Recently product development has become very intriguing career choice in computer science field. People like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and Jeff Bezos have become household names and role models to aspiring entrepreneurs, and computing has, to a certain extent, replaced the oil and commodities sectors on Wall Street as a future investment bet. Many big universities have already introduced product development as a separate subject and unsurprisingly these courses are oversubscribed despite high fees.
However, having been involved in product development for both consumer and enterprise software and hardware, I am inclined to believe that product development cannot be learnt or taught over a relatively short time period as it is a continuously evolving process to find a solution for identified problems.
Based on personal experience, and after researching the thoughts and actions of many product developers from companies such as Facebook, Instagram, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, eBay etc., the following characteristics have identified that might help product developers to become successful!
Passion is about determination – finishing the job with calmness and confidence; it is not shouting and swearing.
Passion is the first characteristic everyone expects from a product developer, but I am not sure if all developers understand what passion stands for; some confuse it with obsessive aggression, argumentativeness and impatience, which can have an adverse effect.
In my opinion, the passion means a determination to finish what you start, regardless of pain and hurdles, and the work must be carried out with confidence so that you can remain focused, productive and immune to failures.
There is nothing wrong with being driven by money or fame
Hunter Walk wrote a very good article and he emphasized the three most important things for product development: love, greed and fear. I must admit that the second one, greed, left the most lasting impact on me, as he rightly mentioned that greed relating to becoming famous and/or rich can potentially bring a focused and non-egoistic approach to developing a product quickly.
Use personal grudges to motivate yourself.
I was attending an event and one of the most experienced entrepreneurs in that meeting mentioned that he wanted to develop successful products because, ”I need to prove many people wrong and rather than talk the talk, I like to do walk the walk and make things happen.”
Another example is in Nick Bilton’s new book Hatching Twitter: Square is the byproduct of proving those people wrong that pushed Jack Dorsey out of Twitter.
Don’t get emotionally attached and learn every day.
Emotional attachment to a product can become hurdle to its development. Just because you want to shape a certain product in a specific way does not mean that everyone will buy in to your idea. As a product developer, you must be fixated on the problem you are solving but not on the way you choose to solve it i.e. if your product ends up completely different to what you first envisaged but solves the problem, you are winner!
5.Aptitude over qualifications:
You don’t need to be an engineer to build product.
Companies from Google to Facebook emphasize that product developers must be engineers. However, there are many examples in the technical world where people from a non-technical background become product developers. Steve Jobs was art school drop put was not a technical guy; he was a salesman at Atari and had vision to shape computer hardware in certain way to make it accessible. Working with the technical skills of Steve Wozniak, he developed the first personal computer and the rest is history.
6.Control the whole development cycle
Product development is not just about developing a piece of software and/or hardware; it needs a holistic approach.
As well as doing the things you love, you have to manage people, processes and technology. You might have to be a tester one day and project manager or blogger or legal representative another day.For example, a developed product must go through legal checks to ensure that no copyright is infringed. As the product developer you can’t shy away from taking that responsibility and you will need to engage with non-technical people to ensure the whole product is ready.
7.Build an honest team:
Surround yourself with people who can criticize.
Build a team that can identify issues with your product, not “Yes boss” colleagues, who are either charmed with your enthusiasm or have no clue about your product and therefore fail to pinpoint any issues. For example, I suspect that Microsoft’s failure to identify the internet opportunity and Yahoo’s inability to convert their content to context, losing the race to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, is result of this misinformation to their main product developers.
8.Step out of your comfort zone
Product development is a very time consuming activity and comes with huge responsibility and leadership. However, for greater productivity, and to remain in touch with the ground zero reality, every product manager must take some time out from their routine life and must involve themselves in activities that force them to think outside the box, such as become a volunteer worker at a sports club or charity, go to new places and work with people whose skills don’t match yours.
The key is you must work at something which doesn’t fall into your usual professional, social or personal domain and challenges you to step out of your comfort zone and broaden your horizons.