My Role Models for Successful Product Managers

Disclaimer: There are lot of great Product Managers around the world, so remember, this is my personal list. If you are agree, awesome; if you disagree with me; not problem, think about this, and make your own list in a response to this post, I will be more than pleased to read it and share it with everyone.

The last month I took a new role as Product Manager at, and one of the most interesting questions that the Product team made me was:

“Who or whose are your role models for successful Product Managers?”

Quickly, in my mind came a lot of names, and I began to build my answer in chunks:

“My role models for PMs are builders, constant learners, and natural leaders. They love to teach to people of their respective teams, and they help them to succeed. They are Givers by nature.”

Then, I mentioned some names, and why they were role models for me. Some of the Product team knew some names, others not. So, they gave me an idea:

“Why don’t you write about that, and in that way, we can learn from them too?”

The answer is this post.

You may think that I made a lot of research about this, but you are wrong: This is a list of people I admire for a long time; so this seems so natural for me that I was shocked when I said a lot of these names in less of 7 seconds.

Here’s the list

drew dillon, aka Product Man (Principal at ProductBridge, former VP of Product at AnyPerk, ex member of Product team at Yammer)

Drew Dillon

If you have had any question about Product Management in the course of your career, you probably have read some of the amazing answers that Drew has written at Quora. Even, I have a list of them in my Scrapbook:

Now, he is working as VP of Product Engineering at AnyPerk, and he is looking for new Product Managers for his team there, so my advice for you is read a lot of posts in his Product Man blog.

Jackie Bavaro, Head of Product Management at Asana

Jackie Bavaro

If you want to make a great impression in a Product Management interview, the “Cracking the Product Management Interview book written by Jackie and Gayle Laakmann McDowell is a must-read text. You will be amazed for the incredible insights they put in your hands.

She has an incredible blog called The Art of Product Management at Quora, so I encourage you to read it too. One of my favorite posts in her blog is called: Always Be Defining Success, where she wrote this:

PMing isn’t really about writing specs, building prototypes, running user studies, and prioritizing backlogs — It’s about helping your team ship a great product. To do that, you need to define what success means, and measure how well you’re achieving that success.

She is hiring PMs for her Asana’s team too. Check it out the open positions here, and make sure to read her blog at Quora.

Ken Norton, Product Partner at Google Ventures

Ken Norton

If you a Product Manager, and you are not subscribed to Ken’s “Bring The Donuts” newsletter, you could lose the opportunity to learn something new as a PM.

So, take 1 minute to subscribe to his newsletter, you will surprise of the quality of his essays, which I always revisit:

Again, you must be a subscriber of his newsletter, specially if you are looking Product Management jobs.

A las tip: watch his keynote in the Mind The Product Conference in September, 2015. It’s an incredible resource:

David Cancel, CEO at Drift

David Cancel

David is a builder. He has created several companies on his career, and now he is taking all that knowledge to take by storm the Customer Engagement market with his Drift team working in something they called “Relationship Marketing”, and after that, they created a new catefory called Conversation Marketing.

BTW, he wrote one of the most though-provoking posts about Product Management here at Medium, explaining why he never hires Product Managers

This Is Why I Never Hire Product Managers
I’ve spent 20 years in my career building and leading product teams. But I have a contrarian approach when it comes to…

It doesn’t matter if you are new or an experienced PM, you have to read his post. Like me, you probably will disagree with some of his points (and he is OK with that), but for me, the most interesting part of the post is the final questions and his quote about it:

Think about your secret sauce, especially when it comes to hiring PMs. If it’s product, then look outside the box to find PM’s that you can mold and grow.

BTW, he is looking brilliant people for his team at Drift. Check it out their Careers page.

selina tobaccowala, Chief Digital Officer at Openfit, Co-founder at Gixo, Former CTO at SurveyMonkey

You must be wondering why I put Selina in this list. It’s simple: She helped to build one of the most awesome Engineering teams I’ve seen in my life at SurveyMonkey.

I understood completely that when I read the post called The Inside Story on How SurveyMonkey Cracked the International Market in the First Round Capital’s Review, where she advised to company leaders how to tackle the International Expansion problem from a technology perspective.

She made a summary on this problem here:

The biggest piece of advice I can offer is that if you start thinking about this upfront, the investment you’ll have to make is fairly minimal. On the other hand, if you have to retrofit your application years later, it can be very difficult — and I have nine years of experience doing exactly that before landing at SurveyMonkey. It was pretty painful.

After 5 years at SurveyMonkey, she and her team made this:

A little over five years later, they are supporting 17 different languages and 28 currencies. Currently, the domestic market is 55% of their business, but they’re aiming for it to be just 25% of their business.

So, she has a strong sense of Product Management, thinking in the big picture, and she has a lot of probes of that with SurveyMonkey.

BTW, she wrote an emotive post after she left the company. I encourage you to read it:

Thank you, SurveyMonkey
Hi everyone,

And I put a Tweet about a new opportunity for Selina:

Bret Taylor, President and COO at Salesforce

Bret Taylor

I respect a lot people who has built products for millions of users, and when you read about Bret, you know he has helped to build some of the most used products today: Google Maps, Google Maps API, Google Local, FriendFeed (acquired by Facebook in 2009) and Facebook.

Now, he is trying to do the same thing at Quip (acquired by Salesforce for $750M)

Bret is a highly technical person, but with a strong product sense. If you read of his last posts about how they built Quip Desktop with C++ and ReactJS, you immediately will know why I’m saying this.

React with C++: Building the Quip Mac and Windows Apps
This post is about how we built Quip Desktop. Quip is a modern productivity suite designed for team collaboration. If…

If you want to work with him as a PM at Quip, a technical background could be very helpful to make a great impression. Don’t forget to read this post about Quip’s culture:

The Former Facebook CTO Is Building A Brilliant Office Culture That Every Startup Should Follow
As rewarding as it is, startups are usually very demanding and take huge amounts of attention, which often lead to long…

Noah Weiss, Head of the Search, Learning, & Intelligence group at Slack

If you read about Noah’s path, you will see he has a strong technical background too. He led teams in two of the core revenue generators a Google: Search and Display Ads. After that, he became in the SVP of Product at Foursquare, and now, he has a new mission at Slack: To build and recruit brilliant people for its NYC office.

When I have a particular question about Product Management, I always visit his post about resources for PMs:

73 Articles and Books that will Make you a Great Product Manager
From Horowitz to Christensen to Graham to Spolsky and more, a collection of the best articles and books from the best…

If you are interested to join to Noah’s team at Slack NYC, check out this link.

Ellen Chisa, CEO at Darklang, former VP of Product at Lola

When I read that Ellen left Harvard Business School to join to Lola, I said: Wow, this woman is my new hero. She has guts. But, then I began to read her blog, and I found a lot of great gems. One of my personal favorite is his story about how she understood that Microsoft wasn’t the right career fit for her:

"Career Fit" - Ellen's Blog
It's been over two years since I left Microsoft. It's been almost a year since I first wrote about it. I still reflect…

One of her last brilliant pieces are in the Aha’s blog, where she talked about the differences between the VP of Product and the Product Manager roles:

The VP of Product vs. the Product Manager
Two of my friends and I had a shared goal last year. We wanted to answer a long-standing question: "What makes a great…

Now, she is trying to shape a product could shake the Travel industry at Lola. Talk to her if she is looking for new PMs for her team. If you want to really make an impression, check out two posts on her blog:

Adam Nash, former Vice President of Product and Growth at Dropbox, former President and CEO at Wealthfront

If you are in tech, you probably has heard something related to Adam. He is the former VP of Product Management at LinkedIn, and he wrote about his personal definition of Product Management in two awesome posts.

He made an incredible summary about this here:

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out a way to communicate the value of a product manager in a way that both transparently tells cross-functional partners what they should expect (or demand) from their product leaders, and also communicates to new product managers what the actual expectations of their job are. Over the years, I reduced that communication to just three sets of responsibilities: Strategy, Prioritization & Execution.

To read both posts, I will let you the links here:

If you read some posts about Wealthfront, you will see he and his team are building something incredible; so if you want to get on board of this rocket ship as a PM, be prepared. I let you here the open positions in their Product team:

Mina Radhakrishnan, co-founder at :Different, former EIR at Red Point Ventures, Former Head of Product at Uber, Xoogler

I admire Mina’s work at Uber. She helped to create the bases for the massive growth of the company on its early days, and if you are seeing Uber’s operations today; you will see she did an incredible work there.

If you want to read more about this, you can read her posts about how Uber became in a global company:

Do you want to get deeper? Watch her interview made by Axiom Zen:

In the eye of the storm: Building Uber
In conversation with Uber’s first Head of Product, Mina

Sachin Rekhi, CEO and co-founder at Notejoy, Product Guy and Former Director of Product Management at LinkedIn

It’s simple, just read one of Sachin’s posts, and you won’t stop. He has an incredible “product sense” tackled after years creating awesome products for the masses.

Some of my favorite posts are:


So, again: This is my personal list, so if you don’t agree with me, share you own list in a response to this post, I will be more than glad to share it. If you agree with me, just share the article.

Thanks for reading.

Marcos Ortiz Valmaseda

Marcos Ortiz Valmaseda

Editor at The Panda Way, where I help companies to earn more income through #investing. Cloud Data Engineer in the morning at Grupo Intercorp
Lima, Peru