The following tips were taken from Wizeline’s recent interview with Gokul Rajaram, Product Engineering lead at Square and “The Godfather of Adsense.”
1. Start with small teams.
When I started out with Adsense, we were literallysix people and we launched a product. It grew from there. By six months we were 25 people. You hit your metrics, you got more people. That’s how teams should operate. Always staff with small teams to start — small teams are more efficient and faster.
2. Never forward staff a product.
You don’t staff up a team upfront, without an understanding of what the team can accomplish. So you first start really small — for any product, however big the vision is, you start with a very small team. Three or four engineers, a product manager, a designer.
3. Success begets success.
With that small team, you see what they can do. You give them some milestones, you let them set some milestones. You give them metrics. If they hit their metrics, you give them more people.
4. Have guardrails.
As a manager — as someone who sets frameworks — the most important thing you need to do is to have guardrails. Tell the team: here is the set of things, all the things we’ll consider to work on. Here at Square it may be commerce — but even commerce is too broad. So we try to say, “What are the things that are more specific than commerce?” And then within those areas, you have a very clear process for how an idea gets converted into a team based on these criteria or this metric.
5. Launch is not success.
We have a saying here [at Square] that launch is not success. It’s not just about launching a product — it’s about growing a product and making it successful.
6. Let your team run.
Don’t constrain your teams too much. Small teams who feel ownership, versus being top-down managed, are the ones who are most successful.
7. Think like a CEO
Your job isn’t just to be responsible for the technical aspects of the product, it is for the holistic product. This means: go to market, pricing, customers — everything. You need to be the person who is ultimately responsible for the product. You are the guardian of the product.
That mindset is really hard to get because a lot of product managers come from different backgrounds. Some come from engineering, some come from marketing. Based on their background, they tend to gravitate towards that aspect of the product. It’s hard hard to find product managers who really think of themselves as GM’s literally responsible to the product — even though they don’t have people who report to them. All successful PMs I’ve seen are have the GM or CEO mentality.
Watch the full interview, “Confessions of a Product Manager.”