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This weeks episode we’re sitting down with Joe Koudsi. Joe is currently VP of Product at TransUnion, overseeing marketing analytics solutions. He’s been working on building analytics products and services for large enterprises for the past decade or so. Starting his career at an early stage startup, helping it grow and eventually be acquired, and now is responsible for its success at TransUnion.

Joe’s Top 5 Leadership Tips:

Below is a summary of the Top 5 Leadership tips shared during the interview this week. Take a listen to the episode to learn more about the thoughts behind these tips –

  1. Check Your Ego At The Door
  2. Have A Bias For Action
  3. Collect Good Feedback
  4. Learn From The Best
  5. Hire Passionate Problem Solvers

We hope you enjoy the episode. You can find even more Full Stack Leader episodes here:

https://www.wondermentapps.com/fullstackleader/

Show Transcript

Ryan: Hello everyone. And welcome to this week’s episode of the full stack leader podcast. We’re excited this week to have an old friend of mine, Joe Koudsi. Join us. He’s the vice president of product management at trans union. Welcome Joe. It’s great to 

Joe: have you here. Thank you, Ryan. It’s great to be here. 

Ryan: Well, why don’t we start by talking a little bit about your journey on the product management path.

Tell us a little bit about how you got to where you are now. 

Joe: Sure. Yeah, it’s kind of been an interesting journey for me. I think when I. Think about what actually got me into product management may be a surprise for some folks, but it actually started out with the passion I have for basketball growing up.

It’s awesome. Especially in LA I was as a huge Laker fan. I’m a big Kobe Bryant. And I just became, so, interested in basketball, in the Lakers and would read as much as I possibly could about it. And when I was in school, I was studying economics. And. I had taken a class called econometrics, which I thought was really fascinating and around the same time.

I had been reading about use of analytics and sports and analytics had been used kind of widely in baseball. And that kind of started with U F and to like Moneyball but not so much in other sports, especially basketball at that time. But. People were starting to use it.

And there were some interesting models being built, some interesting literature being put out around the use of handling. In basketball. And that really fascinated me. And I can connect it very directly to what I was learning in school, which also fascinated me. And so I started doing a lot of research into it and I realized that I had a strong passion for this.

So I would take like the tools I learned. In my economic classes and then would try to apply them to basketball use cases like basketball analytics. And so I would bring in data from different sources, like stats for, you know, NBA stats and start building models to try to evaluate player performance and so on.

And it really fascinated me. And I realized like, Hey, this is something that, you know I want to learn more about, and maybe I want to pursue 

Ryan: and you were doing all of that. For a fantasy or just for fun, no fantasy basketball 

Joe: Not fantasy basketball. It was really just for fun to try to better understand like, cause I was super, yeah.

 I think it was to the point where I was kind of obsessive a little bit, which probably wasn’t good, , but I just love that you could use actually, you know, what was really interesting to me was I found that I would watch games and I would have this intuition about games. That weren’t and that intuition wasn’t necessarily represented in the stats.

So like when you would look at when people would evaluate players, for example, and say, this player is the best player, this player isn’t as good and so on, they would use different stats like points, score for game or rebounds per game, or steals, predict whatever. And I realized when I would watch the game, it wouldn’t necessarily resonate with those stats.

Like my idea of who was the best wasn’t necessarily correlated with who had the best stats from a traditional sense. And so when I started reading more about the use of advanced statistics to better understand the game. I started to find that the use of those advanced statistics correlated more closely with my intuition.

And so that really excited me. So I felt like I was onto something that you can use data and you can use more advanced techniques to try to understand something much better in a way that is predictive, which to me is quite magical. And so. I began to take more advanced classes. And in, you know, in fact, part of, one of the classes I took, which was I think it was called advanced quantitative methods.

We had to do a final project where we would do a statistical analysis and present the results of that analysis to our classmates and write a paper about it. I chose to do it on basketball. And of course, yeah. And so I built these models to evaluate player performance and then compare those models to traditional means that even general managers in the NBA were using to evaluate.

The idea was you’re 

Ryan: it sounds like you were doing early AI work in 

Joe: basketball. Yeah. So these types of models, like these econometric models, it was billing. There was just simple regression models. You have certainly a subset of AI. Yeah, we’re really. Yeah, it was amazing for me because not only could I learn about, building these types of models, but I could also better understand the game.

And I also, I found so many inefficiencies, you know, with how GM’s were evaluating players. And it, it was really fascinating. And then it made me wonder, like, I’m sure these inefficiencies exist everywhere and you could probably take these types of models and apply them to basically. Any business use case.

 And so I was very fascinated by that and I realized that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted it to work in a space where you can leverage data. And you sort of models or machine learning. And at the time, like, you know, data science, machine learning, AI, weren’t the same kind of buzzwords that they are now.

Right. But the idea is that you can build these sorts of models to explain things that may not necessarily be intuitive and provide a lot of. And then there were some books written that really popularized this, like Freakonomics is one that, that’s great. But yeah, so 

Ryan: another great podcast, by the way, as 

Joe: well.

Yeah. That is a great podcast. So yeah, that became my passion. I realized that’s what I wanted to do. And so after I graduated, I was looking for roles in this space. I didn’t really care about the use case so much as, as much as the fact that, or the application, as much as I cared about a role in which I was using data and data science to try to better understand something.

And so I ended up getting a job at. The retailer forever 21. That was my first job. Yep. And after forever 21, my job was to effectively forecast sales of different types of merchandise. So I can then go to our buyers and say, You know, here’s how many blue basic tops we should buy and shipped to Tokyo next year.

 and that was kind of an interesting use case and fascinating for sure. Yeah, but yeah, and so I was working on that and while I was doing that I started also learning how to do a lot of program because a lot of my job involved pulling reports, downloading data from multiple sources, bringing it together, analyzing that data and so on.

And when I first started doing it, I found it was quite tedious. And so I started learning about how to automate a lot of that. And so I got deep into kind of programming processing data, automating building some of these models and automating reporting in Excel and so on. And I got pretty good at it while I was there.

And I eventually got to the point where. I pretty much had been able to automate everything that I was doing. And so that was really fun. It was fun working on those projects to automate everything I was doing. And I realized that. An interesting passion of mine, which was, you know, solving these problems where I could take a lot of manual effort and automated and streamline it in the context of data and analytics and so on.

And that was fun. And, but the one challenge I had was I found that, I’m trying to think of the right way to phrase this. The challenge I had was fitting into the culture at that organization. I don’t think they, they had prioritized. The use of data and data science as much as I would have liked them to.

And so,, I found that culturally, it wasn’t the greatest fit for me. And I had decided that, I was going to leave and move on to another option. And 

Ryan: so, and you know, on that point too, I think having a culture for that style of innovation is something that’s relatively new in most consumer companies at this point.

I think it’s like you mentioned Moneyball earlier. It certainly, there’s a lot of there’s a lot of fight against the use of data and analytics and sports and baseball specifically for a long time. And now it’s, the culture is built in, I think you’re kind of seeing the same in commerce 

Joe: as well.

a hundred percent. And I think the challenge was, you know, there were great people. They’re very smart people, but they just didn’t have this background. And so I came in with kind of a unique background and a unique passion for this sort of stuff. And I don’t think that It was necessarily met, by some of my peers or some of my bosses.

And so, there was a challenge there and there was some friction. And so I decided that it maybe wasn’t the best environment for me to work and continue to build my career. And so. I decided I was going to move on, but as part of that, obviously I wanted to leave, I wanted to make sure that, , everything I had done, they were still able to leverage I left my position as good as shape as it possibly could have been left.

And so, they had. Found someone to replace me internally. So they were going to move someone internally into my role. And so my job during the transition was to train her and I realized everything I had done to automate my job was just a bunch of scripts that I had written that and she had no background in programming at all.

And there was going to be no, no way for me to train her on how to operate these scripts, to run them in the short period that. And 

Ryan: yeah, it’s like, here’s your two week window to learn this incredibly complex. 

Joe: Exactly. And so I was like, okay, I’ve got to figure out how to make this easier.

So someone else can use it and operate this. Otherwise, all of this is going to go to waste and they’re going to have to rebuild all this stuff or do it manually, which would be terrible for her quite frankly. And so I. I took that as an opportunity to try to figure out how to build a UI, to operate a lot of these things.

So I literally took, Excel made it my interface and put some buttons on there that when you click them would call these scripts and so on and operate the processes. And I found when I did that, that it was a lot of fun. And when I saw her come in and use the tools and pretty quickly figure out how to operate them.

That really excited me. Like I got a thrill that I hadn’t felt before. . I 

Ryan: was going to say like, like making that connection between the actual usage of it and the usability. That is an exciting moment. I know that I know exactly where. 

Joe: A hundred percent. And when I felt that thrill, I was like, okay, I think I found my calling.

 This is what I want to do. I want to build products that use data and machine learning, and so on. But they’re products that anyone can come in and use. That really I would say was the first time that I felt like, , this is what I, this is really what I want to do a month in my career.

And so after that role, I found this company, it was a startup in LA called market share actually through a friend who was, who had been working there. Yeah. I ended up joining market share. And I started off kind of as like a data engineer and econometric modeler. And while I was in that role , I finally felt like I had found a place to.

Was a great cultural fit for me. Quite frankly, it was like a playground. There were so many brilliant people there, especially when I first joined and it was incredible and I learned so much from them and but while I was there, it was still, very early stage and. A lot of processes hadn’t been built, a lot of tools hadn’t yet been built.

And so there was a whole lot of opportunity to come in and have an impact and build tools to help make our teams more efficient and so on. And so, when I was there, I realized that, given that I have this strong passion to build these tools, I should try and do that and try and help the company.

So I started building these tools to help my peers, other engineers and modelers within the organization. And other people that we’re serving our clients and I started sharing them out and people started using them. And I started getting the same thrill that I had gotten at forever 21.

When I saw her use the tools that I have built for the first time and it was about. It’s awesome. it was because of that, that we had just started building a product team at market share the company at that time was pivoting from a consulting company to a product company.

And we were building out a product team and I think a couple of the product managers that had joined had left and the head of product basically needed someone to replace them. he came to me and it was because of the tools that I had built and said, Hey, you want to join the product team?

Ryan: And we built it. You built yourself into that position. 

Joe: Yeah. quite frankly like when I hire product people today, that’s what I look for. Absolutely. Because I really believe Like I’ve worked with many product managers and most of them have been really very smart people. Cause obviously you have to have a certain level of competence to be able to do product management and a certain level of communication skills and so on to do product management.

But what I found is that if you don’t. Experienced that thrill when someone uses your product or you don’t have this burning desire to solve problems for other people I don’t think you’ll be an effective product manager, no matter how smart you are or how great you are as a communicator. 

Ryan: Can you say a little more about.

 What about it in the burning desire to solve those problems for people? Like why does that relate so much to product management? 

Joe: Let’s take a look at like the role I got today. So, the product that I managed today Is a marketing analytics product.

That’s primarily used by people within the marketing analytics department at a major company or immediate planner at an agency. These are all roles that I currently do not. Do and I’ve never been a media planner. I’ve never been a marketing analytics person though.

I’ve done some of that work. Well, I was at forever 21 and so on. And so in order for me to build products for them I’ve got to have. I’m not solving problems for myself, right. I’m solving problems for them. And if I don’t have the strong desire if I don’t get this thrill from seeing their problem solved and seeing them happy using the products that I’m building, I don’t think I’ll have the motivation required to work really hard.

To solve really challenging problems in certain cases for them and to be successful. And I’ve seen that play out time and time again, that the most successful product managers I’ve worked with have had this desire. It’s not necessarily been their competence, though.

All of the great ones I’ve worked with have been really competent and really brilliant. But I’ve also worked with others that have been. Competent in joining. It’s just this strong desire that this will, that like, I’m going to really work hard to understand your problem to understand what. And I really want to solve it, and I want to make sure that I solve it by meeting with you and seeing you actually use it and feeling that thrill of you being happy using it, you know?

Ryan: Yeah. And I think to this point too, a lot of times people get into product and they’re really good at one side, one element of it, but like the kind of depth and rounded. Of a true product manager, a true product leader. It requires you being involved in a lot of different things and like you said, have the desire to push it through, to actually solve the problem for the market, whatever it is.

And that pushed through is really difficult. I know it’s something that a lot of entrepreneurs go through. But it’s also something that is embedded in the product management experience. 

Joe: Yeah. I mean, if you get the thrill, if you feel the thrill, when someone is using the product and it’s solving their problem.

That’s going to inspire you and motivate you to work really hard and do the hard work required to solve those presses. , and, you know, you’d be surprised. It seems obvious. Right. But you’d be surprised how many people don’t I think, really feel that thrill and that it’s no problem. It’s just, I don’t think product management is the right role for those people because it can be a difficult job and I think.

I would love to see great products out in the world. And I think the only way you get to truly great products is if you’re motivated by that thrill. 

Ryan: Yeah, that makes sense. So, you’re kind of making your pathway through and and it sounds like building those internal tools really made a huge difference.

And as you transitioned into your first PM job, what was that like? 

Joe: Yeah, so that was fun because that my first PM job was to actually build our internal platform, our internal data and modeling platform. And deployment platform for our product. And when I first joined, we had, we were just building up our engineering team and I didn’t really have any engineers.

So, so that was very fun. At that point I had to figure out, how to develop some tools to get us by. So I prototyped a lot of things and got a lot of feedback. And that actually taught me a very valuable lesson, which is, you know, try to get. And this is obvious too, but it’s like trying to short path the way to determining product market fit.

 And I was forced to do that because I didn’t have engineers. So I was forced to prototype. And develop things. And what that meant was I could quickly build things, get feedback and iterate. So by the time I actually had engineers, I had already so much data on how people were using the product and what they wanted.

And so on. Then I was so confident that, the time and the engineering time invested was going to be valuable. That taught me a really valuable lesson early on that I don’t think I would have learned otherwise until. Took the time with engineering, building something that wasn’t the right product for users.

So that, that was, 

Ryan: yeah. We go through this all the time as a company that builds things for lots of different people, because everybody’s at different stages. And I think when. Whether you’re at an enterprise or a startup, it doesn’t really matter if you’re building something new. You have to have it flexible enough to where you can just get feedback and go and change and adjust and not get into a really detailed engineering project management system that like is it’s slow.

It’s, they’re very stable and they’re great. And they build awesome things, but you just can’t iterate to find answers quickly. 

Joe: hundred percent especially in an environment where you may be. Having engineers spread across the world globally, where there’s a lot of communication, overhead and so on, like it, which is, you know, I think very common today.

You have to be really careful with how you prioritize their work and you want to be as certain as you possibly can be with the outcome you know, before you started any work with them. And so I, you know, my advice to product managers out there would be like, do everything you can. To validate your hypothesis before you, begin production development work on, especially on big features.

And a lot of that is obvious and goes without saying, but, you know, sometimes I think it’s easy to forget. And sometimes it’s easy to feel like, especially if you’ve had success that That what you think you should be building is the right thing to build. When in fact it may not be any, even after I’ve learned some of these lessons, quite frankly, I’ve I still made mistakes where I’ve prioritized production work for engineering that ended up not being all that valuable once develop.

Well, and 

Ryan: I think in that process too, you’ve, you’re figuring out what to request the engineers to actually think about engineering as well, because there are certain things that you’re going to bring together, bring to light as a product person around the concept around the market, fit around all these different elements, but then there’s actual like deeper level engineering that has to happen.

And that’s where you’re accessing the highest, best quality of those particular teams. 

Joe: Yeah. And a hundred percent. And I think also like you, you want to find ways in which you could rapidly iterate. Yeah, for sure. I think I’m not sure exactly who said this, but I think it’s a hundred percent true.

I think, you know, the rate of. At which you can really innovate is going to be completely determined by the rate at which you can iterate. Like, you know, the more you iterate and the faster you can iterate the higher, the likelihood that you will actually build something innovative. And the faster you’ll do that more fast.

Yeah, exactly. I mean, yeah. Cause you have to learn., especially when you’re building things for others, building something for yourself, you know, that’s a different story. But most people in product management or building something for others and you can’t possibly know everything until you’ve actually gotten something in front of them and gotten their feedback.

And I was very fortunate quite frankly, that I didn’t have engineers. Cause I don’t know that I would have learned this lesson. You know, I, it would have taken me longer to learn this lesson and I don’t know that I’d be as successful as I am now because I Yeah, we may have worked on something taken a long time.

It would have been my first time working in product management with a team that was global. It would have been a challenge for me, but because I was able to iterate quickly and learn I felt really confident and it made my first experience working with. I think really successful and that success led to more successes and so on.

And so, that was great. And I worked on our internal platform for awhile and then eventually on our client-facing application which was really fun. We built as new versions of the product and it was really fun working on that. And that’s. Really started to learn a lot about design and user experience and became really excited.

I was fortunate to work with some really great designers and people with tons of experience. I learned so much from that experience. That was awesome. 

Ryan: Yeah. Having that expertise in UX can dramatically change how you look at everyday. 

Joe: Oh, yeah, for sure. Yeah. A hundred percent.

 And that shaped a lot of a lot of how I quite frankly, do everything today. It’s not just about the UX have a product, but it’s also, you know, when you’re presenting something, how you lay out your presentation and tell a story and what you put on your slides and so on, design has also become a very big passion of mine.

It’s really important to me. And I find , a lot of product managers ignore it, actually. And I think that’s a mistake. Yeah, 

Ryan: again, that’s another one of those tenants, right? So like, I know I talked to my product team a lot about being full stack product managers and the idea being that they can run across a number of pillars, which include marketing and market fit.

And. Design and tech and, you know, bringing all these different things together and there’s a lot more, but those foundational ones over the course of time, you have to learn to be able to work within all of them to be a really well-rounded product 

Joe: person. Yup. Yeah. Couldn’t agree more. Yeah.

And so I worked on these products and then market share was growing fast. We eventually got acquired by a company called new star, which was public at the time. And after that acquisition I want to say like, about a year in the executive team at market share moved on. And at that point that’s when I effectively, became head of product for the marketer of business and effectively the GM of the market trip.

At new star and new star was then taken private and then subsequently, acquired by TransUnion and I’m at TransUnion now. And my role is pretty much the same. I’m still responsible for the success of. Market your business we’ve since rebranded and renamed it, but within TransUnion, 

Ryan: I have a question during that period where you made that leadership switch and it sounds like a bit of a role change into a kind of broader ownership. What were some of the challenges in terms of the leadership in that area that you face and how did that affect you as a product manager, but also how did that affect you as someone that’s overseeing pretty broad teams.

Joe: Yeah. So I went from really being a product manager that was heavily focused on, product design product development with engineering and so on to having to become more of general manager. I’m not only responsible for product, but also the success of the business, which meant having to first explain to our internal stakeholders, like my new bosses what it is we did where our challenges were, what our roadmap should be.

How we’ll win in the marketplace and so on and what our business strategy should be which really forced me to improve my communication skills significantly. And I was pushed into this environment where, I had to not only get new leadership up to speed on our business, but also get buy in on, our strategy and what we needed to be successful.

Learned a lot of important skills during that process, but, the, I guess the number one principal or takeaway is just be very clear in your communication. Be very clear on what your objectives are and tell the story in a clear and simple manner. I think, people get.

I see so many presentations that. Are just all over the place. It’s unclear on what the story is. It’s unclear on what the objective is. And I just urge people to like really focus on ask yourself, going into a presentation, put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re communicating to and ask yourself, are they taking away?

What I want them to take away from this slide or from this point that I’m making or from this paragraph in this. 

Ryan: And will they contextually understand what I’m saying? Because I’ve set it up 

Joe: for them a hundred percent. Yeah. The context is super important. And don’t assume that people know what, and go straight into the detail.

Like sometimes it’s okay. If you explain something that they may already know for the sake of setting the context. Cause you’d much rather. Be redundant than miss out on key context that then loses your audience. And then at that point, your presentation is pointless. And quite frankly, you treat Crescent.

Yeah. You treat the presentations and the communication in the same way that you would treat building a product, which is put yourself in the shoes of the user and and then make sure you build what they need. And so, that’s not to say that you just want to tell people what they want to hear, but rather tell people what they need to hear.

And make sure that, if you’re very clear on your strategy or your mission or your plan that you make sure you set up you include the right context. You’re very clear on how you’re going to achieve the plan and what your plan is. And there are many frameworks you can use to help you do 

Ryan: that.

Yeah. For all of you budding product managers or business, you know, business team leaders that are growing out there. That what he’s saying about this is so, so important, whether you’re going for investment, are you going to sell something as somebody who I do presentations daily? Like I literally every day and presenting something new.

Putting ideas like ideas together in totally different markets all the time. And thinking about it, the, that underlying concept is very consistent and thinking about the contextual delivery of it, to the people that you’re providing it to is. Like it’s everything actually. 

Joe: Yep, exactly. 

Ryan: So now that you’re now that you’re at trans union and you’ve kind of seen the business evolve and you’re in this kind of new new environment, but similar kind of goals and pathways, has anything changed for you as a leader?

Like, are you’re working contextually different within this particular size of business, a huge business, right. Versus kind of where you were. Was also a good size business, but I really like how things change for you in the way that you’re working with people and thinking about product releasing.

Joe: Yeah. So, so it’s still early on. I certainly expect more changes to come, but I would say it’s similar in that two to when we first got acquired by new star where you’ve really. Be crystal clear about your strategy and your mission and your plan and why, where, how you think you can be successful and what level of investment you need to be successful and so on.

So I would say there’s a lot more of that now, because of the transition. For the most part, because there isn’t much overlap in terms of products and services between, you know, the business that I manage and what TransUnion’s got there, hasn’t been really much of a change for me.

But in terms of like my role specifically I think when you move on from being just purely product focused to being, you know, a bit more broad, broader in, in your scope you spend a lot more time In sales, in marketing and strategy sessions. And less time 

Ryan: management. Yeah. Less time building those spreadsheets with the dashboards tied to them.

Right. 

Joe: Exactly. And you, but you also have to be like, so now I’ve got really good set of product leaders that I have to entrust to, you know, take over and make sure that they’re empowered. To be really successful leaders within the organization to drive product innovation and so on. And so a lot Mo you know, my, my job now is really about ensuring that they have clarity on our goals and our constraints.

And then from there just letting them, you know, giving them the room to to do whatever it takes to be. And I feel like that’s super important. Like in my role, it’s all about being clear on what our goals are, what our mission is and what constraints may exist. And but within that framework, allowing the team to figure out whatever things they need to figure out 

Ryan: That’s great.

Well, I really appreciate you taking the time to guide us through where you’ve been in your career. Some of the challenges you faced and really some of the inspiration you faced to actually grow your product development skills, like in how you actually got to this place. So, it’s wonderful.

Thanks. Thanks for bringing that to us today. Yeah, 

Joe: absolutely. 

Break One

Ryan: Growing up with a passion for basketball. Joe began his journey into analytics. When he found the correlation between his love for sports statistics and predictions. I was incredibly fascinated how this led him to begin his journey into forecasting trends while automating process.

Joe’s methodology is a perfect example of how learning unexpected skills can expand a leader’s ability to open up new areas of growth in the future. In fact, great leaders always take the time to explore, investigate, and study new options. These are of course, just an opportunity for growth and a way to pave the path for others in new spaces.

Welcome back everyone. We’re excited to be here today with Joe Koonzy and he’s talking to us about product management, leadership also larger level tech leadership across the board, especially in the world of data. So it’s really great. And today Joe has five tips for us. He wants to share.

So we’re excited to have those. So Joe, let’s jump in. And why don’t you provide us with tip number one 

Tip One (Check Your Ego At The Door) 

Joe: or I would say. Tip number one as a product manager is to check your ego at the door. I think, yeah it’s so easy to like take any kind of criticism personally. But in reality, critical feedback is exactly what you need to improve individually and also to improve your product.

And so. It may be hard to do, but I strongly encourage everyone to just appreciate critical feedback and not let your ego get in the way of you taking that feedback and making improvement. W one thing I just want to add, I know this is we should go quickly, but like a great example of this is I think I made the most development personally when I went from a boss who is a great boss, by the way, but everything I did was always great.

And he did the feedback that I would get is like, great job. Awesome job. And it basically made you feel like anything you did was great. And then I ended up getting a new boss and. Everything I did, he would basically criticize and I loved it because he helped me think differently. And with, without that, I don’t think I would have developed some of the necessary skills to, improve and be successful.

And so, I can’t express this more strongly. I really think you need to check your ego at the door. 

Ryan: Great. I, yeah, I, and it is like as a leader to a balance of where to give like really supportive feedback and then where to really, you know, communicate the truth and give people guidance towards those tougher feedbacks communications.

Joe: But I honestly, if I, sometimes maybe some people on my teammates may be too harsh, but I, because it’s helped me so much, I feel like, you know, even though it may be hard to do I’m not afraid to give critical feedback because it’s about it’s about the work and the product. It’s not about the.

And it’s all about building the best product and doing the best work. And I found that people, while it may maybe hurt their feelings a little bit during the call or shortly thereafter, I think they realized like, you know what? This is all because like the intention is good. 

 It’s to do the best work. 

Ryan: Yep. All right. Let’s jump into tip number two, but he got, 

Tip Two (A Bias For Action) 

Joe: All right. And, I’d say have a bias for action and don’t be afraid to step on toes or ruffle feathers so long as you have good intention.

And you’re trying to do the right thing. I think it’s, you’re going to find that so many people spend their time sitting around talking. Complaining, talking about problems. If you come in and you have a bias for action and you have solutions, even if they may not be the right solutions, having something that you can go and showcase even if it means that you may have to step on people’s toes or do someone else’s job I found almost always.

Moves the company in a better direction, even if it may not be necessarily the right solution. It helps get the ball rolling and helps bring some momentum so that, more solutions can be found on top of it. And so I would say. Yeah. At some point, people have to stop talking to someone, has to take action and do something.

And I found the most success where, you know, I’ve been able to go in and do that. And some of my solutions quite frankly, have just been not good ones, but just the act of, doing something will then inspire and motivate others to do that, to do the same. And I think related to that, it’s like just, when there is a problem people we’ll send emails or slack messages or whatever.

And like, I don’t know what it is about today’s culture, but like a lot of people that are just afraid to call someone on the phone to make something like to get to the bottom of something and figure it out and solve a problem. And it’s just call, just pick up the phone and call. I have to, I it’s embarrassing how many times I have to say this to people today.

And I just, think. We solve problems a lot faster. If people just felt confident enough or comfortable just picking up a phone and calling someone when there’s an issue. I don’t know why people don’t do it. So, I would say that’s number two. Awesome. 

Ryan: Great. Number three. 

Tip Three (How To Collect Feedback)

Joe: I think tip number three is also maybe a combination of things.

 A big part of product management is about how you collect feedback on your product. You’re going to get also a lot of requests when you’re in product, like for features and so on. Yep. And so like when you get requests for it, for new features and you don’t, sometimes they’re like obvious and it’s like, yeah, we should definitely do that.

No brainer but sometimes they’re not really that obvious. And. The best the question I have that I always default to, which I’ve found has been really helpful is you know, what’s driving that request you know, just have that in your arsenal. I tend not to ask why are you asking for this?

Because I know I learned that when you ask, why are you asking for this? Some people take it the wrong way. Like you’re questioning their intelligence or something. And so at a much nicer. Of asking why is just asking, Hey, can you give me some more context in that and help me understand what’s driving this request?

I found that has done wonders really related to that though, is to always, you know, question assumptions. This is an important I think thing to do as a product manager, like you, sometimes you get so deep into something and you, you just you’re. You have momentum on, say a product you’re working on.

And so, you know, one feature leads to the next and so on. And sometimes you have to step back and stop and say, you know, is this really necessary? Why am I even doing this? Like why do I feel like the user might need this? What are they doing in this context that, that would require this certain feature and so on.

And so I don’t think people do this enough. And this is more something that you just have to set as a reminder, stop step back question your assumptions question, why you’re doing what you’re doing every so often. Cause you’ll find that you may realize you’re actually doing the wrong thing and there are better solutions out there.

Ryan: Great. That’s really good. and I think that’s a tricky spot for a lot of product managers. They walked the line on this all the time. So learning this sometimes takes going through a number of jobs. 

Joe: Yeah, for sure. If you just set a reminder, you know, every week to just question, like why am I doing this really a problem?

Is this really a problem like that I need to solve? Is there another problem? Is this a symptom? You know, the goal is always to get the root cause. And I think if you, do you get to root cause by asking questions and investigate, so asking questions like what’s driving and 

Ryan: Pre imagining your targets, your analytical targets as well.

That should help guide the direction that you’re trying to go on it, no matter 

Joe: what’s coming in. Yeah. And it is so easy, like, especially if you go into a new company or a new role or you’re taking over a product or whatever, to just do things the way they had been done. And. In many cases, there is a reason why things are done certainly, but like it’s really healthy, I think, to always step back and try to get to, you know, first principles or try to just understand the root of what’s driving a lot of the work you’re doing.

And you know, I find this incredibly fast. Like incredibly valuable. 

Ryan: How about let’s jump to tip number four when you got on that. Yep. 

Tip Four (Learn From The Best) 

Joe: I would say try to learn from the best and almost everything I’ve learned has been either through experience, but mainly from other people. But that may not always be the case from everyone but I would say one way in which you can learn from the best, even if you may not be working with them or be friends with them or whatever it may be is to just go on YouTube and watch as many interviews, presentations, et cetera from the best for the people that that you admire.

I find, I’ve learned so much just from this, like, you know, I was 

Ryan: literally, I’m literally doing that this morning. I’m like, it’s so funny 

Joe: you say that I honestly, and it all started when I, when it, like, when I was in college, Charlie, I remember Charlie rose had his entire catalog online and I literally watched, I watched the whole.

And it, it doesn’t have to be other tech people or product people or business people like, , you watch a talk with Martin Scorsese about his approach to writing and directing a film. And so on. You just learned so much from these people. And like, I, you know, one thing as an example, that’s helped me a lot in my presentation skills is I probably watched every single Steve jobs keynote.

That he’s ever given and presentation, and it’s impossible not to learn when you do that. You know? And so I don’t think people do this or realize that there’s like a treasure trove of information on YouTube and you just go in and you watch interviews. You watch presentations, you’ll learn a ton. I can tell you I’ve learned a ton from that.

Ryan: So that’s great. All right. Let’s jump to the last tip. Tip number five. Yeah. 

Joe: 

Tip Five ( Hire Passionate Problem Solvers)

Joe: Last tip is related to what I spoke about. I would say, if you’re hiring for product managers more important than I think, experience in product management or even in tech is that desire and passion to solve problems for for others.

The most successful product hires I’ve ever had have been people who have literally never worked in product, but have demonstrated. That they have this deep desire and capability to solve problems for others. What, whether that’s building like a technological solution or whether that’s building a new process to help others and so on.

And this this framework has helped me when I’ve been in situations like when I’ve been in really challenging situations. So there, there was a time where I. Two product managers back to back that were like amazing product people Lee for these amazing opportunities.

And I was kind of in a bind and I had to figure out how to replace them quickly. And because I use this as my sole criteria, I was able to find people internally to replace that. That have been great. And I think if I didn’t have this criteria, it would have been harder to find somebody. So I would just say if you’re hiring product people from.

In my experience, most success I’ve had has been really finding those that have that passion and have demonstrated that they can solve problems for others. So that would be that what 

Ryan: an amazing last tip. I completely agree. And that’s where you find the innovators like really? And I think it’s such a great gift that you just offered on that perspective.

Joe: thanks, Ryan. 

Ryan: Yeah. And we’re so happy to have had you here today. Thank you for all of your insights. Thank you for really walking us through from the very beginning, looking at looking at baseball data, to where you’ve gotten now is it’s really amazing and having a passion for solving those problems.

It really is a it’s a great journey to, to look at and keep in mind as you’re, as people are building their own leadership careers. 

Joe: Yeah. Thanks for the opportunity. I appreciate it was fun. 

Break Two

Ryan: Becoming a leader usually requires the incessant need for movement and action. You are a driving entity who can push through a project to find results. This however is often met with a similar need to accept feedback and be open to criticism.

Joe brings up a phenomenal quote from the legendary Jim Highsmith. If you wanna innovate, you have to iterate because leadership is not just about one’s desire for action, rather. It’s also about the ability. To build upon your previous work, whether it’s empowering your team, learning from mistakes or enhancing your methodology growth is always at the center.