TOBY ROGERS

essays

Social media has devolved into an ego-boosting playground. We’ve traded meaningful connections for retweets, likes, and the illusive promise of going viral.

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Facebook don’t test. Why would they? With an active user base of more than one billion, it’s all-but impossible for them to create a staging server which bears any resemblance to their live environment at all.

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I’ve taken so many bullets for my development team that I’m starting to look like Butch & Sundance. A recent update to one of our systems led to a 500% increase in support tickets, all a result of issues that looked trivial on paper but had a huge impact on the customer experience.

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Setting off on a journey without a map is fine, if you’re not bothered about where you’ll end up. If you’re trying to destroy a Death Star, though, then you’ve got to stay on target. The same is true if you’re trying to build world class products.

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Military strategists can teach you a lot about leading a business team. Before the 1960s, there was no such thing as strategy in business. Strategy was for military historians and the future battlefield leaders being trained at academies like Sandhurst and West Point.

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As former Intel CEO Andy Grove said in his seminal book High Output Management, a team will perform only if peak performance is elicited from the individuals in it.

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Most Product Teams try to steer clear of Key Performance Indicators. What works for business-as-usual functions like Customer Support and Operations doesn’t always work for teams whose primary goal is getting new features into the hands of customers.

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I love Reddit. The self-styled front page of the Internet has long been my favourite place to hang out online. I love it so much I’ve got five different accounts which I use for posting and commenting on different subreddits, from r/psychedelicrock to r/StarWars, from r/twinpeaks to r/talesfromtechsupport (and no, I don’t upvote myself; that would be cheating).

I’ve also got a Reddit button on my denim jacket…

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Hanging out backstage with musicians doesn’t seem like the ideal training ground for product management, but there are actually a lot of similarities between writing articles people want to read and building products people want to use. Both are about engaging an audience, after all.

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There are a lot of good product managers, but great product managers are few and far between. To get to the very top, you need to have the right qualities.

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