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Product Management Interview: Jim Holland

Today, we’re kicking off a series of one-on-one interviews with product management professionals.

Our launch guest is Jim Holland, a 20-year product management veteran and a leader of the product management tribe found on Twitter.

What’s the best career advice Jim received as a young PM? What trends does he see in software product management? If he could be anyone, living or dead, who would he be? Answers to these questions, and more, after the jump…

Jim, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for “Product Management Meets Pop Culture”!

Thanks for the opportunity!

What inspired you to become a Product Manager — and what key people and/or situations helped shape you into the Product Manager you are today?

My inspiration came from a conversation early in my career.

I was working in a sales engineering role for a software company and asked, “Who’s responsible for leading the products I support? I’d like to talk to them because they’re missing the mark.”

That led to a conversation with the VP of Product Management and, subsequently, a job offer. (You’ve got to remember, you get what you ask for sometimes.)

The rest is history and I’ve been in product management for 20 years. As a side note, I’ve maintained a great relationship with this friend and mentor.

What’s the best career advice you received as you entered product management?

Because I came from a field sales orientation, I was going to say, “Know thy markets and respect the customer.”

But the advice I received was, “Work from the premise that you own the products, but only have authority to influence when you can substantiate it.”

What trends do you see in software product management, and what are the best ways to stay aware of them?

There are several visible trends that I love.

The first is the building of the local and virtual product management community. We’ve found each other via social media, local product management associations and product camps.

If you aren’t reading various product management blogs (see AllTop first), listening and contributing on Twitter or Facebook, active in LinkedIn discussions, belong to and contribute to a local PMA, you’re missing out.

The second trend is the heightened visibility of product management.

There are many companies relying more on product management. I wonder if we recognize that and are prepared for the challenge?

Also, many early stage companies are engaging product management earlier in the process of building a company. I know of several VC and equity firms that require it and want repeatable methods in place.

If you could thrust yourself, “Being John Malkovich”-style, into someone else’s shoes for a day, whose shoes would you choose, and why?

Wow, that is a great question. I’d walk in my son Gabe’s shoes. He’s a budding entrepreneur, industrial designer by profession, teaches at Arizona State and has a thousand things going on at once.

I’d like to see what life lessons he learned, and if anything I’ve contributed has made him a better person and successful in business.

Last question: Define a truly successful Product Manager…

Someone who listens well, accepts criticism, is pliable, doesn’t discourage easily, plays well with others, and doesn’t have a love affair with their product.

Follow Up

Thanks, Jim! If you want to connect with Jim, be sure to visit his blog Where the Product Management Tribe Gathers, or find him on Twitter at @jim_holland.

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