Bad Product Names: How They Happen by Lewis Lin

There are several reasons for the poor product names.

Uninspired marketers
There are simply some marketers who didn't care enough about their product to put proper effort into coming up with a good name.  I would put Microsoft Family Safety in this category.  And it looks like the executive in charge didn't care either.

Opinionated bureaucrats
Sometimes, the influential executives care too much.  Decision makers with limited marketing experience start throwing ideas out.  And unfortunately they're influential enough to have these bad names stick.  That's why you get products with "RT" appended to it.  Apparently RT doesn't mean real-time; instead it's much, much geekier.  Yes, some engineering VP cried and moaned enough to get their way.  Good luck explaining that one to a 55 year old small business owner.  (Details: What Does the ‘RT’ In Windows RT Stand For?)

Indecisive and weak marketing leaders
The role of a strong marketing leader is to clarify the brand strategy & hierarchy.  For example, P&G's leadership team made a conscious decision to have strong product names (e.g. Tide, Swiffer, Pampers).  They opted out of using the corporate brand as an umbrella brand.  In other words, it's not "P&G Tide" or "Procter and Gamble's Pampers."  At Microsoft, there's no clarity around the brand strategy.  Sometimes Microsoft is the umbrella brand e.g. "Microsoft Office."  Other times, the umbrella brand is left out such as "Xbox" or "Bing."  At other times, Microsoft uses multiple umbrella brands such as "Microsoft Windows Live Hotmail Premium."  Microsoft has no shortage of run-on product names -- and it's largely because of indecision.

The Product Manager Interview by Lewis C. Lin: eBook, Kindle or PDF Available? by Lewis Lin

The Product Manager Interview: eBook is Available

Ever since I published The Product Manager Interview last November, the most common question I get is:

Is the book available on Kindle or another eBook format?

Yes, you can get The Product Manager Interview in electronic book (eBook) format here.


While we're at it, here are the links to eBook versions of my other books, not available on Kindle:

Strong Demand for The Product Manager Interview's ebook

  • How can I purchase "The product manager interview" on kindle/other E-Book method? If I order today to my country, it'll arrive after my interview date!!

  • Urgent Help Needed: Do you have the ebook version of "The Product Manager Interview: 164 Actual Questions and Answers" I can purchase... I have a couple of important interviews lined up in a week and really would love to read the new edition of your book. I'm based out of Mumbai and the paperback will take too long to get here..

  • I want to prepare further on more q&a and I think that this book of yours- The Product Manager Interview: 164 Actual Questions and Answers. can help me with that. is there a way to get it digitally? my interview is on the coming Monday and I live in Israel- ill be getting the book only after the interview :(

  • Do you have an ecopy or pdf version of these that I can buy?

  • Do you have a kindle edition for the pm interview book?

  • Any chance we can buy an electronic version of the book?

  • Thank you for sharing this information. I've benefited a lot in the past by reading your books. I have an interview coming up this Monday and was hoping to get my hands on your new book, however due to shipping delays with Amazon it doesn't look like I'll be able to get the book in time. Is there an e-book version that I can purchase or a faster way I can get the book? Would really appreciate your response.

Identifying Proactive People in Interviews: How I Do It by Lewis Lin


Here's how I evaluate initiative in an interview:

Behavioral interview questions

I'd ask, "Tell me a time when you took initiative." or "Tell me a time you volunteered for a project that everyone else thought was dull or boring."

Most candidates would give an example of a task their boss or some other person asked them to do. This is not initiative. It requires some careful listening and follow-up questions to determine whether or not the candidate was truly proactive.

I would also ask, "Tell me a time when you were given a project without guidance. How did you figure out what to do?"

Here I would evaluate how thorough they assessed different options before deciding on a course of action. If there was only 1-2 options that may not indicative of a truly independent individual.

Hypothetical questions

Before the interview, I'd tell the candidate to do some pre-interview homework. For instance, "Re-design our website and bring mock-ups to the interview." or "Take a look at the Google Maps API, and hack together a mobile app."

Based on their effort, you can evaluate their initiative.

The truly proactive ones would likely do this anyway without prompting. ;)

Creative Recruiting Ideas, Updated 2018 by Lewis Lin


Negotiating Tech Salary: Using a Professional Negotiation Expert by Lewis Lin

Recently, I was asked: 

Why isn't it appropriate for an interviewee to be represented by a negotiation expert like companies do for salary talks?

You're absolutely right. It is unfair to the employee to NOT get professional representation.

Negotiation is not as easy as it seems. In 2016, one NFL player decided that it was "easy to negotiate" and tried to represent himself. The deal he self-negotiated was widely panned as one of the worst labor contracts ever:

“I think the Russell Okung contract might be the biggest debacle of a contract I have ever seen. Okung, who at this stage of his career is somewhere between the 10th and 15th-best left tackle in football, eschewed an agent, decided to negotiate his own contract, and signed with Denver for a non-guaranteed $5 million for 2016. … For a player of his stature, it’s a ridiculous contract.”

- Peter King, Sports Illustrated, March 20, 2016

On the other side, most recruiters are TOUGH negotiators. They absolutely DESTROY candidates. It's not so much that recruiters are the Navy Seals of negotiation. That is, most recruiters haven't had extensive negotiation training and their tactical (negotiation) moves are only a slight cut above the average person's.

It's more because recruiters have two MASSIVE innate (not trained) advantages that candidates don't:

  1. Information. In addition to knowing internal compensation tables, they talk to 20-30 candidates every single day. And each one of these candidates is (usually) handing over their personal compensation details. So recruiters have a VERY ACCURATE sense of what the market is paying. Last time I checked, few, if any, candidates are asking 20-30 peers for five years straight what they're making.
  2. Leverage. The company has the offer. If this candidate doesn't accept, there are lots of others to choose from. The candidate needs the offer (aka money to go clubbing, pay the mortgage, etc.) BADLY. And most candidates have few, if any, competing offers.

For professional athletes, actors, and singers, it's appropriate for them to have representation at salary talks because it's the norm.

For executive-level compensation or organized labor, professional representation is also the norm.

But for standard employee-to-employer negotiations, professional representation is not appropriate only because it's not commonplace. During the offer discussion stage, if you told a recruiter to "talk to my agent," they'll either mock you, get scared, or both. If you want a good negotiation outcome, last thing you want is to deal with another party that either despises you or is afraid of you.

But as Bobby Arora puts it, you can create a "synthetic situation" where you can have a simulated professional agent representing you. I'll call it a "shadow negotiator."

It would be exactly as Bobby puts it. You relay the compensation information you're hearing from the recruiter, and the shadow negotiator (behind the scenes) tells you what to say and do. Thanks to the digital age, negotiation via email is becoming more commonplace, so it'll be even easier to relay information to your shadow negotiator.

SEE ALSO: 60+ Killer Salary Negotiation Scripts

Best Interview Question Ever by Lewis Lin

My favorite job interview question right now, credited to Peter Thiel is:

What's the one thing that you believe to be true, but nobody else agrees with you?

I find this question fascinating because:

  • Identifies innovators. Most innovators have contrarian view points.
  • Demonstrates courage. It can be embarrassing to state a contrarian and potentially far-fetched point of view with a stranger, the interviewer. To do so demonstrates the candidates comfort with him or herself.
  • Exemplifies persuasion. It's not enough for one to say they believe that the sky is purple. To claim that belief requires evidence, facts and logic.

Projecting Your Voice as a Tech Product Manager by Lewis Lin

Recently I was asked:

How important it is for a product manager to project his or her voice at work in tech companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon?


Yes, you have to project your voice as a product manager. Here’s why:

  1. If your audience can’t hear you, engineers and executives (E&Es) can’t understand your point of view.
  2. If they can’t understand your point of view, you can’t influence E&Es.
  3. If you can’t influence E&Es, you can’t be an effective product manager.

If you’re not comfortable projecting your voice, try the following:

  1. Work on exercises to increase the volume of your voice. My presentation skills coach would have me say a phrase. Should would rate my volume from a scale of 1–10. Then she would say the same phrase and tell me that her volume is a 7 or 8, so I can calibrate my volume appropriately.
  2. Get comfortable speaking up. Sometimes projecting your voice is not just about volume. It’s about speaking up in a group where everyone is fighting for airtime. Here’s a game you can play to get more comfortable speaking up: at every meeting, set a goal of asking three questions. Questions are easier to ask in a crowded room (vs. making a statement). Do this enough, and you’ll find yourself more comfortable speaking up. You’ll also find that you’ll be more engaged in an otherwise boring meeting.
  3. Find alternative ways to make your point heard. Even if you’re not a master at projecting your voice in a room, you can make your point heard in countless number of alternative mediums including sharing your thoughts in email (no limit on how many you can send) or influencing others in a 1:1 scenario.s1


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).