Welcome to the second installation of our series on recommended podcasts in 2020. Last time I focused on engineering podcasts. This time I want to focus on product management, AKA product.
People in our industry use the word product in myriad ways, which can be a bit opaque to newcomers – or even industry veterans who don’t follow startup lingo.
What even is Product?
The truth is that it can mean many different things depending on the context, depending on the organization. Product is typically short for product management, sometimes product development, product design or several other phrases. It’s ubiquitous in startups, but it’s an increasingly common title in enterprises too. For example, Capital One has a huge product management team. Okay but what is product management?
Product management is all of the tasks involved in building a product roadmap and business model.
Concretely, it can be user research, defining experiments to validate business hypotheses, defining a product vision, working with engineers and designers (and often project managers) to develop a strategic plan and a rough timeline, liaising with subject matter experts (and often becoming one), being a user champion, coordinating efforts between marketing and R&D, and about a thousand other tasks.
Its vagueness can make it challenging to understand in depth, at first. That’s also what makes it a rapidly-evolving field of practice, where you can quickly become an expert in a niche market.
The podcasts below will help you get a sense for the varied meanings of product and why it’s such an exciting field right now.
- The Product Experience
- Masters of Scale
- Masters of Product Management
- From Scratch with Jessica Harris
- This Week in Startups
- How I Built This
This is probably my favorite show that self-describes as being focused on product. They have guests that bring perspectives from across the gamut, from boutique consultants to PMs at Fortune 100s. There’s also just a ton of good advice on being a leader in a tech-focused organization.
I recently enjoyed an episode on running workshops with Jonathan Courtney, because it’s an experience I still find intimidating. I was also rapt listening to this episode with Todd Green on being a product manager inside King games (makers of Candy Crush and other hits).
This one is not ostensibly about product management, but it covers so many valuable lessons for people looking to build products – and businesses based on software products. It’s hosted by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, who has gone on to invest in and advise many successful tech companies. What sets this show apart is that Mr. Hoffman is able to use his personal status to get incredible guests.
This episode with Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings is a great discussion on the role of company culture. One of my favorites is this early episode with Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, with great lessons on how to build something people love.
What I like about this show is that it has small, focused episodes. So if there’s a specific topic I want an overview of or a refresher on, I can often find an episode that covers it. I don’t listen every week, but it’s a fantastic resource. For example, I recently enjoyed this 13 minute episode covering product roadmaps.
What makes this show so compelling is its focus on the process of going from idea to a thing that exists in the world. It’s a master class in problem definition and understanding product-market fit. Some episodes are about traditional product, some about starting charities or organizations less obviously related to a product. They all have interesting lessons to convey.
It’s hard to pick a favorite, but here are a few good from scratch stories: Stripe, Instagram, Dropbox.
Jason Calacanis, the noted angel investor, hosts this show with a rotating group of guest experts. It’s a weekly review on the most interesting stories from the world of entrepreneurship. I don’t listen every week, but when I do, I always hear some story or lesson that I take away and ponder on.
I love this show too, about the creation stories behind well-known brands. It’s quite similar to From Scratch in a way. It has more focus on a compelling narrative – perhaps at the expense of some focus and raw honesty. It’s hard to say which I like better. They’re both great.
The one with Ben & Jerry’s founders is great, as was the one with the other Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia. Though my favorites might be about products I’d heard of but didn’t fully understand why they were successful, like the one with Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe.
You can see from the wide variety of shows that product covers a huge number of topics. I hope you found something interesting and maybe even inspirational. Whenever I listen to From Scratch or How I Built This, I always get renewed energy to imagine the world I want to live in – and to try to build it.
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