My Recommended Reading List for Product Managers

2016 is the year that I have been fortunate enough to be working as a product manager within the technology & startup space for a decade. During this time I have had the opportunity to work on a variety of products and business models, operate in a range of different markets (both developing and developed, direct to consumer as well as b2b), and worked alongside some absolutely phenomenal people along the way.

In the last few years however, as product management as a role has become more understood, applicable, and visible within the tech industry - I feel there has been almost a hockey stick level of growth in people who are interested in the PM career path. As more than a few people have now approached me wanting to learn (1) whether they would be a good fit for the role and (2) what they should / could develop to make themselves stronger PM's - I thought it would be best to gather some of my favorite resources into a single post that I could point people to.

Note: None of these links are to articles that I have written myself! Given that there are plenty of resources already available, instead of adding just another article to the mix - I thought it would be more useful to curate some of the most helpful and orienting literature and media already out there. Enjoy!

Must Reads

  • Top 10 Posts on Product Management from the Industries Best
    Ok so I am kind of cheating here by having a list of articles that links to another list of articles, but this is probably the best reading list for new-comers to generally orient themselves on the role of Product Management both in terms of breadth and depth.
  • 42 Rules to Lead By from the man who defined Googles Product Strategy First Round Review publishes some fantastic articles, and this one by Jonathan Rosenberg is my personal favorite. Foundationally, product managers spend their days interacting with other people - whether it is developers, designers, salespeople, customers, clients, you name it. "Rosenberg's Rules" provides a great framework for individuals to apply to every single one of those interactions.
  • The Evolution of the Product Manager Don't jump into a new career without first understanding the origins of the role. Ellen Chisa does a great job here of not only providing some history, but also does an amazing job at summarizing the current state of PM, continued PM education, and her view of the future of product management.
  • Managing Nerds As a PM, your first and primary goal is to be trusted by your team. If you have never been an engineer yourself or worked in technology - understand the psyche a little bit of the people you will be working alongside of. This article is incredibly accurate and laugh out loud hilarious.

General Reading

  • First Break All the Rules You read all of those previous links, right? If you did, you know that PM is more often then not leading through influence. Why then, did I include a management book on this list? Because good managers know that they inspire their teams to function well, not because there is a hierarchical reporting structure in place. A great resource for people who may not have played as much of a leadership role in their previous lives.
  • The Cathedral and the Bazaar A fascinating short book that breaks down the social and organizational differences of open source vs "designed" software, and the implications of those decisions. A great introduction to understanding how our social norms and culture influence how software is designed and built within the organizations that we operate in.

Technical Resources

If you are just getting started and have a completely nontechnical background, spending some time learning to program pays off great dividends in the future. The goal of this exercise is not to make you a ninja wiz-bang rockstar insert jargon here developer, but instead, for you to increase the context that you have regarding the problem space that you are operating in. Specifically, it will help you understand why:

  • Seemingly simple things may take a long time.
  • The complexities inherent in writing code.
  • Why having design discussions upfront is so important.
  • Thinking through all of the edge cases.
  • The true meaning of technical debt.

I recommend getting started with Ruby on Rails because its convention over configuration model will force you to understand the foundational concepts around the development of web applications like MVC architecture, DB migrations, REST-ful API design, etc. Your three best resources for learning Rails are Why's (Poignant) Guide to Ruby, Rails with Zombies, and Google. More advanced readers should read through the Principles of Object Oriented Design.

(Note that if you are out to actually build products of your own, I currently think Meteor is one of the best platforms to get started with).

Movies to Watch

Completely unnecessary but wonderfully fun