I have a special guest today from the Great White North. It is cold at home in Colorado as I write this, but it was much colder at Allan Neil’s home in Toronto, Canada. Allan is a fellow product management podcaster, hosting Ready Product Radio. Allan asked if he could interview me for his podcast and I suggested we do the interview here instead to introduce The Everyday Innovators to his helpful podcast – another great free resource for product managers. Allan brings his 20 years of product management experience to each episode of Ready Product Radio.
In our discussion, I share my personal journey to product management and how my experiences – successes and failures – along with focused education on product management and innovation, led to creating the Product Mastery Roadmap that shows how product managers become PRODUCT MASTERS. The Roadmap charts the path for product managers to 5X, or more, their product success rate as well as their career success.
Practices and Ideas for Product Managers, Developers, and Innovators
Summary of questions discussed:
- For people new to Ready Product Radio, what is a good first episode to listen to? Episode 15 is a recap of my 2015 interviews and is a great place to start (see links below).
- Chad, how did you get started in product management? After studying electrical engineering in college, I joined a small company. Within six months the office had tripled in size and we are rapidly becoming more of a software company than an engineering company. I enjoyed working with customers, understanding the problem they wanted a solution to, and developing prototypes of product concepts. I had the opportunity to work with a group of potential customers for a week in their offices. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was essentially doing ethnographic research. After that week I had a clear understanding of the problems they needed to solve and their work environment, which allowed me to build a prototype that later turned into a very successful product. My journey learning about product management involved leading software development teams, investigating project management, diving into product management concepts, and eventually earning a PhD in Innovation. Along the way I added certifications in product management, new product development, and innovation.
- When did you start training other product managers? In 2006 I earned the New Product Development Professional certification from PDMA. It integrated 6 knowledge areas in a way that helped me make a lot of sense out of product development and management. The knowledge areas include: (1) Business and Product Strategy, (2) Product Development Process, (3) Portfolio Management, (4) Leading, Managing, and Working with Teams and People, (5) Project and Product Tools and Metrics, and (6) Market and Customer Research. After this, I started helping the Denver, Colorado PDMA group prepare people for the NPDP exam. A friend, Lynne Vanarsdale, created a pilot for a study group program that met in person and I evolved that ultimately to an online study group and then an eCourse. I have helped many people prepare for and pass the NPDP certification exam. Later, I got involved with AIPMM, helping to lead creation of their Certified Innovation Leadership (CIL) program. I developed and refined online eCourses for both the NPDP and CIL certifications with valuable help from Jama Bradley, who first taught me the NPDP concepts. From there, companies began contacting me to conduct product management and innovation workshops and assessments for them. Today, I also facilitate product and innovation management courses for Colorado State University, Boston University, and Walden University. I have trained product managers at Microsoft, Kind Snacks, Level 3, Kohler, John Deer, J.D. Power, GHX, FedEx, Cummins, Compassion, Clorox, Cisco, Mastercard, SAIC, Thomson Reuters, Xerox, and many others.
- You say you “help product managers become product masters.” What do you mean by product master? PRODUCT MASTERS can create 5X, or more, the product success that average product managers can. This also directly equates to career success – product masters enjoy much higher success and influence in their roles. This sounds like a lot, and it is. It doesn’t happen quickly, but certainly is possible. It starts with making a 2X improvement first. To explain the levels of improvement from average product manager to product master, I created the Product Mastery Roadmap. It describes the 4 levels for moving from average to mastery: (1) Competent, (2) Proficient, (3) Expert, and finally (4) Master.
Get the Product Mastery Roadmap for Yourself
- What would you tell a new product manager that you wish you had known when you started as a product manager? Keeping with the education theme, only a couple percent of product managers seek professional training. Contrast that to project management – where not only training is critical but certification is often necessary to get the job you want. The people that listen to “Ready Product Radio” – your podcast, Allan, and are listening to The Everyday Innovator, are already doing more than most product managers and innovators do – they are listening to get ideas, learn new concepts, and improve their work and themselves. What I wish I would have done much sooner as a young product manager is learn the practices and concepts that make up product management and development. Just a little knowledge earlier would have saved a lot of trial and error. The Product Mastery Roadmap is a great place to start and a good resource to have.
The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. – Albert Einstein
- Ready Product Radio Episode 15 – a good place to begin listening.
- Allan’s LinkedIn profile and on Twitter
- Product Mastery Roadmap to 5X+ your product success rate and your career
“If I had an hour to save the world, I would spend the first 55 minutes defining the problem.” – Albert Einstein
Listen Now to the Interview
Raw TranscriptTEI058-Allan Neil
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.