Day in the Life of a Software Product Manager, Updated 2018 by Lewis Lin

My day-to-day breakdown as PM:

  • 3-4 hrs. - email and other administrative to-dos including managing the backlog, corporate processes, templates, and requests for information
  • 3 hrs. - meetings including internal, external and 1:1's with directs
  • 2-2.5 hrs. - independent heads down thinking including product design (wireframes), business strategy, and go-to-market planning
  • 15 min. - industry research including competitive and tech trends
  • 20-30 min. - career skill building such as design, management, coding, and communication skills

The #1 Best-Kept Secret About Negotiation by Lewis Lin


One of the best kept secrets about negotiation:

  • Experienced negotiators consistently get more information.
  • Novice negotiators do not.

A great example of this is the reality TV show, Pawn Stars.

  • Experts, like Rick and Richard, consistently get all goods appraised by experts (unless they are purchasing goods where they are experts themselves).
  • Novices, like Corey and Chumlee, don't consistently get goods appraised by experts. As a result, they get scammed and purchase counterfeit goods.

Why do negotiators decline an opportunity to get more information about a deal? Here's why:

  • Overconfidence bias. Novice negotiators think: I'm an expert. I've done this millions of times. I don't need to get this appraised.
  • Impatience. Who has time to get this appraised? I'm busy. Or I might lose this hot deal.
  • Worried about sharing appraisal information with the customer. The last time I got it appraised, the customer used the information to make me pay MORE than what they were willing to sell it for BEFORE the appraisal.

Photo credit: Pawn Stars via Wikipedia

How to Avoid Answering Expected Salary (Updated 2018) by Lewis Lin

Simply write "confidential" in the field.  Expect your recruiter or HR contact to react when you do this.  They don't like it when candidates don't follow instructions, especially when it's a required field or when a candidate does something out of the norm.

If you do buckle under the recruiter's pressure, you divulge your biggest piece of negotiation leverage.  There's no reason for your prospective employer to beat your current salary by anything more than a slight margin.  This is called revealing your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA).

When asked why you won't reveal your current salary, simply tell your contact that you pledged your current employer that you wouldn't reveal confidential business information (via a signed NDA).  If they whine and say every other candidate hasn't had a problem with this, simply restate your position.  Take the high ground.  You might even been respected for your integrity.

Do keep in mind that you do need to divulge how much do you expect to get in compensation.  This is a different question from "how much do you currently make?" Recruiter doesn't want to waste time with a candidate they can't close, especially if their salary expectations are out of range.  So a possible line could be, "Due to confidentiality reasons, I can't divulge my current salary, but I can tell you that I expect a base salary of $50,000 for this role.  It's in line with market rates for a professional with my skills and experience."  Most recruiters would appreciate and accept this information, in lieu of your current salary.

If it helps you sleep better at night, just know that the "What's your current salary?" question is completely unfair to the candidate.  To be fair, candidates deserve answers to this question, "What's the highest possible you're willing to pay for this position?"  But don't bother asking them.  The company won't tell you (but a executive recruiter might).

Performance Review Scoring: Why You Should Consider a Non-Numerical Approach for 2018 by Lewis Lin


Josh Bersin of Deloitte reported that "More than 60% of all companies are redesigning (or have redesigned) their performance management process, typically moving from top-down rating and ranking to a feedback-centric, developmental, often rating-less model.”

There’s a couple of benefits to a non-numerical performance review model:

  • Improves morale
  • Performance reviews will feel more constructive
  • Poorly rated employees will be less defensive at the performance review

There’s also a few disadvantages:

  • Employees will lose an opportunity to see how they are perceived relative to others
  • Employers will lose a datapoint to identify poor performers
  • Employers will lose a datapoint to determine merit-based bonuses

Google's Product Failures (Updated 2018) by Lewis Lin


Here’s my list of Google product failures:

  • Google Wave. It could have been Slack.
  • Orkut. It could have been Facebook.
  • Google+. It could have been Snapchat or WhatsApp.
  • Google Hangouts on Air. It could have been Facebook Live or Periscope.
  • Google Answers. It could have been Quora.
  • Google Catalog Search. It could have been Pinterest.
  • Dodgeball. It could have been FourSquare or related social networking site.
  • Google Notebook. It could have been Evernote.
  • Google Page Creator. It could have been Squarespace.
  • Google Video. It wasn’t YouTube.
  • Google Glass. It should have waited until it was Google Contact Lens before it launched in the consumer market.
  • Google Knol. There’s plenty of information that can be Wiki-fied like developer documentation for open-source projects. Cloning Wikipedia was not the first thing that needed to be Wiki-fied.

Why did these products fail?

It’s not so much that the Googlers were lazy or incompetent. I’m positive they were hard working and committed. It’s more that product design is so hard that even the best companies can’t succeed 100% of the time.

Craig Lawrence pushed me to think a bit harder as to why Google failed. Despite hard work and commitment, here are reasons why Google failed so often:

  1. Lack of vision. There are only so many people who can predict the future. Sundar Pichai was one of those rare individuals who saw the Chrome browser and Chromebook OS opportunity, despite daunting odds and endless customer naysaying.
  2. Lack of resources. When I was at Google, I believed Google Notebook had half an engineer working on it a few months out of the year. Hard to defend the fort if the guard tower is empty.
  3. Lack of insight. The Google Wave and Google Glass team worked hard, but both teams missed the critical insight that others realized. That is, Slack realized work messages belong to channels. And Google Glass was too dorky to wear in public.
  4. Lack of focus. Google+ included everything but the kitchen sink. It was an authentication service. And a commenting plug-in. And an address book. And a multi-user video conferencing feature. It felt and was designed by committee.
  5. Lack of trying. I believe Marissa Mayer once said, “There are great (product) ideas that are executed poorly.” In other words, we shouldn’t conclude an idea is flawed because it failed. After Google Answers shut down, it was wrong to conclude that the Internet didn’t want a Q&A service. It was more appropriate to conclude that Google Answers just implemented Q&A the wrong way.

What’s the best way to avoid product failure?

From an organizational perspective, the best solution I’ve seen is the spinoff.

I’ve seen Expedia achieve good success after it was spun off from Microsoft.

And Expedia, apparently having seen the spinoff tactic work successfully, helped TripAdvisor flourish by spinning them off as well.

Product Design interview Question 11: How do you design a mobile kiosk for a hospital? by Kaitlin Hung

How do you design a mobile kiosk for a hospital?

When you are a new patient at a hospital in the US, they give you a bunch of paper work to fill-out. they ask demographics, disease history in the family, current medications, any surgeries, etc. If you are an existing patient, you can check-in at the kiosk. How do you design the app for the kiosk? What would the database look like?

Submit your answers in the comments and receive feedback.

Metric Interview Question 10: How do you use these 3 metrics to find the “best” campaign? by Kaitlin Hung

metric 1: pay per click (how much advertisers make per user click)

metric 2: click through rate (rate at which ppl actually click on an ad after seeing it)

metric 3: total number of ad views

As a PM, you have a huge library of ad campaigns for various audiences and you have access to the above 3 metrics. How do you use these 3 metrics to find the “best” campaign?

Submit your answers in the comments and receive feedback.