Santa Cruz Tech Beat


David Beach: PM Punx

By David Beach
Director of Product, eBay Mobile

February 19, 2015 — Santa Cruz, CA

Practical Rebellion for Product Managers

You are making mobile and web applications. You are not launching someone into space. Your process and approach should reflect this. Take what you do seriously, but take it in context. — David Beach

Who are you?

I’m David Beach. I’ve been making products for over 20 years. Lots of things for lots of companies. Mostly e-commerce, sometimes vinyl records. Consulting, startups, IUMA, LVLi, i-STORM, Yahoo! Shopping, Yahoo! Brickhouse, co-founded 12seconds, eBay Mobile. I’ve built communities, online stores, search engines, social networks, Virtual Reality environments, mobile apps, and music services. I was one of some magazine’s 20 most influential people on the Internet. I dropped out of college. I don’t have PM certificates. I’ve been to few seminars. I’m also surviving cancer.

What is this?

Stuff I’ve learned about making consumer products. And what it takes to be a product manager. Real-world, practical advice based on my experience, in no particular order (except the last thing). I think most of this is obvious, but it’s the obvious stuff that’s easy to forget. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded. Nothing more.

Why “Punx”?

A rebellion against tradition… Originally this was about going against the Microsoft/Old School way of product management. Huge PRDs, looooong roadmaps, safety first/risk averse, way of doing things. But now it’s about being true to yourself and being bold.

What makes a “good” PM?

I’ve been asked about what makes a good/bad PM. This does not represent everything that can be good or otherwise. These are qualities that I’ve seen in others who have been successful or not.

PMs can come from almost any discipline (engineering, QA, design, marketing, business, barista) but not everyone should be a PM. A good PM is a generalist. A good PM understands the disciplines of building and launching a product, but lets the team do their job. A good PM is a guide. A good PM answers questions, but knows when to shut up. A good PM removes roadblocks. A good PM builds a team. A good PM is always thinking about the user. A good PM thinks about the big picture and the vision. A good PM knows when to think about the details. A good PM is a leader. A good PM is empathetic.

How about a “bad” PM?

I don’t want to dwell on the negative, but here are some mistakes I’ve made and have seen in others.

A bad PM thinks too much, writes too much, is inflexible, can’t let go, can’t think on their toes, relies too much on data, doesn’t listen, doesn’t acknowledge or learn from their mistakes, works too hard, tells others how to do their job, can’t say no, is fearful, takes credit, has too many excuses.

Okay here we go…

Do one thing!

Your product should do one thing and one thing only. It should be the absolute best at that one thing. Don’t try to be everything to everyone, you’ll end up being nothing for no one. Design for growth, but only add on when absolutely necessary. Do one thing. Do it better than anyone else.

The One Thing Principle: a method of product development, especially for online or mobile applications, that focuses strictly on one single service that satisfies a perceived market need. The entire domain must be dedicated to offering this single service. All resources must be dedicated to offering this single service. No distractions, no wavering, no feature creep. — The One Thing Thing

Nearly every successful product, service, or mobile app has one thing in common. They are all known primarily for one thing. They do one thing very well, they meet user’s needs for that one thing, and they become a viable and popular destination because of this focus. That thing is always the first thing that comes to mind when a person thinks of the brand or site. What can you hang your hat on?

Prioritize everything.

Not everything is a P1 (or a P2 for that matter). Make your feature lists, but distill it down to your most essential. Then prioritize those. Always be prioritizing. There are no P0s.

No one’s going to die.

You are making mobile and web applications. You are not launching someone into space. Your process and approach should reflect this. Take what you do seriously, but take it in context.

Take risks… no fear.

Be bold! It’s your job to stick your neck out. That’s how great things are made. Timidity is not an option.

Failure IS always an option.

Failure is the impetus of innovation. You can’t have one without the other. Never be afraid to fail.

Continue reading article here:


Sign up for our free weekly email digest!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Follow Now

Facebook Feed

This message is only visible to admins.
Problem displaying Facebook posts.
Click to show error
Error: Server configuration issue