Where Product Meets Design - Tim Flood on Analyzing More than Just Data

December 12, 2023


Alex Smith: Design Leader Insights is brought to you by Fuego UX. Fuego UX is a leading UX research, strategy, and design consultancy. Hey Tim, thanks so much for joining the show today. 

Tim Flood: Absolutely, pleasure to be here. 

Alex Smith: Yeah, for sure. And as we get started, can you give the audience a little bit of your background in product management?

Tim Flood: Absolutely. Well you know, I've been in the product space for six or so years at this point, and have, I've led a few different products for a few different companies you may or may not have heard of. So I've worked at Johnson Controls for a short stint at DirecTV and most recently at T-Mobile. So all business of business products. Prior to that, had some experience in sales and analytics and consulting, all things that kind of helped build out that well rounded skillset that any good product manager has got to have out there. Nice. 

Alex Smith: I love that. Yeah. I think that's like a common background of someone's journey in the product coming from heavy data. Well, sweet. Are you ready to jump into the lightning round questions? 

Tim Flood: Yeah, let's do it. Let's go for it. 

Alex Smith: All right. Awesome. So starting off with the tough form, what is a common myth about product management?

Tim Flood: It's glamorous. I mean, it's the first thing. Maybe just the perception is maybe when you're not in, it is just how much authority you do have, right? You know, they throw out mini CEO. I don't know if anybody really believes that, but the truth is you're kind of the glue holding all these different stakeholders together. And you are the one responsible for sort of driving the product forward or whatever feature or whatever build you are and connecting all the pieces. But at the end of the day, people don't necessarily report to you. So you've got to get them to do what, what needs doing without having the authority to tell them explicitly, go, go do it. 

Alex Smith: What's the most important lesson you've learned? 

Tim Flood: I think for people that are trying to get into it, one thing I would share is, is certifications don't do that much for you. And so I, admittedly, I'm a certification junkie and I, you know, I've got an MBA and a stack of certifications. And if there's definitely value in them, right? But it's not necessarily going to get you the job. It's not going to help you break in like you're hoping it might. 

Alex Smith: What's one thing about product that nobody agrees with you about?

Tim Flood: I don't know if it's nobody, but you hear a lot about the, just the importance of data and if that's the ultimate, you know you know, the, the hardcore data is how you should be making decisions. And to me personally, I think, you know, obviously I have an analytics background as well. It is important, right? That's not to say it's not important, but it, you know, I think product sense and, and, and qualitative feedback from customers is just as important or more important. 

Alex Smith: What's an underrated or indispensable tool for being a PM? 

Tim Flood: Yeah, I mean, there's a ton of tools out there that you could use in your daily life, you know, day to day, right? And I think it really depends on you know, what type of PM you are, sort of what extras you bring to the table. So you know, if you're doing mock ups and business flows and things like Miro and Mural and those sorts of tools are very helpful. If you're one, a person that excels in doing presentations and, you know, that executive stakeholder liaison role, then, you know, PowerPoint and Prezi. And if you come with more of an analytics background, or that's the gap on the team that you want to lean in and, and, and help solve, then. You know, SQL, if you want to get really nerdy about it, and then just, you know, Power BI and Tableau. I think it's good to have, you know, at least a little bit of knowledge of all of those tools. And maybe one or two of them will be able to go deeper than your average PM out there. If you want to stand out and kind of carve your own lane. 

Alex Smith: And then what, what's a piece of advice you have for someone starting out in the product? 

Tim Flood: Starting out is tough. I think that's the hardest thing to get in. So the easiest way to get into a product manager position and, you know, and personal experience and, and anecdotal, you know, experience with other folks is to pivot within the company that you're in, lean in to volunteer to help out in some capacity that's adjacent to product, right? So if it's. Sales or engineering or marketing or customer success, you know, lean in and, and try and help out in that area. So did you have some legitimate bullet points, right? To on your resume? And that's the easiest way to get in. I mentioned the certification piece. It's tough. I think that's going to help you when you lean in to actually add some value. And then the other thing you can do is just do your own thing. Right? And so, you know, if you have an idea for an app. Don't make the app, right? And make a mockup of it and, and kind of go through all those things, check those boxes, put it on your resume and say, hey, it never made any money, but I did go through this exercise, right? And demonstrate your skills that way. You know, you put that with some, you know, kind of parallel work and some certifications and maybe somebody's going to take a shot on you. But to be honest, right now, there's so many good, talented, experienced people out there. It's just harder than ever to break in. And people don't have the bandwidth to go train somebody up. So it's always easier for a hiring manager to go with someone who's proven themselves and they can plug and play and not need a lot of handholding. So it's, it's really tough to break in if you haven't done it yet. 

Alex Smith: Tim, let's go back to what you're talking about. Because when you said people overweigh the data, hey, I totally agree. Show me the data. Show me the data. Okay, sure. I can show you data. It doesn't mean you're going to know what it means. I think the other thing that people forget is that you know, correlation doesn't mean causation. Right. And like, not everyone's going to have a PhD in statistics and understand that. But like I want to know how you get those type of people, the day to day to day to people to actually look at maybe a more qualitative kind of input. 

Tim Flood: I mean, I had a great example. I spoke with senior PM at, at, I guess I can say at LinkedIn and really say, you know, I've got all these ideas, you know, and he's like, yeah, yeah, you know, everybody's got ideas or a dime a dozen and biggest lesson I've ever learned by the way is execution trumps ideas, you know, 10 times out of 10 in the real world. But you know, he said, okay, what about your idea? And I had an idea that there's so much of the workforce out there is. Contractor contingent vendor consultant right and LinkedIn doesn't have a really eloquent way to deal with those folks and to highlight. You want to show the logo where you made that impact. You want to be at the fan company where you were there, but you don't want to nicely. You know, list the contractor you work for. Right. But you, you want to be honest about it and not say, hey, I was an FTE at Google, but a contractor there, right? And there's not an eloquent way to do that. And his pushback was, you know, why would I do that? Am I going to get any more users or views or anything? And I was like. Probably not. Right? But isn't it the right thing to do? Right. And when we get so focused on, we're driving some KPI, I need to boost the number of users, the page views, the ad revenue, all of that, you get away from like, isn't that the better user experience, isn't that the right thing to do and, and it's, it's inherently how we think about everything when everything's data driven and what are my KPI and my metrics and that's all we were focused on. Then we lose sight of just doing the things that are hard to measure, but the right thing to do. 

Alex Smith: I know you've worked on both internal products and customer facing products at the various companies you're at. Tell me what an internal PM kind of does. 

Tim Flood: Yeah, I think that's, it's what I've learned is that's something nobody ever sort of brings to the surface. That some statistically significant portion of people that have that title product manager are working on internal products. And it's not what you generally think about. You always think about customer facing, you know, products that are out there. Oftentimes it is an internal product. And so you know, I've recently had, you know, a position where it's an internal product and you're not, you know, you're not talking about millions of users. You're talking about dozens or hundreds of users. Right. So really challenging to articulate and quantify your impact as an internal product manager. Right. What are the things when the scale is so much smaller? And. I think specific to, to your expertise, right, in terms of UX is it's really de-emphasized when it comes to internal. Yeah. There's a mandate, right? You know, if you start some app and it doesn't have good user experience, somebody downloads it, can't do what they want, they delete it and you're gone, they'll never get you again. Internal, your boss told you, you got to use it. You're going to use it, right? Regardless of the UX, it's harder to train up. That's tough. You know, find the time and I need you to use this. It's, it's. So there's a de emphasis there between UX and to the point where. You know, my recent role, we haven't had, we don't have a dedicated UX person. And so, you know, you think of that Venn diagram between product and engineering and design, when design's not there, there's literally a void where it's like, okay, who's going to control, what is that experience? And, you know, if you have some app, it's like, okay, your, your metric is, do people download it? Do they use it? Do they pay you for it? You know, can you pay the bills? And you know, in an internal product, it's okay. What is the adoption? And the utilization and people, you know, leveraging it, we've invested X millions of dollars in this tool. And then, you know, hopefully you can stand up an ability to sort of get that customer feedback, right? You still want to survey the experience and optimize that. 

Alex Smith: That's awesome that you focused on that and we need more of that for sure.

Tim Flood: Well, and just bring it to light and say, okay, that, you know, that this is a segment of the product manager community. It's not going to be ashamed of, it's harder to articulate your value and measure it. And ultimately it's really light. You know, if you're supporting marketing, you're amplifying their, whatever their success is, those become your metrics, right? Right. You can do 50 percent more campaigns with the same head count because you use this tool or whatever it is, right? You know, that's the, so it's, it's sort of B2B to C, you know, measurement. Whoever you're supporting, whatever they're trying to accomplish, you're helping them do that. That sort of becomes your metric. 

Alex Smith: Yeah, I totally agree. Tim, thanks so much for joining the show today.

Tim Flood: It's been awesome. Thank you so much for having me I appreciate it