Product Management: Lessons Learned in the Trenches

Product Management: Lessons learned in the trenches with 1) Alan Lewis, Principal Product Manager,, 2) Darayush Mistry, Sr. Director of Product Management, and 3) Miriam Geller, Director of Product Management, Yahoo! Mail. Moderator, Mike Freier, President, SVPMA and Product Management Consulting Group

By Pushpa Chandrashekaraiah

November 2012 Event

SVPMA’s Monthly event featured a three-person panel with representation from both consumer and enterprise businesses. They shared lessons they learned throughout their product management careers. They provided great tips on several specific topics related to challenges based on company size, business type and customer base. Some of the topics discussed were:

1) Lessons learned – biggest, hardest and most surprising

Miriam’s tips were to sell product idea to the team first, not to think product managers are the customers, make friends with engineers, and get into the details as much as possible. Darayush emphasized that user experience is quite important not only for consumer market but also for the enterprise market. He also mentioned multiple times not to deviate from the bigger picture – not to lose business focus. Alan had worked in teams in which the roles of product managers were very different. So, he suggested understanding the role well beforehand.

2) How do you assess the market for new products?

Miriam mentioned Market Research is quite important and how it’s done is even more important. For example, SF bay area survey results regarding email usage is very skewed to show gmail as the highest usage, which is not the case when done in other geographical areas.

3) How did you convince your team to invest in niche?

Darayush’s viewpoint was that if the product idea for niche supports the main focus of the product line or company, it is a safer bet and becomes easy to convince the team. His example was when he worked at Siebel, CRM was their cash cow and ERM (Employee Rules Mgmt) helped CRM in the long run without losing the main focus of the business.

3) How do you manage sales requests? Sometime they deviate from the roadmap.

Alan said sales requests that conflict the roadmap bubble up all the time. It is quite important to show all the stakeholders how these requests impacted the original roadmap, resources allocation and market presence. This will help control such conflicting or deviating requirement requests in the future. Darayush warned not to evaluate individual product requests but to view them as part of the bigger mission.

4) How do you manage ‘responsibility without authority’?

Tips from Mariam – ‘be the evangelist’; from Darayush – ‘lead by influence and consensus’; from Alan – ‘step into any role to get the job done, then, authority follows’.

Some of the other tips were: ‘know who is your customer and consumer’, ‘sell your idea to your team first’, ‘don’t deviate much from your requirements gathering process, that may lead you to lose roadmap focus’, ‘if you don’t do you job, someone else will’.

Pushpa Chandrashekaraiah is a Sr Product Manager at Silver Tail Systems, Revolutionizing Cyber Security through Web Session Intelligence. With 11 years of PM and engineering experience, she has successfully launched several enterprise products. Her interest is in big data enterprise market. She can be contacted at:,