Product Management: Leading by Trust

Greg Coticchia product managementGreg Coticchia, the executive director of Carnegie Mellon University’s new Master of Science in Product Management program, was recently a guest on The Pitchwerks Podcast, a weekly audio show hosted by Scot MacTaggart that talks about sales, marketing and startups.

During the show, the dynamic duo discusses some of the nuances related to a career in product management including why leading by trust is critical for being a great product manager.

The irony of the product manager role is that it carries great responsibility, but offers little authority, explains Coticchia. Product managers typically don’t have staff reporting to them, yet they lead a team and are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of a product.

Product managers work at the intersection of three key professional groups:

  • Those who build the product – engineers or computer scientists
  • Those who sell the product – marketing and sales
  • Those who manage the company or enterprise — the C-suite

Being in the center of this power triangle is a tricky but exciting calling. Beyond the technical know-how, the role requires a unique blend of soft skills that include negotiation, consensus brokering and most importantly, trust building. Trust building is particularly important when it comes to leading a team that doesn’t report to you.

For example, product managers often make tough calls regarding which product features to prioritize, punt or abandon altogether. Such choices have a major impact on the ultimate success of a product and require internal buy-in — from developers, marketers or management. Getting this buy-in often comes down to whether or not the internal stakeholders trust the product manager to make the right decision that will ultimately make for a successful product.

Sometimes the upper management can get sidetracked with an opportunity to grow revenue by adding to the complexity of what the product can do. However, as Coticchia puts it, “being everything to everyone means you are nothing to no one.” In such situations, product managers must stay true to a product’s segment and the problem a product is trying to solve for its customers.

As an entrepreneur and an experienced product manager, Greg Coticchia understands the value of hands-on experience when it comes to a career in product management. That’s why Carnegie Mellon’s M.S. in Product Management includes a mandatory summer internship where students have an opportunity to put their new skills into practice.

Young professionals with business, computer science or engineering backgrounds interested in learning more about product management and Carnegie Mellon’s Product Management degree can meet Coticchia at an upcoming ProductCamp in Pittsburgh on September 28, 2019. ProductCamp is a free event where attendees can learn about best practices in product management. The event attracts product managers, product marketing professionals, designers, founders, engineers and researchers looking to make connections with top minds in the local product community. To learn more and register for the event, click here.

Hear the full episode: