Quotes from a Top Google Exec that every aspiring Product Manager should read

I recently had the opportunity to attend a talk by Mr. Jonathan Rosenberg, author of the best seller “How Google Works”. Mr. Rosenberg is a long time advisor to Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet and has previously served as Senior Vice President of Product Management at Google, overseeing the design, creation, and improvement of the company’s innovative product portfolio. Before joining Google in 2002, Mr. Rosenberg founded and led innovative product development teams of the Internet’s first era, including teams and operations at @Home and Apple Computer.

Mr. Rosenberg  was speaking at  Washington University in St. Louis’s Olin Business School. Here are some of the key nuggets of wisdom that he shared in this hour long speech. For the full audio recording of the talk, please subscribe to this blog and I will send it to you in your inbox. Or just reach out to me on twitter!

On Business/Products/Strategy

    • Most Business schools teach you how to avoid risks, not how to maximize speed
    • The factors of production are changing from Land, labor and capital to free information, internet and free computing cycles. 
    • General purpose technologies (e.g. Steam, electricity etc) were slow to develop, but with democratization of internet today’s technologies proliferate much faster.
    • When people search for products, better ones will always come to the top organically.  
    • Every Product at Google has some deeper purpose/technical insight. Always ask what is the technical insight that your product offers?
    • Hiring good Product Managers is hard. Marissa Mayer , Yahoo’s current once CEO worked for J Rosenberg. She  helped create the Associate Product Manager role at Google- bringing young computer science guys right out of college to learn from practicing Product Managers.

On Org Culture/innovation/Running Teams

    • Its easier to train engineers to make them understand business implications of a feature than to train business people to learn engineering. 
    • Its important  to realize that engineers today don’t want Product Managers to tell them what to do. They are not looking to be  micro managed. What PMs should instead do is manage  is the “environment” that aligns them to business objectives.
    • @ Google, before we invest in an idea,  we ask people to show us working prototypes instead of  a powerpoint. 
    • Innovation happens in small teams. If you have too many people in a team, you are running a team instead of building a great product.
    • Larry and Sergei always ask people at interviews “Tell me something complicated”.  They look for for simplicity & passion- not complicated answers. Its easy to make things complicated
    • As a manager, you are only as good as the people you hire.
    • Start every meeting with Data.
    • There are no Eureka moments in innovation, its a long process. It only comes after difficult iterations and learnings. Same at Google.
    • Set VERY VERY aggressive goals, .  If all your KPIs/OKRs are green- you are thinking small.
    • Don’t just say “its okay to fail“. Set  your objectives such that failure is acceptable. Sign up for crazy goals, that’s what moves the needle.

As a Product Manager myself building products in a competitive industry, this talk came at just the right time. If you have feedback or comments ,  send me a note on twitter , or in the comments section.


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