Faculty Stories: Benedikt Glatzl, Product Manager

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Marketing

Benedikt Glatzl is a tech product management executive with extensive experience in evaluating & steering a variety of organizations, companies & products. Currently he is Head of Product Management at hi.health and as an Ex-Googler, he is an innovation enthusiast. In our Growth & Digital Marketing Bootcamp, Benedikt will share his valuable experience in Design Thinking, Open Innovation and Project Management. 

 

Describe your job:

I lead a cross-functional team of developers, analysts, designers and product support staff in building, maintaining and improving products and features. I am responsible for the entire lifecycle of our products – from identifying customer needs with user studies to setting long-term priorities & roadmaps, and also specifying details of how things should be designed and built. Product management in tech startups gives me extremely diverse experiences, since it is involved in everything from research to technical architecture, design and marketing. 

Because this role touches such broad and fundamental areas in a tech company a product manager is sometimes called a “shadow CEO”, especially in early stages of a company’s life.

 

How did you get into this job?

I always liked organizing things from an early age on and led several youth organizations in school and university. 

During my studies (in Economics) I always gravitated towards theories of value creation and innovation and as a result looked for jobs in the field. I started off with a brief stint in consulting, but felt that I wanted to be more in the thick of things. So I taught myself more analytics (building on my university knowledge) and a bit of programming and applied for jobs in the tech industry in the product area. From the offers I got, I decided to go with Google in a Product Analyst (and later Product Strategist) role. Within Google I also joined Google’s Global Innovation Program as a lead facilitator and coached executive teams around the world in Design Thinking and product management. 

The combination of organizational and technical skills I acquired this way set me up well for a job in actual product management and I decided to go for that in the tech startup environment. I picked specifically such companies that were either building a product or going from market testing stage to scale up. I have been working in the Austrian tech startup field for nearly 5 years now.

 

Which are the top 5 hard skills that someone in your industry should have?

  • At least basic coding or technical skills (depending on the field) – you won’t need to code yourself, but you have to understand enough to be able to work with programmers, give them meaningful instructions and estimate cost and impact of what you want them to build; plus it gives you some credibility (some developers can be princesses when it comes to setting priorities)
  • Data analytics – all that matters is that the products you build get traction in the form of sign ups, sales, retention, user actions etc. You need to know at any time for any of product, feature and release you put out there who is using it how to what degree and take decisions accordingly. Data is your oxygen.
  • Project Management – You are the main planner in the team, so you need to have your roadmaps and everyone’s priorities and resources straight. 
  • (UX) Design Thinking & Prototyping – Making an idea work and testable with the least necessary resources is actually a task that requires a lot of exploring and thinking rather than just building building building (as some people mistakenly think). You need to be able to identify underlying core needs of users, cut to the core value a product idea provides and make it testable fast and effectively. You need to be comfortable with the idea that a test might look very very different from the product idea you have and might fundamentally change your product and business. 
  • Business / Economics – What you build needs to make economic sense. You need to have your financial KPIs straight just as much as your product KPIs. You need to know if your customers are going to provide you with enough revenue to generate profits eventually and how are you going to get there.

 

Which are the top 5 soft skills that someone in your industry should have?

  • Leadership – most product managers don’t have actual people management powers (like performance reviews and firing), so they need to be able to persuade all their stakeholders and motivate them despite not having formal powers. 
  • Process facilitation (meetings, workshops, sprints, …) – you are going to lead many meetings, workshops, sprints, hackathons etc. and need to be able to guide people towards the goals you have in mind for these. 
  • Empathy / Intuition – while you are largely guided by data in your detail work, intuition is what helps you decide on fundamentally new concepts and ideas and see what might work with users and what not
  • Prioritization and delegation – since this role touches so many areas, it’s essential to prioritize your and everyone else’s time and when to things yourself and when to delegate
  • Sales/Presentation – a lot of your success will depend on how well you can convince people internally (like developers, management, etc.) and externally (investors, partners, etc.) that what you are building or planning to build is of value

 

When you start a new project, what are the steps you take?

Very roughly speaking: 

    1. Define User Needs: what do potential users actually need
    2. Research: Interview and observe potential users in situations related to the project, read scientific papers on the topic
    3. Refine User Needs: adapt based on the above step
    4. Refine Ideas: check if my product/feature ideas actually hit the needs of users
    5. Create first low-fi prototype: creating an (usually low-tech) user experience that can at least qualitatively test the fundamental product hypothesis (most software and hardware ideas can effectively be tested without writing a single line of code)
    6. Based on the outcome, repeat the above steps a few times
    7. Once needs, product hypothesis & product idea feel refined enough, define core features and create a plan for when they should be implemented
    8. Then start defining details of those core features & have them implemented

All of the steps above are highly iterative and collaborative!

 

What are the reasons you wanted to become part of the Talent Garden Innovation School Faculty and share your knowledge?

I noticed that most startup projects get ahead of themselves too quickly and get into frantic building mode way too early before they even figured out what their users really need and what a good focus for them should be. I want to teach people how to effectively organize themselves and how to test and refine their ideas very early on so they can build more relevant products faster. As a result of my work at Talent Garden I hope to see more successful, relevant and better tested projects, products, features, campaigns or whatever they are working on (the above mentioned methods can all be very well applied to almost any type of project).

 

How do you keep up with the latest trends?

I follow key experts on various media and social media platforms. Besides that by surrounding myself with sharp, curious people willing to push their intellectual boundaries and learning on a constant basis. Lastly, by reading lots of non-fiction books.

 

In your opinion: Which trends will change the future of business for good?

I’m not an in depth researcher nor an oracle, so I don’t think my opinion on that will be very helpful for anyone. But I think an important principle nowadays for preparing for the future is to not lock oneself into one single thing so much that you are not able anymore to adapt to changing circumstances or spot huge opportunities that one could jump on. This is especially hard when building a startup of course, but quite essential if you don’t want to “miss the wave”.

 

Which are your future work challenges?

As information load and speed of change increase, taking decisions gets increasingly difficult; new decision support systems will be needed. A big challenge for the organisations I work in will be analogous to what I said above about people – they need to be able to be set up so flexibly, that they can quickly react to changing market conditions and trends

 

Coming to an end: What is the best advice you can give to people that are interested in taking a career in your industry?

  • Balance yourself out – if your strength are soft skills, teach yourself coding; if you are technically strong, join a volunteer organization and take on a leadership role there
  • Expose yourself to the industry where possible – there are tons of volunteer projects, mentoring opportunities, online resources, internships out there
  • Build your own thing – even if it is just a passion project or small side-gig; this way you learn what is needed to start something from ground up and make it viable

 

Meet more Faculty Members of our Growth & Digital Marketing Bootcamp:

 

You want to learn more about our Growth & Digital Marketing Bootcamp?

This intensive 12-week Bootcamp gets you ready for your future job as Growth & Digital Marketing Specialist. From a solid foundation in digital marketing strategy, we deep dive into topics such as social media, content marketing, SEO, programmatic advertising, e-commerce and growth hacking. We’ll introduce you to all the necessary tools and you’ll learn from expert practitioners. We combine hands-on workshops, informal fireside chats, and project work where you work in groups and on your own. When finishing this course you will have a state-of-the-art skillset to work in growth & digital marketing.

Classes will be held in English, preparing students for an international career. In addition, the course is limited to a maximum of 20 people, which allows to respond individually to the needs of students. An included goodie on top is the trip to our Talent Garden headquarter in Milano, where you will work on an international project.