Welcome to the fourth installation of our product management interview series, where successful product folks across various verticals share where the PM industry is going, how to overcome challenges, and general advice. If you missed our last interview with Jason Pace from Alkami Technology, we recommend giving it a read, as well!
As mobile engagement continues to increase, companies across all industries have shifted product strategy to push their mobile experience toward the top. The product management world has gone mobile, and PMs have had to adjust to strategic changes big and small.
Today, we’re excited to bring you thoughts from Andrew Wang, Senior Product Manager at Gap. Here’s what Andrew had to say!
Q: How did you get into product management?
My career started off in software consulting, which then led to technical project management. Over time, I received a lot of comments from my colleagues that I have good business sense because I empathize with users well, can zoom out to see the bigger picture, and am able to prioritize tasks in a manner that makes sense. As a result, I naturally took on more and more product management responsibilities until I actually had the title bestowed upon me.
Q: How do you think mobile product managers’ roles in the organization are changing?
It really depends on the organization itself. For example, for older companies where the legacy channel may be stores and/or online sales driven, mobile PMs have to be really good at marketing internally to tout the benefits of the mobile channel and the differing needs of the mobile user. However, once the company is bought in and establishes a mobile channel strategy, all of sudden you have to change hats and be the know-it-all mobile SME. You’ve championed this change, and now everybody is looking to you to lead the charge.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face as a mobile PM? How do you overcome them?
For me, the biggest challenge is to convince people that mobile isn’t just another channel; it’s a tool.
For example, a customer goes into a store to get inspired, browse, and buy. They will do the same online: go to their computer, type in a URL, and hit “go.” But their mobile phone is always with them. Be where they are? They always have their phone on them! Now, leverage whatever data they allow you to collect about them to make their mobile interactions easy and memorable.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to give to other mobile PMs?
Know your user! Get feedback, collect analytics on their actions, and know their demographic! You have to keep that feedback loop going. How can you build a product for your user if you don’t know who they are?
Q: What are you looking ahead to in 2018?
I’m looking forward to new personal challenges, including a shift in my role to store technologies.
I’m also looking forward to emerging technologies. AI seems to be really popular right now, and I can’t wait to see all the different applications.
On a personal note, I recently proposed to my girlfriend, so I’m looking forward to getting married in 2018!
Q: What’s your favorite way to stay up to date on all things product management?
I don’t have a specific channel to stay current. Yes, I follow my LinkedIn and social media feeds and attend conferences. But I think as technologists, it’s more important to be an information sponge, to have a natural curiosity in all things tech, and to be a tinkerer.
I’m lucky enough to be in the San Francisco Bay Area where there are plenty of like-minded peers to collaborate and converse with. One specific reading I recommend is First Round Review. It’s full of good reads that are meaningful and applicable.
Q: With no resource constraints, if I could work on any app, it would be [fill in the blank]. Why?
I would work on an original app idea. I’ve always wanted to build something involving wearables and leveraging motions and gestures.
But recently I’ve been thinking of apps to help non-profits and charity organizations. Maybe there’s an idea there to send and collect charity donations to both individuals and organizations. I don’t carry cash anymore, but how can I help out somebody on a whim without having to wait until I get home to lookup a charity and make sure it’s reputable? But even then that idea is limited because Apple doesn’t allow charitable donations on iOS apps unless it’s redirected to web or SMS. That obstacle, combined with designing an easy-to-use interface, and then layering in payments makes for an exciting challenge!
Q: I feel [fill in the blank] without my smartphone.
“Fine”. At the risk of dating myself, I grew up without being “connected.” Cell phones weren’t mainstream until I was out of college. I had a behemoth, company-issued Palm Treo in 2004 (you guys probably have no idea what I’m talking about). I didn’t get an iPhone until I got an iPhone 4 in 2010. I enjoy having conversations and interactions with people without my phone. I see it as a tool, not as a replacement. Although, I’d rather send messages than talk on the phone.
Q: Android or iOS?
iOS. I’ll probably get dinged badly for this, but I’ve never had an Android device. PalmOS, Blackberry, iOS, yes. But not Android yet.
I’m also fully in on the iOS ecosystem with multiple Apple products on me and throughout the house. But then again, I have multiple Google and Amazon devices around, as well. I love gadgets!
Q: What does customer love mean to you?
Customer love means two sides of the same coin to me. On one side is knowing your customer and building fantastic experiences for them. Your dedication and passion to making their life easier and delighting them feeds into the other side.
When approached this way, not only will you have a loyal user base, they will also be your strongest advocates and critics. That mutually beneficial and constant feedback and improvement cycle is a win-win for everybody!
A huge thank you to Andrew for taking the time to share his thoughts. Stay tuned for the next interview soon, and check out our first three interviews from these expert PMs: