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Life Lessons Product Management

The Perils of Magical Thinking

It’s tempting to want something so bad that you believe you can will it to happen. Instead of examining risks and continually examining and reducing them, projects just forge ahead. This happens at work all the time. But most interestingly, there are some things that humans want so bad, like peace, that we also think that our prayers might make this happen, even when complete peace is impossible.

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Product Management

Taking Control of My Goals

As we start the new year, I’d like to try something new. I’d like to try the empowered team thing. Instead of worrying about the details of the corporate goal-setting process, I want to own my strategy for the year at work, full stop. I’ll integrate the goals of seniors and needs of clients. Then, I’ll take the most important things and focus on that. Then, instead of dealing with all the individual corporate management processes individually, I’m going to use them as lenses to display and present my strategy.

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Product Management

There’s Something Rotten in World of Disney (Digital)

This is a letter to my Zaid (Yiddish for grandfather) Norman Schlaff on what would have been his 95th birthday on June 4, 2023. Zaid died in 2012.

Zaid,

We went to Disney World with my in-laws last year for my father-in-law’s 80th birthday. While we had a wonderful time, there’s something that really bugged me. When you used to take us to Disney World, we all trusted Disney to create new and exciting adventures to surprise and delight us. After my last visit, I realized that Disney has lost its courage to invent, deciding instead to join the hoard of technology fanboys.

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Product Management

How to Succeed in Business

When we think about being successful at work, we all know that it takes a lot of hard work. But even with that work, success is elusive. That’s because we don’t have a good sense of what it means to be truly great at a job, even for seemingly obvious jobs, like being a doctor. I provide a simple framework on how you can be the best at any job.

“What would you do if I punched you in the face right now?”

That’s the question that Mark Craney, former Operating Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, says is the best sales interview question he’s ever received.

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Product Management

How New York City is Acting Like a Tech Company

NYC’s new OMNY MetroCard shows how the city is creating products that better meet customer needs, just like tech giants like Amazon do.

While it’s easy to get sucked into discussions on “important” topics like COVID or politics, sometimes it’s fun to focus on the little things in life. These little things can be incredibly frustrating. Other times they can lead to wonderfully delightful surprises.

Before COVID,(1)This is less of an issue these days, now that I use a Citi Bike for work. one of my minor frustrations was deciding whether or not to buy an unlimited ride subway card or a pay-per-ride card. I’d used to take the subway 5 days a week and a little on weekends. An unlimited ride monthly was normally the right choice. It paid for itself plus a got juiced up that I could ride the subway for free to explore the city. The unlimited ride ticket helped me feel more connected to the city. But what if I went on vacation? What if I had work travel? I would feel cheated if the pay-per-ride card was cheaper that month.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 This is less of an issue these days, now that I use a Citi Bike for work.
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Product Management

When Experiences Are Better than Buying Things

The first time I experienced “Insane Mode” in a Tesla was in Knoxville Tennessee. We were outside cousin Greg’s house next to a beautiful lake. Blake was in the back seat while we rolled to an empty straight-away in front of his house. Then Greg said, “Do you want to see something cool? Make sure your seatbelts are buckled.” He brought the car to a stop and pressed a few buttons. “Ready?” he said. Then he stepped on the accelerator and sent us from zero to sixty in less than three seconds. We were immediately pinned back in our seats as the sides of our eyes and mouth reached for the backrest. After we got out, I thought, “I would love to buy this car.”(1)Here are some NSFW reactions of people with their first time with Insane mode.

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Product Management

Everything as a Service

These days, all of these products are being sold as services. With Amazon Web Services we’re buying IT infrastructure and computing as a service. With Apple Music, we’re no longer buying music but streaming it over the internet for a monthly fee. We don’t even store our own pictures anymore, they stored in the cloud rather than on our own computers. With “Subscribe and Save” from Amazon, we can even get toilet paper as a service.

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Product Management

Creating Great Social Experiences

Creating products is about building great experiences for customers. In the past, companies would create products to tell a story to customers. But my old boss, Raja Rajamannar, CMO of Mastercard, says, Storytelling is Dead. Jeff Bezos says that at Amazon, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” However you cut it, customers are now engaged participants rather than passive recipients. It’s the job of companies to engage with customers rather than just treat them as an audience.

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Product Management Technology

On Amazon – A Peculiar Company

Disclaimer: I worked as the Head of Banking for Amazon Web Services. This writing does not represent Amazon in any way. Opinions written here are strictly my own.

Amazon has a very strong culture. At other places I’ve worked, culture is an aspiration at the senior level but took a back seat to more pressing concerns like making as much money as possible. Amazon’s culture is embedded in its 14 Leadership Principles that are a common language and framework that form the basis of everything the company does, from interviews to everyday decisions. You can get a good feeling of the Amazon culture by watching videos of Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. A few good ones are from the Economic Club of Washingtonan interview by his brother Mark,  the Axel Springer Award, and a 60 Minutes Story about Amazon from 1999.

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Product Management Technology

The Future of Payments

Disclaimer: I work at Amazon but this writing does not represent Amazon in any way. Opinions written here are strictly my own.

When I was working at Citi Cards, I was under the impression that people were spending a lot of time figuring out what credit cards they should have. Were they going to get points or miles? Weren’t they going to be so excited that they could redeem their points with Amazon? Of course, working in a credit card company I was thinking about this all day and I lost sight of the fact that my customers had far better things to do with their time.