How to learn when you're starting from scratch - Product Management Gyaan


Last week, an entrepreneur reached out to me for advice on how to get more hands-on product knowledge because most blogs/reading material only talk about higher level management theories and not about what to work on everyday.

This is a brilliant question, and a super important one too.

The following was my response, which I thought, could be shared with wider audience and could be helpful if you’re just starting out with building your startup or you’ve just started managing products.


Firstly, most of what I’ve learnt, has been by working with extremely smart and experienced people - who are 10-20+ years older than than me (Udit, Purnendra Kishore, Wassem) and industry veterans - who’ve had more experience in building companies than I have had living here on earth (DK Goel). I’ve managed to learn from their experiences and I’m mighty grateful for that.

So try and figure out mentors who can help you guide through this journey - this is especially crucial early in your career. As Issac Newton said in 1675

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.

Learning while doing

Another way to look at ‘what I need to learn’ is by seeing it as a superset of ‘skills’ required to build a great product. Here are a handful of them off the top of my mind -

  1. ‘Eye for detail’

  2. ‘Data Analysis’

  3. ‘Design sense’

  4. ‘Strong Communication’

  5. ‘Execution Stuff’

  6. ‘Product Sense’

The list can go on but I hope this drives home the point that I’m trying to put across. I wouldn’t recommend that you read everything from scratch because it will be time consuming and in startups, agility matters. Try and figure out what your company needs the most right now and focus on learning that.

For example: At Easy Eat, which is re-imagining dining in experience for restaurants in SEA, we aim to make restaurant owners achieve their goals by helping them take better decisions using data and analytics (imagine Google Analytics, but for the offline world).

So to achieve that, I’ve started reading two books - ‘The Art of Statistics’ & ‘Lean Analytics’. I’m trying to imbibe the learnings from these books into the product that we’re building. This is what I call, learning by doing. Don’t try and read up strategy books because for first 5 years of your startup, you’ll not need that. Resources

Now, if you’d want some links, here’s a list of some of the best books I’ve found on building a good product (initial phases)

  1. Traction (pretty hands on)

  2. Lean Analytics (How to use data to build a better startup)

  3. The MOM Test (if you’re in super early phases of building the product. Highly Recommended)

  4. Obviously Awesome - How to nail product’s positioning

For other hands on stuff - setting up analytics, creating product backlogs, how to prioritize better etc, - read blogs of some great companies which indulge in comprehensive research, for instance, Moz, Intercom, Unusual VC and the like!

Learning is a continuous process which, I’ve come to realize, can be expedited with the right blend of the above-mentioned tactics.

Hope you liked this article. Let me know your thoughts! You can reach out to me at @irhythmgupta.

Written on July 23, 2020
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