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What's More Important: Domain or Product Management Knowledge?

Episode 073

Today Jennifer Spanos, a seasoned expert in the CPG and software product management realm, joins us for a chat that will challenge your thinking and give you an edge in your product management journeys. With a rich repository of knowledge, Jennifer shares the importance of striking a balance between domain and product knowledge. One could even say, product management is an art that finds its beauty in solving the right problems and creating value for clients and businesses.

As we traverse through the episode, we focus on a fascinating blend of product and domain knowledge. Are you inclined to believe that being in the customer's seat can provide fresh insights into problem-solving? We sure are and Jennifer's experiences prove just that! In fact, her journey speaks volumes about the merits of questioning mind that digs deep into an industry's nooks and corners.



Connect with Jennifer:

Episode Summary:

Introduction. 0:03

  • Today's conversation is all about how much industry knowledge and experience is needed in product management as a function vs. how much domain experience.

What is domain knowledge and why is it important? 3:06

  • What is domain knowledge, product knowledge, why is it important, and what parts of product are important.

  • What is product knowledge and how does it relate to domain knowledge?

  • The value of having been in the seat of the product customer and having a unique perspective of real problems to solve.

  • The importance of having an industry knowledge of the industry.

The difference between industry knowledge and product management knowledge. 6:53

  • The difference between being a true product management person and a true industry management person depends on what you need to learn.

  • In an ideal world, a combination of both domain/industry knowledge and knowledge of the product management craft is best , but the pros and cons are still up for debate.

  • One of the best pieces of career advice JJ ever got in her career was from a direct report, Kim, who encouraged her to ask a lot of questions. When you become more confident in your knowledge, you can become complacent and over-confident - stop asking questions.

Advice for people who are new to an industry. 12:14

  • Never be afraid to ask questions, even if you think you're supposed to know, because it adds value to the team and everyone around you.

  • One of the things to look for when interviewing product managers is if they jump to solution prematurely, because they're shortchanging themselves.

  • Advice for new to the industry, don't be afraid to ask questions, lean in to product management knowledge, and use those skills to learn the industry.

  • Advice to those new to an industry with product management skills, take the opportunity to advocate for the product management function.

Advice for people moving into product from another role within the industry. 17:34

  • Spend time with end users or clients to get a first-person perspective. Spend time with them to understand the pain from a practical perspective.

  • Lean into building relationships within the business and the organization to learn a lot and fill in the gaps.

  • One thing to avoid when moving from a different role into a product role is to not solve everything too quickly, because they have so much knowledge.

  • Another piece of advice is to look at the more strategic aspects of things, like customer success and sales.

  • Putting yourself in situations where you can practice and make some of those decisions and apply that thinking in lower risk ways to start.

  • There are a lot of ways that you can almost have a continuous feed of knowledge that's coming your way.

Advice for people with no experience in product management. 25:51

  • Product management is a highly visible and attractive craft for people these days. People want to get into product management from university.

  • Unconventional roles like product management will continue to be attractive.

  • The two learning curves, product management and sales, and how to approach them in a way that fits in with the current market.

  • The importance of having a starting point.

  • If you are looking for your first role out of university, college or program, assume that you have some kind of case study type experience that will help you.

  • Look for a company that is going to help you grow in your career and has clearly defined spaces.

Advice to other aspiring product managers. 32:25

  • Advises product managers to be discerning on where to go, but setting yourself up in the right environment is really important.

  • Product management is a well-rounded, multifunctional role.

  • Skills that will help in almost any job, including influence without direct authority over people, and being able to talk to anybody at any level.

  • Resources for learning product management.

  • There is something to be said for having a group of peers that are facing similar challenges, especially in this job.

  • Find more information on product voices on productvoicescom.

Episode Transcript:


product, management, industry, domain knowledge, product managers, coming, advice, experience, learn, knowledge, problems, understand, organization, rely, questions, apply, role, jennifer, work, career

Intro (the incomparable Sandra Segrest): 00:03

Welcome to Product voices, a podcast where we share valuable insights and useful resources to help us all be great in product management. Visit the show's website to access the resources discussed on the show, find more information on our fabulous guests, or to submit your product management question to be answered in our special q&a episodes. That's all at product And be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite platform. Now, here's our host, JJ Rorie, CEO of Great Product Management.

JJ 00:36

Hello, and welcome to Product Voices. So today's conversation is all about something that comes up a lot in my work with corporate clients and my work at Johns Hopkins working with students who are aspiring product managers. I get the question a lot about how much insights and knowledge and experience is needed in product management as a craft as a function, versus how much domain experience how much industry knowledge does someone need to have to be successful in a product management role? I don't think there's one exact equation. But it is a very interesting balance that we go through, a lot of folks move into product management from other roles. And so they, by the very nature of their experience, have some experience in an industry, they have knowledge of a customer base, etc. but limited understanding of what the functional product management is. So there's their learning curve. And then vice versa. We've got folks who know product and are moving into different industries. And so the conversation today is all about what does that look like? What should it look like advice for folks who are moving from one to the other industry, or moving into product management after being in an industry for a while.

So I'm excited about having my guest here, she's got a really unique background and a great insight on this topic. Jennifer Spanos has been in product management and operations for the majority of her career, she started out in the CPG space bringing food products to market. And then she moved into software, where she's been for almost 15 years. So again, great example of folks kind of moving around and having a bit of unconventional background in product management. So Jennifer's main area of focus has been enterprise b2b or b2b SaaS, she does have experience in b2b to see payments and bi as well. She's very active in the product management community. And I love following her and learning from her. She works with organizations such as women in product and in the lab product management. So she's constantly helping product management professionals, get into the career and build their careers. Jennifer, thank you so much for spending the time with me and having this conversation with me today.

Jennifer 03:04

You're very welcome. I'm glad to be here.

JJ 03:08

So I'd love to take this kind of to its basic level. Obviously, I gave a bit of an intro there. But I'd love to understand from your perspective, domain knowledge, product knowledge, what is domain knowledge, encompass, in your mind, what is product knowledge? And why is that important? And what parts of product are important. So let's start with some basic overview. First, what is domain knowledge encompass in your mind.

Jennifer 03:34

So I would say in my mind, domain knowledge definitely spans industry, right? So market industry segments or verticals within that. So as you mentioned, I would also probably include maybe a product type or a product stack within that. So really where you can, you can become an expert in something other than product management, let's say that encompasses a segment of something else. So it could be spanning horizontal against a certain kind of software application, or type of product, right? For those that are not in the software space. When I refer to product management, I would refer to that as the craft itself. So really figuring out the right problems to solve and adding value to clients and to the business that you're working for, whether that be software or hardware or CPG. Right, any of those things where you're applying that that craft and that mindset and some of those theories and frameworks that enable you to get to a place where you can figure out what's really going to be impactful, right Where's where there's going to be value, what kind of problem you can solve, and then figuring out a way to solve that that's going to add the most value.

JJ 04:52

Yeah, I love that. So it's product knowledge is you know, both process and soft skills and all of the critical thing thing that goes along. quick follow up question on the domain knowledge, do you also see a value or kind of include this in your, in your definition, if you will, someone who has been in the seat of the products customer. So for example, you've been a financial analyst, and you then go work for a company that builds software for financial analyst, same same kind of thing encompassed in that domain knowledge.

Jennifer 05:31

Yeah, I would, I would include that really an industry knowledge. Yes, it means that you've been very much embedded in the industry. And so you have a unique perspective, that's really where your, your experience and almost your comfort zone is, I would say. And so when you've been in that seat, you've got kind of that really in depth view of real problems to solve. And I know, in my career, having been in that seat before, and then actually solving problems for it is a very unique perspective, rather than just kind of learning about the industry from the outside. Yeah. Yeah,

JJ 06:08

Yeah, definitely. And that's some of the best product managers that I've worked with, have come from that, from that seat from that customer spot. And they have that embedded empathy, because they've literally been there and literally been in those shoes. And so that's, that's why I asked the question, because I think it's a really important point. So thank you for that, because it gets basics, but I always like to set the stage with the right context. So now, the good meat, meaty question is, do you have a philosophy on you know, which one is more important? Do you think that domain knowledge is more important? Do you think product knowledge is more important? Do you think balance? I mean, what's your philosophy on that?

Jennifer 06:53

So I guess like a true product management person? I would say it depends on the answer that we ended up giving. But realistically, I think I think they're both important, I think the difference just becomes with what you need to learn. So if you come in with a lot of industry knowledge or domain knowledge, you've already you've already got that foundational piece that you can rely on from that perspective. But if you have less from the product management side, then you need to learn and constantly be building up that skill. Right? On the flip side, if you're coming into it from a more of a pure product standpoint, you also need to ramp up on that industry and understand it well, or you won't know what problems to solve. So in an ideal world, I would say you have a combination of both. Which one is more difficult to learn, I think, is up for debate. So sometimes it's, you know, I've had lots of discussions about whether it's harder to learn industry than it is to learn software or product. I think there's a lot of things that ended up making that into a it depends answer, right? Because depends on the industry, it depends on how difficult the product is, it depends on who you're working with, on who the clients are on all kinds of factors. And so inherently, I think, if you're using your skill set as a product person, you're going to learn the industry, regardless, or you should be because you're going to be asking a lot of questions. So it means that you're starting from a different point. It also means that you are going to ask different questions, I think. So the other piece is that you come into it with with some fresh eyes, right? So in one situation, you can rely on your experience. And in some ways that makes it a lot easier. Right? I know, from my experience, it's easy for me to rely on, you know, the food industry, for example, because I've been in it for so long. So I know a lot of answers to those questions. But it also means that I have some biases in there. And I make assumptions when maybe I shouldn't. So if you're coming into it with product management skills, and not the industry knowledge, you end up asking different questions, I think, and really applying a different way of looking at things, right, you have an opportunity to come into something with a completely fresh perspective, which you don't always get the opportunity to do. So there's pros and cons, I think to either one.

JJ 09:47

Yeah, I completely agree. And I want to share a quick story. And I think I actually shared this with you, Jennifer, in one of our recent conversations, and I shared it in my book, as well. So anybody who's read it has heard this before, but one of the best pieces of advice career advice that I ever got in my career was from someone who worked for me, who was a direct report of mine. And I had come into the organization, it was a healthcare organization and I had some healthcare domain knowledge I had been in the industry a little bit, but not as much as my team, not as much as my peers. I mean, those folks had really, for the most part been in product manager, excuse me been in healthcare for, you know, dozens of years at least, and very, very long, long, 10 year, whereas the organization itself was in hit of an evolution of product management, product management hadn't really been a core value and function within the organization. So they didn't know product management, but they knew health care. And I was coming in as the leader of product, the head of product with some but limited healthcare knowledge and a great deal of product management knowledge. And so long story short, I asked a lot of questions. When I started, I asked questions about, you know, what things literally meant, you know, what did this mean? What does that acronym mean, and healthcare? How does that work? How do we get paid? How do our clients get paid all of the kinds of, you know, things to understand a complex industry. And throughout my tenure there, I grew in my domain knowledge and inadvertently stopped asking those important questions. And so this piece of advice that, that this woman named Kim gave to me, during one of our one on ones was, you know, when you started talking to me, JJ, when you started here, you asked a lot of questions. And what that did was it in it kind of forced all of us who had been in the industry for so long, to answer basic questions and to think about things in a different way. We hadn't thought about that. And so long, we didn't know why we were doing that, because it had just always been done. And so we started to think about things in a different way. And it helped all of us look at things with fresh eyes. And over the course of your tenure, you've stopped asking questions, you've grown complacent, right? So in my knowledge, I actually, you know, grew confident, but I also grew a little bit more complacent. And so, you know, I've always loved that. And I've literally from from that day forward, always tried to embrace, you know, never being afraid to ask questions, even if you think you're supposed to know, because it adds so much value to the team and everyone around you. And so, so. So coming in with fresh eyes, outside of a domain can be very intimidating. But it's actually sometimes very rewarding for not only you as an individual, but everyone around you kind of gets a boost from from your fresh eyes.

Jennifer 12:45

It's true, because you you challenge things that may have been assumed for years. Yeah. And so I interview a lot of product managers. And one of the things that I look for when I'm doing a case study, for example, especially with ones that come from industry knowledge, or from domain expertise, is if they jump to solution prematurely, yeah. Right. Because it's so easy to just say, Okay, I've seen this, before I've done this before, I'm gonna I know what the solution is, without actually exploring or discovering what things may be influencing the problem. And so if you jump to solution too quickly, then you're you're really shortchanging yourself, and you're not, you may not be solving the right problems, because you're making an assumption. Now, to your earlier point, it is really hard. I'm not gonna lie, it's, you know, it's really challenging to go in without that, that safety net or that foundational layer to rely on because mentally you're learning a new company, you're learning how product works there, because I think we all know that it's not the same everywhere, least not in my experience, that's for sure. And on top of that, you're learning a new domain. So mentally, it can be really challenging, right, exhausting, because you're learning all those acronyms, and you're learning how the business works, and you're learning how the product works. And so I think, I think there's a lot of benefits to it. And it's an amazing way to grow and to have to really rely on product management fundamentals and best practices. And you need to be prepared for you know, the challenge that it is because it is one for sure.

JJ 14:40

Yeah, that that makes a lot of sense. I love that. So, you know, some advice that you've given there and that we've talked about for folks who are new to an industry but have some product management knowledge is to not be afraid to ask questions. To you know, give give yourself some some grace. because you are going to be, you know, learning, lean in to that product management knowledge and, you know, use those skills that you've built to learn the industry. So that's some, some great advice there. In addition to that, are there other things that you like to advise people on who are new to an industry, but who have some product management skills, anything that that, you know, they can bring to the table or any other advice you would give them?

Jennifer 15:30

I think there's a lot of things they can bring to the table, I think one of the best things you can do when you start at a new company, and you don't know the industry, and you, you know, you don't know that piece, but you've got a product management background, I think you don't want to miss the opportunity to essentially dog food, the product. So get in there as somebody that has never seen it before, or worked with it before. And really go through so you can empathize with the users or the clients that are using it. Because you'll never get that opportunity again, right? Inherently, you're going to learn more and more, and then you lose that. You lose that, I guess, camaraderie with the end user with the client. So I think that's going to be really important. And I think this is where also, I would say a lot of well, I guess it depends what you're coming into. Right. So in my experience I've come into I tend to come into organizations as the like the head of product, or VP of product or director of product. So I always have to take the opportunity as well to essentially advocate for the product management function itself. There's lots of room usually to educate, or to evangelize what product management is, because it's always different everywhere. So I think you end up exercising a lot of your skill set with, you know, stakeholder collaboration and relationship building and asking lots of good questions. And, you know, going down some rabbit holes, where you're not, again, once you've been there for longer, you're not going to get that opportunity. Something that I've also seen actually work really well, that doesn't isn't always an option for people. But I have worked before at places where we've done this is that you can actually go and work a little bit in the industry that you're entering. So it doesn't have to be a ton of time. But go out and see some of those end users or clients, spend some time with them actually do something that's part of their business. Because that gives you a lot of insight. And it's, it makes it a lot easier to understand some of that pain from a practical perspective. Right. So if you're, you know, in this case, the food industry go out and actually spend some time at a food plant, for example, right? If it's food manufacturing, when it comes to tickets, you know, go and buy tickets, see a live event, really immerse yourself in it and get that first person perspective, because I think it's hard to replicate that as well. You can do a lot of research to understand things. But actually talking to a lot of people immersing yourself directly in the experience is going to resonate with you and make it more human in terms of the problems that you need to solve. So I would say that that's really important as well. And in terms of product, domain, and product craft, right, all of that stuff that has to do with building hypotheses, and validating them, all of that kind of thing. When you're figuring out discovery, when you're, you're really evaluating the practices that might be in place today and looking for ways to improve them. Again, always be looking for ways that you are going to add one, one thing that is an improvement. Right? So it's almost like you end up with a product management mindset about yourself in a way or continuous improvement mindset, right? So as you're doing things, actually review in your mind or do a retrospective and figure out what you learned from it, what you could do differently, what you've said, Stop what you should start, what you would change the next time to add that little bit of extra benefit, right, what could have gone easier. And I can't emphasize enough to lean into building relationships within the business within the industry within the organization. Because that's where You're going to learn a lot. And that's where you can, you can kind of spread that out and rely on people to help fill some of those gaps as well.

JJ 20:09

Yeah, that's amazing advice. I totally echo all of that, I think it's really, really strong, strong advice for someone coming in from, you know, product management background, but trying to learn a new industry. So, you mentioned earlier, the flip side of that, and what folks who have been in an industry, they've been in other roles, and now they're gonna move into product and one thing they can do to, you know, make sure that they're doing or one thing that they can avoid is to not solution too quickly, right? Because they have so much knowledge. So that's one piece of advice, which I love. Just, you know, don't jump in there and try to solve everything before you've done the discovery and due diligence. What other pieces of advice do you give to folks who are moving within an industry but moving from a different role into a product role.

Jennifer 21:03

In this case, I would emphasize as well to look at the more strategic aspects of things. So it depends where you're coming from in the industry, right? If you're coming from an adjacent role, so something like customer success or sales or, you know, engineering, you've got, you've got a way of thinking and approaching a problem that's going to be different, then you would need to use in product management, right? Likewise, if you're coming from kind of an end user role in the industry, right, you're used to working a certain way, you're used to approaching problems in a certain way. And it can be a challenge sometimes to get out of that and think in a more strategic way. And so, I know, what I do is I try and challenge people and almost work through some case study type of scenarios, to get people to refocus their attention and look at all of these different factors, because you've come from a piece of the industry. And now you need to look at the whole thing. So you need to look at and understand all of these different functions that interact with your product, you need to understand, you know, different types of users, you need to understand market forces and industry trends and competitive analysis. And so I think one of the most important things that you can do is to change, which is not easy, is to change the way that you're thinking. Right? That's a huge, that's a huge thing to ask people to do. But how do you go about and broaden your knowledge? And I think, I think partly you get there through, you know, learning and reading and that kind of thing. But I think there's something to be said, as well for putting yourself in situations where you can practice and where you can make some of those decisions and apply that thinking in maybe ways that are lower risk to start. Right. So you don't want to jump in there and say, Okay, I'm going to bring forward a multimillion dollar big bet. Because I've decided this is the solution. I wouldn't encourage that idea. But where are there ways that you can apply that same kind of thinking, right? Look at all the aspects of the business case behind it, validate your hypothesis, understand and go through an evaluation of all the different forces that might be contributing to how you want to solve a problem or what the problem is, and then apply that in a real way. Right, go through mitigate risk, or D risk that situation? And so there's something to be said for being able to practice and actually learn from those challenges along the way. How do you put yourself in a situation where you have to deal with a lot of very vocal and challenging stakeholders that all have different opinions? Have you put yourself in a situation where you need to go in evaluate and have a well thought out hypothesis that you're presenting to an executive team? Right, all of these things you want to start doing in a way that is not as risky as the multimillion dollar big bet. In and learn, because you're gonna make a ton of mistakes, you're gonna make a ton of assumptions. And that's okay, right? We all do. I can say like, there's lots that I have made in my career for sure. And I have learned from them. And I think that's the important the important piece. I would also say There's lots of ways that you can almost have a continuous feed of knowledge that's coming your way. So there's, you know, in the weeds doing stuff and learning through doing. I know for me, I have a lot of things in my, just in my feeds coming in through things like LinkedIn, for example, that are sharing small bits of information that I can take in and continuously learn from. There's lots of communities out there that you can draw on and support networks out there as well. And so I think if you're able to take kind of a multipronged, well rounded approach, then that's probably your best way is to dive in there and do some things and make sure that you've got support along the way to help you and sounding boards. Yeah,

JJ 25:51

that's good advice. I've loved the vise on both sides of that. So now I want to ask you, your take on something that I'm seeing in the industry, if you will, in the in the product management, world and community. So I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. So I spend half my time in the corporate world doing advising and consulting, training, etc, for corporate product teams. And then the rest of my time I teach at Johns Hopkins, of course, and so I have all of these students who are in the engineering school, most of them grad students, I do teach them undergrads as well. But they're very interested in product management. We know this is a highly visible, very attractive craft and, you know, role for people these days. So lots and lots of people want to get into product management from university, which again, historically, that's not really been the case. It's it's not been a quote unquote, entry level job, even if you were coming out of a great engineering school or a great school like Johns Hopkins. So do you have thoughts on this trend? And and I can't imagine it not continuing. There's, there's so many universities out there who are starting programs, or at least classes, they're just, you know, again, highly visible, I expect product management to continue to be attractive, and I expect people with limited working experience to want to me in product. So assuming that trend continues, what are your thoughts on someone coming into the role with neither product management or domain knowledge? Right? Obviously, lots and lots of smart people out there. And I love the fact that we're hopefully getting more people from either university or other types of roles, like unconventional roles into product, I think it will help all of us make better products. But what are your thoughts on that? You know, how do you do you see that trend continuing? Do you see corporate, the corporate world kind of catching up and giving these folks without either kind of knowledge base and a chance in product? And if so, what advice would you give to those people? Like, is there a priority of how you approach the two learning curves? Like what what are your thoughts on that?

Jennifer 28:09

So, yes, it's definitely a trend that seems to be accelerating, right? I remember when I got into this, it was not nearly as popular as it is today. Right? You see all these courses, you see lots of books and groups. And it's a very, it's a hot market right now. And like a hot, a hot career choice, which is interesting. And the interesting thing I would say about this field, specifically, is that you can actually draw on experience from almost anything and apply it here. Yeah, so you don't necessarily have to I mean, there's a lot of frameworks and theory, and that's a good starting point. Reality is product management is never going to be like, it's a lot messier. You know, it's not as you can never apply a framework across the board. It's challenging that way. So you end up having to rely on your past experience, whatever that might be, which is why you get people from unconventional backgrounds that can that are essentially looking for a problem to solve. So they're going in and they're filling a gap and they're adding value. And that's at its heart. That's what product management is. So you know, it's I think it's hard to get in there without having some kind of starting point. What that starting point has to be is up for debate. And I would say that, you know, if when you're looking for your first role, and it's your first role out of university or out of college or out of a program, and you don't have product or domain knowledge, I would assume If you're coming out of a out of a prod out of a product program, you've got some kind of case study type of experience that will help you. I think, again, there's ways to lean in and try stuff and learn from it along the way. So what can you draw on from your past experience, whatever that might be in whatever job you've had, and apply it to a situation where you had to manage a room where you had to deal with somebody that was very fixed on a solution, and you had to take their feedback and marry it up with a whole bunch of other information and make some kind of a decision? Where did you have to look to find a unique problem to solve that somebody else might not have thought of. So draw on that experience. In terms of a priority, or approach for the learning curve, I think it also depends on the company that you're coming into. So there are some companies, of course that hire associate PMS or interns or brand new ones, right. So you can get some experience there. I think what you want to look for is somebody else that you can learn from or partner with, or draw on that is going to help you out as an advocate. And I think you want to be careful as to what type of organization you join, and what their view of product management is. So it's not exactly I'm not answering your learning curve question quite yet. But when I look at advice, I would say that, it's going to be really, really difficult to come in as a first product management hire, if you have neither of those things. Yeah. Because you're coming in and you're having to deal with a lot of business problems that you may not have experience with yet. And it's, it can be really tough to navigate that. So look for a company, that's, that's going to help you grow in your career. And we'll put you in some of those situations and has some clearly defined spaces where you can add value and grow your career and learn from people within that organization as well.

JJ 32:25

You know, it's it's interesting, because I think I advise product managers a lot are aspiring product managers. So I really love that last piece of advice it all of it obviously, is great. But that last piece of advice and be discerning on where you go is really hard for people who are trying to get in, they want to jump right in. And, and if they have that opportunity, they jump right into it, but But setting yourself up in the right environment is really important, especially in that scenario. So I love that. And the other thing is I advise a lot of companies and so I'm hoping that the corporate world embraces more of that model of a PMS or associate product manager or rotational programs or more internships or something, right. So, you know, kind of The Apprentice ship model, if you will, I mean, think about the product manager role, and how well balanced it has to be how well rounded you have to be. And if you're creating that, in your, you know, early talent, wow, what a great resource you're building for the organization. I mean, it's great for the people, it's great for the organization. So I'm hoping the corporate world embraces that a little bit more with within the context of product management, but But I love that advice. So thank you for for entertaining me and entertaining that question because it's just something that's so top of mind for me that I knew you would have a really great perspective on. So so thank you for that. Well, I

Jennifer 33:52

think something to add to that, just to build on what you were saying is that, because product management is such a well rounded, or can be such a well rounded, multifunctional type of role. The interesting thing too, is that actually it opens up a lot of opportunities for you throughout your career. So you see, people that are in product, they don't always stay in product either because they can apply those skills to all different types of situations. And so a lot of the skills that you need to be really great product manager are almost applicable in in most situations. Right if you think about it, if you if you need to influence without having direct authority over people if you need to be able to talk to anybody at any level in an organization and translate between all the different the different functional areas and go from one minute talking about, you know, difficult technical problems, to presenting something to the CEO and the next minute those are skills that are gonna help you, in almost any job that you're, you're gonna end up in along the way, because you built you focus so much on looking at a full scope of business problems and talking to all different kinds of people and understanding things and being able to translate without necessarily being an expert in any of them. And those are skills that you can use. And almost, I would, I don't know if I can think of somewhere where they would not be a valuable skill.

JJ 35:33

Yeah, so true. So very true. So my final question for you, I love to ask this question, because we all have different ways of learning and different resources that have helped us along the way. So are there any specific resources, yours or other folks out there, within the product community or elsewhere, that you have found valuable, or that you recommend for people who are trying to learn product management and or trying to learn particular industry knowledge?

Jennifer 36:06

So I mean, personally, like I said, Before, I like to have a wide variety of resources that I follow, where I can have bits of information flowing to me continuously, right. So there's a ton of folks on LinkedIn like yourself, for example, that I follow that I just have their streams coming in. And I can see really easily and quickly what's going on in the craft, I can see what people's opinions are, what they're working on. So I would definitely look at at building up a list like that. And there's lots of well known folks in the industry that can be part of that list. I also am a big advocate of community. So, you know, there's something to be said, for having a group of peers that are facing especially, especially in this job, it's, it's so ambiguous sometimes. And it can be really challenging, and people don't always understand it. So finding communities where you can draw on resources that are experiencing some similar challenges, has been invaluable, right. So you know, that I'm heavily involved in women in product, for example. And that's something where you can ask for advice and ask for support. And it really helps because you know, that your any product management can sometimes be a lonely role. It's not everybody understands it. So having a support network, and people that can understand that you can rely on and can tell you that you're you know, you're not that you're not making things up or that you're not misunderstanding a situation and provide advice is one of the most valuable things I would I would advise people to look at and to join and to be part of, and they're all over the place, right. There's lots of product management talks and seminars and meetups and groups on various social media that come together and run case studies with with each other, for example, or deconstruct problems or any of that thing. So look for and find, find some like minded people that you can that can act as your support network, and you can learn from.

JJ 38:34

This has been such a great conversation Jennifer Spanos, thank you so much for sharing your experiences, your wisdom, your advice. i It's been very valuable for me. And I know it's been very valuable for the listeners as well. Thank you so much for joining me, Jennifer. You're very welcome. And thanks for having me. And thank you all for listening to product voices. Hope to see you on the next episode.

Outro (the incomparable Sandra Segrest):38:56

Thank you for listening to product voices hosted by JJ Rorie. To find more information on our guests resources discussed during the episode or to submit a question for our q&a episodes, visit the show's website product And be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite platform.


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