Behind the Roadmap with Productboard’s Sophie Lalonde
This post is the first of a brand new video series to understand what goes on behind the roadmap – it’s an inside look at the life of product managers. Watch the full first video with Productboard’s own Sophie Lalonde here and keep an eye out for upcoming installments!
The road to product management as a career isn’t always a straightforward one, and that’s why we’re taking you Behind the Roadmap for a deeper look at the life of product managers and product leaders.
We dive into their journeys into product management, their biggest challenges, greatest strengths and so much more. It’s one part lifestyle, two parts nerding out on product.
Meet Sophie Lalonde
Group Product Manager (and tea aficionado) at Productboard, Sophie has been at Productboard for a little more than two years.
And in her own words, “building products for product managers, it gets meta really fast.”
Remote work challenges
If you did the math and realized that meant Sophie started right before the pandemic did, you’d be correct. That, of course, brought its own set of challenges.
“Yeah, so product management’s the glue, right? You are the person that’s making sure everything’s connected. And so when you don’t have those in-between meetings that you can just have for two seconds, it really changes the game.”
How does Productboard work through those challenges?
“The first thing you have to do is just assume everyone has good intentions. You have to realize it’s hard for everyone. But for us, we always try to figure out – what is just running the business? And we can do that asynchronously versus what is actually net new or important or a big bet or something that is blocking you? So trying to get less from just what’s happening every day, day in, day out, and more to, what could we do to get unblocked? What could we do to try to make things 10X better?”
Journey into product management
As we alluded to earlier, there are many paths to product management and few of them are a straight course from college into a PM role. As for Sophie?
“I came from a strategy background in consulting, did venture capital, and then realized how much I wanted to operate and work with teams. That’s just one way in. So we have lots of people that come in from an engineering background, or honestly, one of the most common ones I see is you come in, you do customer success, you understand the pain points, and you make the transition.”
A day in the life
If you want a job that’s different every day, then product management just might be the role for you!
“No day is the same in product management land.”
“So no day is the same in product management land, but I have my eyes on three different what I’d call ‘initiatives’. And they’re all in pursuit of our higher level objectives at Productboard, and each of them is in a very different place. So one of them we are executing and that’s very exciting, coming to beta. The other one is in that area where you’re trying to figure out exactly what the solution is with design and engineering. And then the last one is just very greenfield, trying to even figure out what the problem is. We don’t even know what we want to be solving. So it’s really doing continuous discovery with product leaders.”
Tricks of the trade
If it seems like product managers are constantly in meetings, you’re absolutely right. Sophie’s philosophy on that?
“If you constantly say yes to meetings, you are just going to become drained. And so you need to figure out, which are the run the business meetings? Can any of that happen asynchronously over Slack? Because we work with so many folks in Prague, it helps because it consolidates the time that you can meet. So it’s just anything that’s run the business, see if there’s something you can do over a means of communication that isn’t over video.
“And then what I try to make sure in terms of the meetings that we do have is along that double diamond process, what are the right check-in points? When do you have things stitched up that you’re ready to share? And I always tell my team, we need to present before we’re comfortable. So before you’re 100% comfortable, maybe 85%, that’s when you want to present. Because you’re going to get feedback, you have to iterate, you have to go and try to make more improvements. Putting these meetings sooner rather than later, even risking not looking perfect, is truly in the benefit of a fast moving startup.”
(Want more on the double diamond framework? Check this out!)
Final words of advice
What is it that makes a product manager?
“If you are just an observer, if you’re somebody that’s really interested in problems people face and you want to come up with creative ways to make it better, you’re a PM. And you can even see it when you’re in a grocery line and you’re trying to improve the process. If you’re constantly just trying to solve things and you want to work with people to solve problems, you’re a product manager.”
Thanks for coming with us Behind the Roadmap!
The conversation continues in the rest of the series, so keep an eye on our social feeds or right here on the blog for the next installment. And if you haven’t yet, check out the video here.