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What is product management?

Matt Walton, Laura Kirsop and Simon Pearson are all Product Managers at FutureLearn. But what does that mean? What do they do all day? In the first of two posts (read part two), they ask what product management is, and seek out answers from friends, colleagues and experts.


What do people think product management is?

Earlier this month, all 25 people in FutureLearn’s product team went for an away day. We spent the morning delivering two tracks of activities for our colleagues on subjects as varied as “What typeface are you?” and “Algorithmic Complexity.”

The Product Managers among us decided to use our session to answer the question: “What does product management mean at FutureLearn?”

To prepare for this session, we recorded short interviews with our friends and family. The question was simple: “What do you think we do for a living?”


Play a game of Product Manager Bingo

The answers ranged from the accurate to the hilarious. We used this recording to play a game of Product Manager Bingo. We asked our colleagues to choose the word they thought would be most frequently said off of the following list.

A bingo card to play Product Manager Bingo

Why not listen to the recording and play Product Manager Bingo yourself? What word was most common? Is this what you expected?


What do experts think product management is?

After our bingo game, we turned to the experts. We shared thirty quotes about product management, which we’d sourced from articles by product thought leaders, and picked the ones we thought resonated most with us at FutureLearn.

We’ve shared our favourites here:

“You need to sell, engage, learn, and listen, and get the whole team excited to go do it. You need to be a good storyteller. Great product managers can tell a story about a user, what he is doing in his life today, and what he would be able to do in the future if we just got him the right product.”
Josh Elman, Partner, Greylock

“As a company, we certainly have a vision of where the product is going. We generally have a North Star that we are all headed towards…”
– Joe Gebbia, Chief Product Officer, AirBnB

“It’s up to the Product Manager (otherwise known as the “product owner”) to create and communicate a unified vision. And more importantly, to motivate each individual to achieve the goals of the greater team.”
– Adam Pittenger, Abode

In our next post, we’ll share the definition that we’ve built and describe what product management looks like in practice at FutureLearn. But we’re interested to hear what your thoughts on product management are too.

What does product management mean to you? How would you describe it? Do you have any favourite quotes you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments below.

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