didn’t build the thing we promised to build and keep promising, knowing we’re gonna break the promise? Or starting to recognize and say, look, we never deliver on them. Let’s just give ourselves a little bit more flexibility and say, we all agree, we need to have a successful conference. Our best guess right now is that launch this app by then let’s iterate and figure out how do we have the most success at the conference together as we work on the app and figure out what’s the right scope, what’s the right feature set? What does it need to look like? How do we all be on the same team and win together?
PF You know, we have a lot of people who listen to this who are aspiring to be product managers. They’re trying to figure it out. That is the most distilled ‘here’s how you need to approach complicated interactions’ statement I think I’ve ever heard.
RZ Well, she completely oriented around the stakeholder.
PF That’s right, let’s not–because I think what happens with product is people hear you got to say no. And they’re like, pkay, I better get in there and say no, because this doesn’t feel right. And it’s very urgent. Like they got it. They got to say no, right away, because they’re, they’re scared about it’s spiraling. And now there’ll be new requirements, and we’ll never get this thing done. And the thing that you did just did, and I think it’s not even a judo move, it’s just right into the fire, like, okay, yeah, we got to do it. Let’s, let’s figure out what’s in the realm of possibility. That is the exact work it’s very hard to articulate. That does nail it.
RZ We could go into the definition and what we’re talking about when we say product management, product management ranges from this part, which is one of the thorniest trickiest parts, which is managing people to you know, collecting tickets and keeping things organized and making the team move. And like, it’s such a wide, wide swath. Let me ask you about the nightmare scenario. I see product discovery, continuous discovery. Just imagine like lifting up rocks and then seeing nuggets of gold.
PF Just worms.
RZ Yeah, exactly. What if you’re like, shit, I thought we were going Northwest. It turns out we were going south. What if that’s the discovery?
TT Yeah. So here’s the hard reality. And I think this is why most people revert back to old behavior. So what’s old behavior? I have a great idea. It’s the best idea ever. We’re gonna ignore everything the world is telling us put our head down. And we’re going to build this idea.
PF We’ve done. That’s a lot of our meetings. [Teresa & Rich laugh]
RZ Good luck, everybody!
TT We decide, okay, we know that we build a lot of the wrong stuff. And we have that attitude. Let’s do some discovery. Let’s talk to some customers. Let’s build some prototypes. Let’s test some assumptions. And we learned that our idea sucks. And I actually recommend you work with sets of ideas. But you might still learn your ideas, plural suck, right? And so after your first round of kind of engaging with the customer, it feels like you just lost. And that’s where a lot of people give up.
PF That’s true. It’s like nobody wants a bank account for their cat. Turns out we were wrong, right? And then yeah, yeah.
TT Everybody’s ideas suck. Like, this is why Steve Blank says no idea survives first contact with the customer.
PF We should just start saying this during every all hands.
RZ Well we’ve got the title of this podcast.
PF Just like every all hands just say, hey, everybody, just want to remind you, this is one of the hardest things to just accept that 90% of what you come up with is just tomfoolery.
TT It’s hard because we culturally we have this belief of like, the single innovative genius, the Steve Jobs, if you will, right. Right now, it’s probably Elon Musk, or Jeff Bezos, but it doesn’t matter. There’s the flavor of the week, right? Like none of those companies were started and successful because of one person.
RZ And a lot of stuff fails right inside of their worlds, even. Have you seen this rolling–
PF Oh, no, the new Amazon robot?
RZ Rolling Alexa robot thing?
TT I have not! [Teresa laughs]
RZ You have not seen this? You’re going to shift gears, Teresa, and you’re going to have a whole new very seminar to tour with.
PF Teresa is in the Pacific Northwest. We shouldn’t be talking about Amazon because it’s just you know, they’ll send those robots over her house.
TT Although, I’m in Oregon so I have a little distance.
PF It’s not far enough. [Teresa laughs]
RZ It looks like a paint bucket with an iPad.
PF It is so dumb. It is literally seven, eight years ago, somebody said we have to do something about robots. And you can just see a team of 200 people preserving their jobs with this product release.
RZ Yeah, it’s bad. It’s bad.
TT You know, I know a lot of people hate on Amazon. There’s one thing I’m going to say about I don’t know anything about this paint bucket robot. But here’s what I am going to say. Amazon is not afraid to fail and maybe product is a catastrophic failure. But I bet I’m willing to bet it will lead to something down the road.
RZ No doubt.
TT And not only are they not afraid to fail, they’re not afraid to fail really publicly. What about that Amazon phone? What a disaster.
PF That was a special one. Facebook had its phone too but I think they’re ashamed of it. Whereas Amazon’s like, yeah, market wasn’t ready.
TT Amazon trots it out because they learn from it. That’s the key, right? If Facebook learn from their mistakes, we would not be in this horrible political quagmire we’re in.
RZ Well this podcast took a turn. [Rich laughs]
PF Facebook is like, we didn’t make any mistakes, the problem with all world culture.
RZ Yeah, society!
PF If you guys had just understood how good this product was, we wouldn’t have all these problems.
TT So I’m not gonna–there’s a lot of things I’m not going to defend Amazon for.
PF It’s a multitude right? There are good things in there. Yeah.
TT Culturally, I think they’re one of the best companies at learning from failure and not being ashamed of their failure and totally owning it and on to the next thing.
RZ Unashamed. That is a great way to put it. They are unashamed. Some of their stuff is just embarrassing and they’re like oh, here we go. You still want those glitter flip flops.
PF They wrapped a picture of Billie Eilish around one of the smart speakers, the Alexa smart speakers.
RZ Did they really?
PF Yeah. So you can just even like you’re kind of talking, but it’s still the same thing. It’s just wrapped.
RZ Yeah, yeah. They have no shame.
PF Astro is a particular case. So Astro is like a long low whistle of a product, where you’re like, uh oh.
RZ Yeah, I mean, this is a moment.
PF Whatever, they’re gonna spend that money.
TT I’m clearly gonna go look at the paint bucket now.
PF It’s like a dog. It’s a lot. It’s just a lot.
RZ It’s bad. Okay. So continue on this narrative. So okay, it turns out, this is a mess. We’ve got a mess on our hands. Throw it all away?
TT Yeah. So inevitably, I will say you should expect most of your ideas to fail. If we go in with that mindset of most of my ideas are going to suck. And I would rather learn that when they’re still pencil sketches than after I spent six months building it, that’s a win.
PF Rich, you’ve been telling me this for years, like this is this is half of your conversations with me are like, those ideas are terrible.
RZ Yeah, I destroyed Paul’s dreams. And we built a great company on that.
PF It’s one of the cores. I have the dreams. And then you destroy them. That’s the engine of our success.
TT Okay, but it’s not all doom and gloom, you’re not going to just run through bad idea after bad idea.
PF See Rich?
TT Yeah, here’s the key, a lot of us think about, like, I have this idea, I need to test the whole idea. And the challenge with that is, it’s either gonna work or not work. So we’re basically getting a go, no go decision. But we’re not necessarily learning what we need to learn, so that our next round of ideas is better. So one of the key ideas behind discovery is that we have to take our ideas, break them down into their underlying assumptions. And then if we test those assumptions, it’s a little bit like knobs and levers on the idea. So we learned that like, this little slice of the idea isn’t gonna work, we don’t have to throw away the whole idea, we just turn the knob a little bit, we just pull the lever a little bit. And so then every iteration, we’re getting closer and closer to a mediocre idea. And then eventually a good idea.
RZ How do you learn which knobs to turn?
TT Okay, so there’s two parts to this one is there’s a skill around how do I take an idea and figure out what the underlying assumptions are? That’s hard, because we’re blind to most of our assumptions, like, we hold them to be so true, that we don’t even think of them as assumptions. And then the second part is we have to rapidly test them. And then in testing, if we find that, hey, this assumption is faulty, that’s the lever we’re going to turn. We look at our idea and we say, okay, it’s based on this faulty assumption, can I design around it? Can I address it? Is there a way to fix it? If there is I don’t have to throw my idea out, I can just iterate on my idea. But it’s very guided structured, iterating. It’s not just random, let’s try this. And then it didn’t work. Let’s try this other thing.
RZ And when you say testing assumptions, you’re talking about going out maybe to a smaller set of users, observing how they use it, getting surveys, watching behaviors, and whatnot, and then taking that feedback.
TT Yeah, let’s walk through a specific example. Because I think might help. Throughout my book, I used streaming entertainment as my example. So I’m gonna use Netflix here. So Netflix is pretty good at movies and TV shows, right? Not so good at live sports. So we just finished the Summer Olympics. Let’s imagine that customers really wanted to watch the Olympics on Netflix. One idea they have is okay, in the US, NBC shows up the Olympics, let’s integrate a live feed of NBC into the Netflix interface. Solves the problem, right? What are some of the assumptions there? Okay, we’re assuming we can partner with NBC. We’re assuming we can partner with NBC in an economically viable way. We’re assuming that our subscribers want to watch the Olympics, we’re assuming that our subscribers want to watch the Olympics on Netflix. So they don’t already have a better solution. We’re assuming that our subscribers know what channel The Olympics are on, right? Because the way we’re designing the solution is we’re integrating a live feed at NBC. We’re not integrating, here’s the gymnastics finals. We’re assuming that we can stream live events in a feasible way. Right? Like I can buffer a movie or TV show and that’s fine. And I can give you a good viewing experience, even if you have a terrible internet connection. But if it’s a live event, and Rich, you’re streaming it and Paul, you’re watching it on live TV, and because Rich’s streaming it, Paul’s a little bit ahead. What happens when Paul texts rich and ruins the soccer goal?
PF Ah, I can’t wait to do that.
TT Even things, even little assumptions like, okay, so we’re going to take live feed from NBC. We want to display it in the Netflix interface, we probably want to show what’s on right now. Right? So now we have this feasability question of can NBC give us appropriate metadata for the title of what’s on right now, the description of what’s on right now, an image of what’s on right now. So these are all individually assumptions that we can test in isolation, and start to get a better understanding of hey, is this a good idea?
RZ So you destroy dreams, Teresa? That’s an assessment before you go to battle, what I heard there, Teresa. So, you’re saying do the work and really beat up your idea. Pick it apart, is that is what I’m hearing? Is that Is that what you’re saying?
TT Yeah, and that reaction of like, oh, you’re a dream killer is a common one, after you’ve identified all the assumptions, because you’re like, the first time you do this, you’re gonna be like, oh, man, my ideas really are terrible. But here’s the thing. It’s like asking disconfirming questions. It is a very deliberate devil’s advocate kind of black hat. If you’re familiar with the hats, the colored hats, exercise. And the advantage of that is we’re looking for problems before they occur so that we can mitigate them. And here’s the thing, the vast majority of your assumptions are going to be fun, right? Like they’re gonna be mostly true. The key is we want to identify the ones that might be problematic, so that we can dive in and start testing those. So like with this Netflix idea, let’s assume I can partner with NBC, maybe I have some feasibility assumptions I want to jump in. But really, the real risk, I think, is people might say they want to watch sports on Netflix, but maybe they already have Fubo TV, and we’re going to build all this. And they’re still going to watch their sports on Fubo TV. And this was always the time, or like, we’re going to build all this. And people just don’t know the Olympics are on NBC. Like it’s usually these little teeny tiny things. It’s like the bottom card in a house of cards that we just forgot to take care of.
PF No one is born focused on product discovery. So how did you get to this stage in your career? Or maybe you weren’t? Maybe you just came out, and we’re just like, this is all wrong.
RZ What do you want to be when you grow up?
TT I was pretty lucky. As a undergraduate in college, I was introduced to human center of design, I learned a design process where you’re supposed to include the customer, and test with them and learn what problems to solve. And I charged off into the business world as a 22 year old and thought that was how business worked. And then I was sorely disappointed. [Paul & Rich laugh]
RZ None of it works that way.
PF That’s the thing, as I’m hearing you articulate the product discovery process, it’s so much of it is learned from pain, I can hear it. Like you’re just like, there’s so many of these lessons, because we’ve had to learn the same lessons.
RZ I mean, which leads me to I mean, it’s interesting, a lot of this, I don’t think the world is sorted out Product, capital P, and Design and how they play together. And the fact that that, frankly, you could make a case that they are one in the same, great product thinking is good design thinking.
PF The world doesn’t want to think.
RZ No it doesn’t. But the term product and product management and product strategy is real. It’s taken hold.
RZ Unscramble that for us, because we struggle with it, right? We have both product designers and product managers at Postlight. And product strategists now.
PF There’s two words, if you can put them together with strategy, we’ve got that.
TT I’ve been a designer. And that’s how I started my career. I started my career as a front end developer because no one hired designers, I just secretly did design as a front end developer. So I did that for my first two roles was both a front end developer and designer. And then midway through my second role, I became a designer and a product manager. And then eventually, I lead product and design teams. I never had engineers report to me, but I always had a really good relationship with my engineering peer as a leader, here’s my take on it. I don’t really care what your title is. I feel like we have a group of people, we need to build a product, everybody should use their skills to make that happen. And no two designers are the same and no two product managers are the same and no two engineers are the same. So like I see these companies like put so much time and energy into let’s define what it means to be a product manager.
PF Oh god, I can’t do it. I can’t do it ever again. It just feels like the last 20 years of my life. If I get one of those conversations I now know to run the other direction.
TT Yeah, it’s navel gazing right like who cares?
PF People love to define their disciplines it’s because it lets them actually establish the territory that they will be in control.
RZ You know who I blame for this? Cisco. Cisco Certified shit from like 30 years ago.
PF No, no, because AWS, Novell, like all those certifications are actually so many people’s way into the workforce of this world.
RZ It is and it also tiered, right? Oh, this is level five. He’s coming into the room.
PF But I’ll tell you what happens is all the people in our world, our product world, look down at that. We really do.
RZ Yeah, it’s true.
TT I’d rather like, forget–you get three people working together. I don’t want someone to say I’m the product manager. I’m the designer. I’m the engineer. I’m gonna say Hi, I’m Paul. Here’s how I can contribute.
PF Oh, man.
RZ Teresa, you’re giving Paul–he’s gonna make everyone call themselves Paul at Postlight.
PF This would be my dream, right? I’m like, oh, hey, guys, this is the lesson I’ve learned. We’re inherently disciplinary, interdisciplinary. This is a tricky boundary, right? Because people do need, they need to return to their disciplines, I think just to kind of get to sleep at night, but the work itself, and the thing you’re trying to build truly has no respect for those boundaries. And so that is this eternal tension.
TT I will emphasize, I’m definitely not saying design isn’t its own thing.
PF No, I know, I know. But the product doesn’t care.
TT Yeah, we just over rely on those definitions.
RZ We do. And I think it’s here. It’s very human. It’s like, you know, what do you do at the barbecue? When they ask you? What do you do? You got to really put it together and tell a story, right? So I think that’s part of it.
PF So when you teach this class, who comes to the class, like, who can you turn into someone? And how do you turn them to become product discovery experts?
TT Yeah, so I teach product managers, designers in software engineering, this in ideal world, their whole team is joining together. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t. And they learn how to start with an outcome. So here’s a metric we’re trying to move that measures the impact you’re trying to have. They learn how to go out and talk to customers, and use those interviews to discover unmet needs, unmet pain points, unmet desires, which we collectively call opportunities for a very archaic reason. And then they learn how to run assumption test to evaluate their solutions. And they learn how to do that in a really structured way. So that as we talk to customers, and we run experiments, things get really messy. So one of the things I like to do is give a lot of structure. So you know, when you’re lost in the mess, here’s how you can make sense of it. And I draw a lot from decision making research and critical thinking and problem solving research to kind of make the mess a little bit tidier. Still going to be a mess, but I can make it a little bit tidier.
PF How long are the classes?
TT I have a few different programs. So I teach my my flagship program is our master class that introduces you to that whole process. And that’s six weeks, we meet for two hours a week for six weeks in a row. And then we have a few different like skill based classes like we do in class on continuous interviewing, and how to really ask good questions in an interview, we have a deep dive class on defining good outcomes, and a couple others. And those are five week classes.
RZ I always like to shift it to we’re helping product managers and people on the ground. I’m a UX designer for three years, I’m interested in growing, I think, look, we talk about how hey, everybody’s Paul, and everybody should just work together do well. But I think as a practitioner, what advice would you give that person who is they’ve kind of got the boxes and arrows sorted out, right? They’re good at that. But they want to do more, and they want to expand out, you know, what advice would you give to the design practitioner or even the prenota, classic project manager who lives in JIRA, but actually has opinions about directionally where the product should go?
TT Yeah, I think there’s one of the ideas of sort of like talent development is this idea of T shaped people, where you have a depth in one area, and then breadth in a lot of different areas. And I really like that model, right? So if we just take designers for a second, some designers come from a visual design background, they were our traditional graphic designers, as they came into the digital interactive world. Their depth is on visual design, but they need to develop breadth on things like information architecture, things on interaction design, maybe even user research. Same idea for a product manager, maybe you have a product manager who’s really analytical and can manage all the analytics and modeling. But they’re less good at, say, stakeholder management or interface design, and they don’t have to do the design work. But they have to know how to shape it with a designer. Sure. Right. And so I think, from that perspective, like how do I level up is I would think about, like, what are your strengths today, where’s your depth, and then based on your role, and who you’re working with, what’s the most valuable places to invest in breadth? And that might be I want to learn a little bit more about my peers jobs, so I work with them better. Or it might be my team has a gap, and I can go fill that gap.
RZ This is huge advice. Because I think people underestimate how mushy this part of the world is. It’s not like I put my three years in and I’m getting promoted to senior blah, blah, blah, it doesn’t. You know, we’ve seen people move laterally, like and just grow in weird ways. You just have to kind of go, go there. Rarely is there a clear stepped program in this world.
TT Yeah, we talked to me jokes about Cisco, right? People collect credentials, but the secret is, I don’t think I’ve ever met a hiring manager that cares about a credential that way, not any of these like corporate certified credentials, right? It’s so when people ask me all the time, like, are there credentials that I recommend? Don’t do it for the credential, do it because there’s something very specific you want to learn and find the best person you can learn that.
RZ Yeah, yeah, they’re thinking about their personal marketability. And I think your frankly, your portfolio and the work you’ve been involved in is going to eclipse any sort of–those Citrix certification though Paul is something. [Teresa laughs]
PF I mean, you remember when Microsoft was ascendant and everyone was like Microsoft Certified Professional, they have awards and ceremonies.
RZ Yeah. And it’s because you could write an Excel macro.
PF But there was something Teresa said that I think is really important, which is like, if you are, I think about this a lot. When people ask me for advice, I’m sort of like, go find the person who’s doing what you want to do and stand as close to them as possible.
RZ It’s great advice. Not physically, Paul.
PF Well, actually, initially as possible, as close as they will allow you to get–
RZ Into their personal space?
PF Just trying to get there.
RZ You follow them home?
PF No, as they will allow you to get. You have to respect their boundaries,
RZ People love to teach, actually. You know, there are jerks in the world, but people tend to be–you say, wow, that’s really impressive. I’d love to learn more about how you got there. I love to share that.
PF Also, you know, the question is, how can I be useful? And then give you a minute to think about it. And they might tell you.
TT So the other thing like we’re living in the heyday of the internet is amazing. Yeah, first of all, tons of people have written books, books are like the cheapest way to learn. Like, you shouldn’t think twice about buying a book, because you’re getting a lifetime of experience for like 10 bucks.
PF Interesting to hear this from someone who’s written a book. [Rich laughs]
TT And I’m also an avid reader.
RZ It’s funny, it is such a good–I mean, it’s such obvious but seldom pursued advice.
TT You can also take a course from literally, almost every thought leader in the product space. Like it just exists now. So I feel like, of course, I have my own book and courses I’ll promote, but the key is, what are you trying to learn? Who’s the best person to learn that from? They probably have a book, or a community or a course or a blog or a newsletter. It’s amazing. [music ramps up]
PF Well, and then just do it. Stop shopping, spend, you know, the $125 and just watch the videos.
RZ It’s all out there. This was great, Teresa, I mean, a lot of what you’re saying resonates with how we think about product at Postlight. But you’ve got a great plain English delivery.
PF It’s also just really good to hear about the structured discovery process, that is good to know about.
RZ Thing is though, if people want to skip all that and hire Postlight, they can just do that. So we might have to destroy this podcast.
PF No, no, this has always been the policy of our marketing.
RZ If you don’t want to read a book–
PF And you have a significant product budget–
RZ Please contact postlight.com. [Paul & Rich laugh] So Teresa, thank you so much for doing this. Teresa heads up Product Talk. She gives courses, seminars, she’s got a book. I’m guessing if you type in Product Talk Teresa in Google, things will happen.
PF Product talk.org, I think that’s got it.
RZ Okay. Teresa, thank you for being on the podcast. This was great.
TT Thanks for having me. It’s been a lot of fun.
[music ramps up, plays alone, ends]