Carlos Gonzalez de Villaumbrosia is the Founder and CEO of Product School, the global leader in product management training with a community of over one million product professionals. Product School instructors are real-world Product Leaders working at top companies including Google, Facebook, Netflix, Airbnb, PayPal, Uber, and Amazon.
The Product Book: How to Become a Great Product Manager by Carlos Gonzalez de Villaumbrosia and Josh Anon
Connect: Building Exceptional Relationships with Family, Friends, and Colleagues by David Bradford and Carole Robin
In today’s episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Carlos Gonzalez de Villaumbrosia, the Founder and CEO of Product School, shares his inspiration for Product School and its role in shaping the next generation of product leaders. Carlos has an unending passion for helping others succeed in the product space, and his enthusiasm is contagious!
The most successful and inspiring product leaders are all very curious and interesting people, but it can sometimes be difficult to find time in our busy lives for learning and self-improvement. Carlos shares strategies to make lifelong learning a reality.
“We are all creating the future together,” he says. Working towards product-oriented goals throughout your organization can eliminate silos and drive better customer outcomes. Likewise, sharing your insights and learnings with others can fuel long-term success in the industry.
Listen to hear more about:
- Democratizing access to education in product management and more generally
- Finding mentors, no matter what stage of your career you are in
- Product managers as generalists and the importance of product-specific, on-the-ground experience if you are transitioning from a more specialized role
- The future of product management now that the profession has gained traction and clarity
Sean [00:00:19] Hello and welcome to the Product Momentum Podcast. This is a podcast intended to entertain, educate, celebrate and give a little back to the product leadership community.
Paul [00:00:32] Hey, Sean, how’s it going?
Sean [00:00:33] It’s going good, Paul. How are you?
Sean [00:00:34] I’m jazzed up. I am really just trying to soak in all the knowledge that was just dropped. There is so many themes, but such a consistency, clarity of message from Carlos.
Sean [00:00:47] Carlos has so much passion about this industry and the people in this industry and elevating everyone.
Paul [00:00:54] Yeah.
Sean [00:00:55] I’m so excited for what he’s doing in the world and I can’t wait to share this content with our listeners.
Paul [00:01:00] Yeah. Gonna hear about intuition, humility, lifelong learning…
Sean [00:01:04] Yeah. Let’s get after it.
Paul [00:01:05] Let’s get after it.
Paul [00:01:09] Hello and welcome to the pod. Today we are honored to be joined by a very special guest, Carlos Gonzalez de Villaumbrosia, the founder and CEO of Product School, the global leader in product management, training the community of over one million product professionals. Product School instructors are real world product leaders working at top companies including Google, Facebook, Netflix, Airbnb, PayPal, Uber, and Amazon. Carlos, thanks for joining us today. We’re so happy to have you.
Carlos [00:01:33] Thanks for having me on the show.
Paul [00:01:35] Absolutely. You know, jumping right in, I’ve heard you share many times your story about your engineering background and feeling it was a roadblock to get into what you wanted to do, jumping over and learning about design and product, but not really finding that middle ground, so creating Product School as that thing that you wish that you had in your career. And that’s a compelling story that I hear resonating with many people. But I’m curious, why do you think it does draw so many people from so many different walks and backgrounds who still find value in this thing that you created for you specifically?
Carlos [00:02:08] Well, I don’t know, honestly, because when I started, I didn’t have an ambition to truly become a unicorn. I truly built a solution to my own problem. I knew that this would be useful to me and hopefully a few other folks that I know. I come from an engineering background, I also knew that not everyone wanted to become an engineer or a coder, and they just wanted to leverage their technical background in a different way. But honestly, I think the timing was right. I want to believe that we also need something right and it kind of took off. I mean, if you look at the landscape today, you would see that, obviously, this is more important than ever because more companies are moving online. They’re offering their services and products online and you need product managers to be able to create that. And obviously, more companies are working remotely. So everything is a product these days and now there are more and more product people handling those products. But back in the day, it was pretty much, you know, a leap of faith.
Sean [00:03:00] Yeah. So you guys just published that report, The Future of Product Management Report, and you showed the variety of places that product people come from. Were there any surprises in there for you?
Carlos [00:03:11] Absolutely. I mean, the fact that we can talk about the future of product management, I think it’s huge. Because when I started, a lot of the questions were around, what is product management? Is this project management? Do you have to code? You know, like a lot of those things. People used to think of product as something physical, right, like a blender machine or whatever, and they didn’t associate that a digital product, such as a website or a mobile app, also requires a lot of thought and work behind the scenes. So we created the first report on the future of product management last year to ask other product leaders where they think that the industry is going. And we’re actually about to release the next version of the report now for 2021. We collected over fifteen hundred responses from so many different product leaders and it’s really incredible.
Carlos [00:03:56] I can give you a sneak peek about a few of these trends. Number one is that probably is becoming more of a science than an art. A lot of people used to believe that you have to be born with a product skillset, that you have to be Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs and have these crazy ideas. Well, the reality is that there are a lot of frameworks and a lot of data-driven decisions that you can learn and tools that you can learn as well. So that was number one, that is democratizing access to product management. Another myth was that you need an MBA or a computer science degree. And that’s not true at all. I mean, obviously, there are great PMs that have those degrees, but that’s not the only possible option. And now we’re seeing many more designers, marketers, ops people breaking into the field. And that’s, again, making these products more inclusive and better for the end-user at the end of the day. So, you know, those are some of the high-level trends that I’ve seen.
Carlos [00:04:43] At a more tactical level, another thing that is helping is that, first of all, there’s a new category of products for product managers. Before, as product people, we used to piggyback on PowerPoint, Photoshop, spreadsheets, or things that were really built for PMs. There were built for salespeople, designers, or others. Now we have an entire category of product analytics, product operations, product design. And those tools are extremely useful. You hear this term of no code, low code, which means that you don’t need to be a Ph.D. to figure them out and extract value out of them. So I think all of this is pushing more people to get more jobs into product, to get more interested, and ultimately seeing that there are more and more CEOs that come from a product background is creating a more product-driven culture.
Paul [00:05:25] Yeah. I really appreciate that sneak peek and what you just shared, the low code, no code, the ability to be visual and use PM tools, I think those are really helpful to codify some assumptions that I’ve believed for a while now. It helps to hear that other people are feeling the same things. Looking back on the 2020 report, it obviously came out in February of last year, I believe is when it was published. What things do you think were challenged in the past strange year that we’ve been through that maybe would be updated in the previous report?
Carlos [00:05:55] I have to be honest, some of the trends that we kind of highlighted there were at the very beginning and they’ve been hyper-accelerated, such as remote work, like I just couldn’t see this coming or the digitization. Like now, a lot of companies are going through digital transformation as a nice-to-have. They used to use that as a competitive advantage and say, “Hey, we’re becoming modern.” Now, it’s a commodity. Like if you don’t go through digital transformation, you don’t exist. So we’re seeing that product management is not just for high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. This is becoming a very respectable function across any industry, across anywhere in the world.
Paul [00:06:33] I’m hearing a lot of people sum up 2020 in product management terms as covid and the experience that we went through in 2020 didn’t change anything. It just accelerated what was already happening. Is that something that you believe to be true?
Carlos [00:06:46] Totally.
Sean [00:06:47] Yeah. You mentioned, in answering my question, the democratization of access to product management, which is kind of your mission with Product School. So talk about that a little bit.
Carlos [00:06:57] Yeah. Well, I was so lost in my life, like I started computer science and someone told me, “well, kid, you have to stick to it. These are four years full-time of your life where you are going to learn all of these things and maybe some of them will be useful in your life. Maybe.” I was like, “wait a second, but what if I want to learn something different?” “No, no, I’m sorry. You signed up for this, you have to be an engineer and then maybe a senior engineer, and maybe as a principal engineer,” and so on.
Carlos [00:07:22] So for me, it was really refreshing when I went outside of my comfort zone. I come from Spain, I decided to go to the States to study business in Berkeley, and that was a breakthrough for me. First of all, I realized that there were many other engineers thinking business and that there were options out there. And then at the same time, I also met a lot of business folks coming from different backgrounds: management consulting, financial services, marketing, whatever. They also wanted to be closer to the action, maybe not as an engineer, but they also didn’t want to be three thousand feet above ground trying to talk about mergers and acquisitions. They also wanted to know how to build something. So here we are, two different groups of people trying to tackle the same problem from different angles. The funny thing is, in my two-year full-time program, business school, I had zero classes in product management, retail marketing, UX design, or any of the things that a lot of us use on a daily basis. So I was like, “how can this be so broken? I spent four years of my life learning something that it’s, let’s put it in a nice way, not very useful for what I want to do. Then I go to this other place, which I meet wonderful people. But still, that’s two other years of my life where, you know, I don’t know what to apply.”
Carlos [00:08:31] So I decided to create this idea, this dream school, which was a hybrid thing between both worlds, an engineering school and a business school, called Product School, that gets the best of both worlds and hopefully can deliver it in a much more practical way. I’m a big believer in lifelong learning. I never understood why we are supposed to study full-time until our mid-twenties and then work with them for the rest of our life. What if you can have it all? What if you can keep up with your life, your family, your hobbies, whatever you like, but also learn something on the side that is going to help you grow your career? So, again, it makes a lot of sense today, but back in the day, it was totally a leap of faith.
Sean [00:09:05] For sure, and especially because it is so young as a field, the whole field is still learning together and I think it’s great what you’re doing because it’s bringing together a lot of different resources in different formats so that people can consume information the way they want to consume it. This particular career is the type of career where the minute you stop learning is the minute your career starts to die, right?
Carlos [00:09:28] Totally. Like, it’s great to be with books, but at the end of the day, you’re just getting started. When you get your first PM job, you know, people to say, “congratulations, you made it.” Well, you’re just getting started, right? There’s so many other things that you want to learn. And I think that’s one of the things that defines all of us as product leaders is that desire to learn, that curiosity to know that, “OK, I’m not going to be the best at anything because I just don’t have the time, but I just want to be good enough so I can build a team around a specific problem.” At the end of the day, in product, I say that this is a generalist role. Now, most of us come from specialist roles. I come from an engineering background, but other people come from different backgrounds. Bottom line is, it doesn’t really matter where you come from. It’s more about where you want to go from here.
Paul [00:10:11] You know, I almost see sort of how it started, how it’s going kind of side-by-side picture going on right now, because where you started is this need in the market for creating the jumping-off point for people in this mindset, in this career. But now 2021, eight, nine years later, you’ve got the number one product management podcast. You’ve got a fantastic online group. Every day I’m seeing my LinkedIn notification, the little live bell, pop up that Product School was live again. And I’m curious, what drives Product School to generate and give away so much of this great content? What is it that keeps Product School going as this virtuous cycle?
Carlos [00:10:56] Well, this is a very personal decision. I truly believe in democratizing access to education. As simple as that. And I know that not everyone will have access to expensive programs but still, they want to learn. And the more hungry people you put out there and give them access to what they want, I think we can all build better products, better communities, and ultimately drive long-term success for our businesses. So I lead my business with that community. We say we are a community-first type of business. That means that over 90 percent of our resources are available for free, such as books, jobs boards, discussion forums, we put together a thousand events per year, conferences, podcasts, many others. I’m open to new ideas.
Carlos [00:11:34] But the common ground is the fact that something is free doesn’t mean that it has to be bad quality. For me, it’s something that is not negotiable is that. One of the things I struggled with as a student was not having access to the right mentors. I was bored in class. I just didn’t want to be like the person who was [inaudible] something. And here in product, I think we have this unique opportunity to truly learn from practitioners. And for me, those are the people who are behind Google, Facebook, Netflix, the product leaders who really created the future. These people are not teachers. They are practitioners. They keep their full-time jobs and they give back to the community on the side. And I think that’s where the magic happens. When I went out there and shared this personal story with other product leaders, they were like, “I get it; I didn’t have a product school when I was getting started and I wish I had something like this.” So they are all trying to help as much as they can, and I don’t try to take them away from their life or their jobs. That would be naive of me. I just want them to know that the doors are open and that you can contribute and that, you know, there are so many events around there for CEOs, for founders, and I get it. But that next line, the product leaders, the people who are actually building, are also very important. And they finally have a platform where they can share however they want, how much they want.
Paul [00:12:46] Yeah, you share this as a personal story, but I really believe that you’ve had a big impact on the product community outside of the Product School community. Often you’ll hear where two or more product managers get together, a group of product managers is called a support group. Right. We have these commiserating conversations about the struggles that we go through, the looking for answers, the learning. And I feel like what you’ve been able to create in the product community is this notion that we’re all in this together. When you get a Google product manager together with an Airbnb product manager, there’s not automatic competition, there’s collaboration. And I feel like product managers over the past decade have been on this journey of creating a common language and common processes and mindsets. All these great conferences and books that have begun to crop up, I believe, are in large part due to the community that you helped create.
Carlos [00:13:36] Well thank you. I think one of the things that are driving us forward is to know that we are here for the long haul. This is not like a click-and-bait type of business or solution. We know that it’s all about building relationships. At the end of the day, people is more important than product. And I started this company seven years ago. I met some of the people who are now contributing to the community way before I started Product School. And I’m sure that some of the relationships that we are building this year will impact our lives in a very positive way in the future. So as long as we all approach these with that mindset of giving more than we take, ultimately this is going to pay off.
Sean [00:14:12] Yeah and Product School itself has been a journey. How long have you been at it now?
Carlos [00:14:18] Oh my God. It’s been almost seven years.
Sean [00:14:21] Seven years. It seems like you’re treating it very much like a product. It pivots, you know, you try different things. And what are some of the things that you learned?
Carlos [00:14:29] Well, as you said, I treat my company as a product. That’s my baby. So I might not spend as much time with engineers and designers as I used to, but I now think holistically around, “OK, this is a product, how can we scale it?” And I try to instill that type of mindset across other teams. When we started, obviously we had to focus on product managers. But I always say that at the end of the day, product is not just management, product is a mindset. And everyone is playing this game. Right. So sales need to understand the product that they are selling. Account management needs to understand the same thing. So the more we can create this type of mindset around why leading your business with a product is important, I think the better it is, not just for the team, but also ultimately for your customers. There are less silos. And I’m sure you’ve heard this term of product-led organizations, right.
Sean [00:15:13] Yeah, of course.
Carlos [00:15:15] So I think it’s great. I think the more examples, the more role models we have about CEOs that once were product leaders, about companies that now have a Chief Product Officer, where product is not just a function of marketing or it’s a function of technology, it’s making all of us understand that this is not a trend. This is here to stay.
Sean [00:15:35] When you say product is a mindset, what do you mean?
Carlos [00:15:38] I mean that the product team is not just the product managers. I mean that the product team includes designers, includes engineers, includes marketers, everyone who somehow interacts with the product some way. And this is very important also for our students, because a lot of them come to us saying, “I want to be a product manager at Google,” and we’re like, “that’s great, I’m sure you are going to get there, but we also have to be realistic,” right. And not everyone is going to make it happen. And not everyone would also like it. You know, because from the outside it looks great. But who knows, maybe it’s not your cup of tea. So it’s more about understanding how products are built and that there’s a framework behind the scenes and that you need to know a little bit about technology, design, marketing. And even if you don’t have the official title, you can still be part of the product team.
Paul [00:16:23] Yeah. If I’m hearing you right, I think it’s often boiled down to almost a project management mindset in folks who don’t necessarily understand what product managers do and what the product mindset is. But when I hear you talk about the product mindset, it’s not just knowing a little bit of UX and knowing a little bit of business and a little bit of engineering and being OK at all of those, it’s being able to nurture that conversation that happens and not necessarily owning all the details, but being the one who cares about where all those things intersect.
Carlos [00:16:53] Totally. And I think you can even take this outside of work. The way you plan a wedding, the way you buy a house, the way you decide what movie you want to watch at the end of the day, right. These are problems and you have to understand the possibilities and make a decision and go with it and learn and then make a different decision.
Paul [00:17:08] Yeah, I drive my wife crazy. We just repainted our house and we built a Trello board to pick colors and mood board the project.
Carlos [00:17:15] Nice.
Paul [00:17:15] You know, when you look at the repertoire that you’ve built up over the years, you’ve produced or hosted hundreds, if not thousands of product leaders on the talks, the fireside chats. What are some that stand out in your mind as the most memorable, the biggest, best lessons that you’ve taken away?
Carlos [00:17:34] It’s been a lot of product leaders that we had on the show. A couple of things. So first of all, there are some people who are just absolutely freaks of nature. You know, they are incredible. They came from a legal background in Russia and then they did economics and then art and then somehow they’re building products. An example would be the Chief Product Officer at Nextdoor, Tatyana Mamut. Absolutely incredible. But there are many others. Like the other day, I was interviewing the Chief Product Officer at HubSpot. His name is Christopher O’Donnell. Absolutely fantastic guy.
Carlos [00:18:04] For me, the pattern that I try to extract from all of these interviews is that these are curious people. They are hungry to learn. They just didn’t show up here for a title, for a job. They have an interesting life. They travel the world. They speak different languages. They didn’t have it easy, and somehow they want to start this type of culture in their organizations. And I think that the more people we can elevate like that, the better it is for the next generation to have this type of role model. Because I didn’t even know what product management was 10 years ago. I wish I had access to some of these leaders early on in my career.
Sean [00:18:39] Yeah, I think that’s a mark of a great product leader, is what you just said, that elevating others, like raising the game in terms of how we’re building our products for the whole team and recognizing the need for design and architecture and developers to all be involved in the building of the product. That’s been a big mindset shift that we’ve seen in the industry in the last half a decade or so, which I think has been fantastic.
Carlos [00:19:02] You know, one question I always ask them is about, how do they learn? And they are curious. They’re always learning, they’re always either reading books or listening to podcasts or building Legos with their kids, whatever it is, like, there is no silver bullet. The point is they are just learning and it’s not always about work. It can be a new hobby, a new sport, but they just have it in themselves. And I think that’s great.
Paul [00:19:24] Yeah, I think that the way that we’ve been introduced to some of the same product leaders that you have on the podcast here have been sharing a lot of the same insights about how it’s not always the same journey, but it often leads to a lot of the same themes. And those themes are exactly what you’re talking about. They’re experimenters; they play with data. They believe that this can be trained. It’s not a born talent. And I think a lot of what you’re discovering is absolutely corroborated by what we’ve found here on our humble podcast about, when you’re trying to build a team, lead an organization, bring an experience to a user, there’s always a different journey. It’s never the same way twice. But a lot of the themes can be replicated. This job is not a cookie-cutter job. Even from the different projects on the same initiative, it’s always different.
Sean [00:20:13] It can’t be. The coolest part about this job…
Paul [00:20:14] Absolutely.
Sean [00:20:14] …Is that you’re building something that doesn’t exist.
Paul [00:20:17] Yeah.
Sean [00:20:17] We’re solving a problem that wasn’t fully solved or solving it in a different way. Just like Carlos said earlier, right. There was nobody solving this problem so you jumped in and you figured out how to solve it.
Carlos [00:20:27] Totally, and for anyone out there thinking about A.I. and robots, I would say I don’t think robots are going to replace product people. If anything, we are the ones building the robots, you know, and I think there’s a human component as well that I don’t have any idea about when I started my career, which, at the end of the day, is what keeps us closer together. Technology will change. Problems will change, whatever it is. But why do smart people want to work together, especially when things go south? Right. And that’s something that I’ve been personally very curious about, building this type of culture beyond the frameworks.
Sean [00:21:00] Yeah. You know, you kicked us off, though, with something a little alternative to that. You said product’s becoming more of a science than an art. How do you feel about that? First, do you think that’s true? Do you think it’s a balance?
Carlos [00:21:13] Yeah. So I don’t think it’s a black or white solution. I think it’s really somewhere in the middle because I appreciate people who have an instinct and gut feeling. At the end of the day, you can’t just wait to have all access to all the information in the world in order to make a decision. You need to move on, right and learn on the go. So I get that the art part is important, but we can’t just fully rely on it. And I think traditionally it used to be heavier on the art part and now we’re seeing much more data-driven decisions and in part, it comes because there’s access to data. Back in the day, if you wanted to access data, you had to be a data scientist or a Ph.D. or an engineer. You needed to know SQL and now there are so many different tools that allow you to really access data and focus on where PMs should add value, which is not just extracting the data, it’s interpreting the data and making decisions based on it. You know, I don’t know what the right balance is, and probably in different companies that may vary, but I don’t want people to think that “oh, you need to be born a product manager.”
Sean [00:22:12] This is a great point. There is, though, this balance between the qualitative and quantitative, like we all are taking this unknown future and we’re trying to make something predictable out of it that we can make some money on and that people will actually use and will add value to the universe. But we got to look at the shifting market. The market’s always changing and there’s all this chaos that we have to figure out. And there is a certain amount of creativity that’s always going to be necessary. That’s the thing that you said about robots and computers and A.I., right. The part that’s never going to be, well, I’ve learned to never say never in this world, but it’s very hard to automate the creative side of product leadership.
Carlos [00:22:50] Totally. I think it’s fascinating. In a way, we are all creating the future together. I don’t claim to have all the answers. I just wanted to create a safe space for really smart people to contribute, because when I created the first curriculum of our certification, it was just me, right? It was just a PowerPoint. It was pretty much cutter school. Now, I don’t think they can keep a single dot in that curriculum. We have an entire education team and many other people. But what’s really important is that some of the people that are on the front line teaching and speaking, they are also contributing to those frameworks. And those frameworks are evolving. They are not just proprietary from one company to who I was pointing at before around Airbnb, Google, and others. These are people who are contributing because, at the end of the day, we all know that if we can level out the playing field, this is going to be better for everybody.
Paul [00:23:37] Yeah.
Carlos [00:23:38] So we’re just trying to get visibility to some of those frameworks that regular companies have been using for many years, and now I’m glad to know that you talked to someone and say, “oh yeah, minimum viable product, product-market fit, Agile,” you know, some of the concepts that were more like gringo are becoming more mainstream.
Paul [00:23:55] Totally. You know, you said something a moment ago about not being able to take credit for a single dot in the curriculum now, but I think that’s not really true. Product managers, yourself as the CEO of Product School, product leaders cast a long shadow in one direction or another. So you may not have actually typed the period in the sentence in the curriculum, but I think when a product leader is making those calls, that intuition that you alluded to a moment ago, when they have empathy for the users that they’re building for, when they have their finger on the pulse of the team, when they’re in that flow, in that creative space to really get all the pieces put together in the puzzle, I think it’s never overt. You can never say, “I put that period in that sentence,” but the product leader is really the one who is bringing everything together to make sure that it all fits. That is almost a really neat summary, a microcosm of what the product leader, what the product manager’s experience is in organizations.
Carlos [00:24:49] Totally, and actually, the word product leader didn’t even exist when I started Product School.
Sean [00:24:54] Yeah.
Carlos [00:24:54] Right, we were all talking about product managers and now we created this new category called product leader. We actually have three certifications. One is called Product Manager, the other one’s Product Leader, and the third one is Product Executive. So I have a feeling that soon we’ll start talking about the product executive kind of as a CPO or CEO. And obviously, there are a lot of hard skills that go into that. But there’s an element of art as well, or just in general intuition or experience, that you can only acquire by being on the ground. And one of the things that I’m learning personally is how other incredible companies organize their product teams. Because back in the day, there wasn’t even a product team, or if there was, it was much more simple. Now you see, and within product, you have growth product managers, product ops people, product design, product marketing. And there’s not just a single template that would apply to all the companies, right? So knowing how the best in the world are doing it or are trying to figure it out is really helpful so you can understand, connect the dots, the patterns, and then show it to the world so they can also make their own conclusion.
Paul [00:25:56] Yeah, that’s a really great point. I think the best organizations share their models, like the Spotify model or the Basecamp model. And these are things that worked for those organizations. But nobody, I shouldn’t say nobody… The organizations who learn from those models don’t just copy-paste those models into their organizations. It can’t work that way. It worked for them, in their organization, on their team, and you can learn and adopt and abstract bits and pieces for your own organization, but it’s always a journey. It’s never just a control-C, control-V.
Carlos [00:26:25] It is. And I think that there’s also a lot of action going on. Right, that we can’t just leave in this strategy and the PowerPoint all the time. At the end of the day, you need to get your hands dirty.
Sean [00:26:35] Gotta get out there and make some mistakes, for sure.
Carlos [00:26:38] So stay away from any product leader who would say, “no, no, I don’t interact with engineers.” You have to be there as well.
Sean [00:26:44] Yeah. If there’s one thing I think Paul and I can, stop me if you think I’m wrong here, Paul, but that we’ve learned is that there’s definitely no magic bullet. There’s no magic framework. There’s no magic process. Like, there’s a lot of things you have to know and you have to know your team and you have to know your product and you have to know your stakeholders and you have to experiment and you just have to get out there and make some progress. Get it done.
Paul [00:27:05] Yeah, product management is people management.
Sean [00:27:08] Really is.
Carlos [00:27:09] Absolutely. You know, one thing I was discussing with Chris, the CPO at Hubspot, is how he learns. And he said something interesting. He said that he has mentors as well. And those mentors don’t necessarily need to be super famous CEOs, no they are also people who maybe are two or three steps ahead or maybe they’re just peers in a different industry, in a different role. You can just have a casual conversation around hey, “I just don’t know how to do this; how do you do it?”.
Sean [00:27:34] Yeah.
Carlos [00:27:34] Right. And I think having that humility to open up and be vulnerable also helps all of us.
Sean [00:27:39] For sure.
Carlos [00:27:40] For what it’s worth, I think it’s also good to surround ourselves by peers or maybe people who are more senior or whatever it is, but I just don’t believe in the label of, “oh, you are my mentor for life and I have to learn everything from you.” I think it’s OK to ask the same question to multiple people and then create your own conclusion.
Sean [00:27:56] Yeah, that’s one of the reasons we started this podcast, just to get some external perspective and to see what other people were up to and have some real conversations and share them with the world because we struggle with a lot of these same issues. All right. How do you define innovation, Carlos? What’s that word mean to you?
Carlos [00:28:13] Well, I mean, the textbook definition of innovation, it’s creativity put into action, right, creativity put into business. Because if it’s just an idea, but there’s ROI, there is no business impact, it’s just an idea, it’s just creativity. Innovation is when you put it to work and actually hopefully it works. Otherwise you invent something. But I think there’s a blurred line now between innovation, leader transformation, product management, change management. To be honest, I always say, “like, I just don’t care what level we want to put on it; I just want smart people trying to really make decisions and understand what the problems we’re trying to tackle.” And I’m personally happy to know that product leaders are getting more recognition for that. Back in the day, you would see, “oh, this is the innovation team.” Innovation team, what is that? I believe that everyone should participate in the innovation at the end of the day and you earn the respect from your peers not just based on your title.
Sean [00:29:09] Amen.
Paul [00:29:10] Here here. So in closing, Carlos, I’m curious, what would you recommend a product leader, product manager have on their bookshelf as a source of information to rely on?
Carlos [00:29:20] All right. Great question. Well, first of all, there’s no wrong answer here, because when someone comes to me saying, like, “should I read this book, should I take this course?” I’m like, “do it, I’m sure there would be something good in it,” first of all, right. It really depends. Today we actually released a podcast collection called Product Chiefs where we are highlighting eight interviews with CPOs and VPs of Product from incredible companies. So if you are more into listening than reading, check out the podcast. But if you are into reading, I mean, I need to give a shout out to my own book. What can I say? Especially if you are an entry- to mid-level product manager, the book is called The Product Book and it’s absolutely free. You can check it out on our website. We got over two hundred thousand downloads. It’s a funny story. It was a paid book. We put it on Amazon. It became a best seller there, but then we realized that it wasn’t going to grow fast enough and I just wanted to give it to as many people as possible. So we decided to take it down and just host it on our website. But I’m personally reading books on culture. This is my theme of the year, especially now that it feels like we are farther from each other than ever, in many ways, not just physically. I’m really trying to wrap my head around about how to build a strong culture so people can feel closer than ever.
Paul [00:30:29] That’s really great.
Sean [00:30:30] What have you come across that’s changed your mindset on culture?
Carlos [00:30:33] So my coach, Carole Robin, just released a book called Connect, which is really incredible. It covers different topics from how to have difficult conversations to how to be vulnerable, how to show up, how to commit. And that can be applied to life as well. And, you know, I’m a big believer in work-life integration, not just work-life balance, because at the end of the day, it’s all one. So I think becoming a better person, a better human, a better husband makes you a better leader and a better professional as well.
Paul [00:31:05] That’s great stuff, man.
Sean [00:31:06] Fantastic.
Paul [00:31:07] Carlos, thank you so much for sharing your insight and your learning. I had a blast. I don’t know about you, Sean, but I’m going to remember this one for a while.
Sean [00:31:14] Thanks for giving us your energy and your time today. And is there anything you want to talk about coming down the pipe? You just talked about the new podcast series. Anything else you want to share with the audience?
Carlos [00:31:22] I hope I can release the Future of Product Management Report very soon with everybody. It would be absolutely free and would be a good peek into the future.
Sean [00:31:31] We’re standing by. We’re waiting with bated breath, sir.
Carlos [00:31:34] Thank you so much for your time as well.
Sean [00:31:35] Thank you for everything you do for the community.
Paul [00:31:38] Cheers.
Sean [00:31:39] Cheers.
Paul [00:31:42] Well, that’s it for today. In line with our goals of transparency and listening, we really want to hear from you. Sean and I are committed to reading every piece of feedback that we get. So please leave a comment or a rating wherever you’re listening to this podcast. Not only does it help us continue to improve, but it also helps the show climb up the rankings so that we can help other listeners move, touch, and inspire the world, just like you’re doing. Thanks, everyone. We’ll see you next episode.