Adventures in cooking

I just had an incredible meal: wild caught salmon filet with a roasted cherry tomato & red chermoula topping, next to a caramelized endive salad with pine nuts and a lemon dill vinaigrette. The entire meal was organic and fresh. It was paleo, low carb, satisfying, and just $14. Most importantly, it exploded wth flavor and I loved every bite of it.

In fact, I made this meal myself! I have no professional or even home chef experience, but in about 30 minutes I chopped, squeezed, seared, roasted, and cooked this meal from scratch, so-to-speak. I had all the ingredients I needed, no more and no less.

Our salmon with cherry tomato, endive, chermoula, and lemon-dill dressing

This meal came from Sunbasket, the meal delivery service I've been using since March of this year. Sunbasket is similar to Blue Apron, Home Chef, HelloFresh, and other meal subscription services. Once a week, I get an insulated box on my doorstep that has all the ingredients and recipes for 2 to 4 meals that week. All the ingredients are included, perfectly portioned. The recipes have easy to follow step by step instructions. I simply provide salt, pepper, olive oil, and a desire to put in a small amount of effort towards a great meal.

Below is my review. Sunbasket didn't put me up to this, I just love the product and want to share my experience with others. I'm not being paid for this post, but if you sign up with my referral link, I'll get an account credit.

Why a meal delivery service?

My girlfriend and I decided to try a meal delivery service because we wanted to spend less money and consumer fewer calories than our lives had been experiencing. We were either going out to restaurants or ordering in 5-7 nights per week. My wallet, and waistline, were showing it. Using a service like Sunbasket results in far fewer calories consumed, and less money spent, than our typical routine.

Our meals end up being either $12.50 or $14.00 per person, depending on our selection of 2 or 3 meals per week. This is less than even the local taqueria in San Francisco where we live. Far less than our favorite restaurant just a block away, where we'd easily spend $30 per person, not including drinks.

For me, the calorie savings are most important. I'm the type of person that eats whatever is in front of me, as much as is in front of me. Restaurants in America really like to put food in front of us. I suspect that when eating dinner out, I'm looking at a minimum of 1,000 calories...even when ordering a salad. With a meal delivery service like Sunbasket, my portions are reasonable and subsequently, so are the calories....between 550 and 700 per meal.

Why Sunbasket

There are a large number of options for meal delivery services. Blue Apron is probably the most well known, and the company even went public recently. I have no doubt that had we selected Blue Apron, Home Chef, HelloFresh, or any other service, we'd have been reasonably happy. That said, Sunbasket offered some benefits that we were attracted to.

First was the option to select different types of meal plans. We wanted low carb, and while that isn't an explicit option with Sunbasket, they do have a paleo option that offers exactly what we wanted...protein and vegetables, no high-carb, wheat-based products.

We also liked the organic nature of Sunbasket. While we are not religious about eating organic, we select organic options when they exist and are reasonable replacements for non-organic. Sunbasket is 100% organic and non-GMO produce, while meats/seafoods are all humanely raised, antibiotic and hormone-free. Similarly to their commitment to sustainable foods, we liked that Sunbasket ships their boxes in completely recyclable and compostable packaging. The ice-pack is nothing but cotton and water. The insulation is recyclable. You can optionally send the box back to Sunbasket for re-use. This made us feel a lot better about the level of waste with a concept like this.

Finally, we were happy with the delivery day for our zip-code. This is something that took me by surprise, but when I tried to sign up for a different service while living in Portland last year, the only delivery day I could get was Friday. With Sunbasket and living in San Francisco, our delivery day began as Wednesday, but was soon moved to Tuesday (yay!) and this week was Monday for an unknown reason (more yay!).

Since we selected Sunbasket, a few other benefits have popped up. We love that we can pause/skip a week. We like that we can do 2, 3, or 4 nights per week. Their customer service is great, and the product has been improved (faster delivery, more meal plan options, etc).

This week's box, just 2 meals due to our other evening commitments this week. Everything needed is in those brown bags, and the meat is perfectly chilled during transport.

I feel like an accomplished chef

We are experiencing all the benefits we expected with Sunbasket, and then some. I wasn't expecting to learn as much about cooking, and as much about flavor as I have! As it turns out, there are some easy ways to amp up the flavor of any meal, and I'll take these tips with me well beyond my experience with Sunbasket.

Use salt and olive oil liberally

One thing you'll notice when following a Sunbasket recipe is that you'll salt everything, sometimes more than once. If you make a dressing, you'll be instructed to salt it. When you cook meat, you'll be told to salt the meat liberally. Salt isn't just flavor itself, it brings out flavors in the other ingredients, especially proteins like steak.

Similarly, Sunbasket will make you go through a lot of olive oil, and thats a good thing! Nearly everything is cooked in olive oil, many things rubbed and coated in olive oil, and most dressings are an olive oil base.

Do yourself a favor, and ensure your kitchen is always stocked with artisanal salt (flor de sel), and high quality olive oil. You'll thank me later.

Citrus flavor comes from the peel

Its no surprise that citrus, like lemon and lime, packs a lot of flavor. What I didn't know is that most of the flavor is in the peel! When making Sunbasket recipes, you'll find yourself "zesting" every single lemon or lime in your basket. Literally every time the recipe calls for lemon or lime, you'll be told to zest and use with the juice. So much flavor!

Spices from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia are amazing

If you need to add flavor to a dish, turn to spices that have a historical or cultural origin in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. The flavors I've experienced with Sunbasket are incredible, and typically when a flavor blows me away, the ingredient is rooted in a spice from one of these three regions of the world.

Chermoula, from tonight's dinner, is from Algeri and Lybia, made from cumin. Tomorrow night, our pork dish has kimchi, an ingredient from Korea. Harrissa is a common spice rub from many of our past meals, a flavor that originates in Lybia and Tunisia. Sumac, basil, and sesame oil are all common ingredients, and all things that are less common in American or European cooking.

There are so many tasty vegetables

I've also discovered that I can have a variety of tasty vegetables at home! I don't have to eat only green beans and broccoli. With Sunbasket, we eat a lot of endive, celery root, fennel, radish, and arugula. Sure, I've had and like all of those things, but I rarely cook them at home. I now know that my options for easy and tasty veggies goes far beyond green beans and broccoli.

Give it a try

If you've been curious about meal delivery services like these, I recommend you give them a try. I believe all the popular services are commitment free (cancel any time) and come with a free week to get started.

Sure, you could go to the grocery store and by all these ingredients yourself for less, but if you are like me, you won't be able to make meals as tasty as these, and you won't be able to do it without an ounce of food waste like you can with Sunbasket.

As I mentioned earlier, I am not being paid for this post and I wrote it of my own accord. That said, if you sign up with this link, I'll get a $25 credit in my account. Thank you!

Fundamental problems with software user analytics

My entire career has been centered on using data to make decisions. From sales, inventory, product, financial, customer, and user data. Not only have I been a consumer of data and user of analytics products, I've built, purchased an implemented analytics products as well. So while I may not be the world's expert on analytics, I have a set of experiences that has led me to some strongly held beliefs, particularly in the area of software user analytics.

So, what is software user analytics? In short, I'm talking about data collected from web applications that tells exactly who, does exactly what in the product, and what the outcome was. This space has evolved a ton since the advent of the web. First we had simple web Analytics, which told us what content on our sites was popular and a bit about the visitors to our site (country, operating system, etc). Then, as web sites morphed into web applications, a new breed of analytics told us about usage, rather than just page loads. I call this User Analytics. Which users clicked which buttons, and what the result were.

While the differences between web analytics and user analytics may seem subtle, user analytics provide us 100x more value, in my estimation, than web analytics. That's because user analytics helps us understand user intent, and the value derived. If content is your product, such as a blog, then web analytics is probably fine for you. However, if software is your product, like social media, gaming, or banking, then you need user analytics. It can tell us where to put a button, which features to build/enhance/deprecate, what type of user gains the most value from the product, what data they desire, and so much more.

So, what's my beef with user analytics products? Honestly, I love them! Companies like Mixpanel, Google, Heap, and Segment make amazing products that I rely on. I've been successful in my career because of what they've allowed me to do as a user, and I've had my most fun at work when building analytics tools. They just aren't perfect, they leave a lot to be desired, and I believe there is an opportunity to deliver more to users today, while building for the next shift in software tomorrow.

I see 3 fundamental problems with User Analytics...

1. Most analytics providers want to own the entire solution stack

Most user analytics products do three things: they help collect data from an application, they store the data, and they offer visualization capabilities on that data. Naturally, they price for these benefits. When you buy a user analytics solution, like Heap or Mixpanel, you pay for all 3 things, whether you need all three or not. However, most businesses don't need all three for user analytics.

Any enterprise worth their salt has data as a central piece of their operations, and no piece of data they collect lives in a silo. These organizations are running a data warehouse, a collection of all the data used to run their business, including user analytics, sales data, financial, marketing, customer success and more.

While companies like Mixpanel and Heap offer best in class data capture for user analytics, they aren't a data warehouse and they don't offer best in class data visualization. In fact, its nearly impossible today to buy best in class user analytics data capture and pair it with your own data warehouse for visualization alongside your other data. Take my recent experience as an example. I recently led the selection and implementation of a software user analytics solution where I work. One of our many requirements was to reduce the effort necessary to collect usage data by at least 80%. Another of the requirements was that we could store the data in our own Redshift instance, and query it with our visualization tool of choice (Looker). So I needed to buy data capture, but not data storage or querying. We got what we needed, but we had no choice but to pay for more than we are using.

Best in class data capture for user analytics comes from Heap and Mixpanel, with their auto-track capabilities. However, Mixpanel won't let you use that data outside of their product, and Heap charges a premium for that capability. To get best in class data capture, you have to pay for data storage and data visualization, whether you want it or not. Sure, Segment makes it easy to put my user analytics data anywhere I need it, but without auto tracking, they fall short of the best in class label. My options were limited, to a single provider, and today we pay for more product than we need.

As we collect more data from more places, its not acceptable for data to live in walled gardens. We need to marry our marketing data with our sales data with our usage data. At the same time, enterprises expect control and ownership of their data. They are building Business Intelligence teams that require sophisticated data warehouses that offer flexibility in how the data can be used.

Unfortunately, buyers have to choose between enterprise grade business intelligence (Segment to Redshift, in my opinion), or effortless usage data from our web apps (Heap or Mixpanel for their auto track features). Why can't we have both, without pay for things we don't need?

2. Little value comes out of the box

In the early days of the internet, web analytics solutions offered out of the box value. Once the tracking code was dropped onto a site, web analytics tools like Google Analytics and Webtrends would tell you a whole lot about your users...no other effort required. No writing queries, no building reports, no curation of dashboards. Just login and immediately view how many visitors you had last week, which pages were popular, where your users came from and what type of device they were using.

Unfortunately, that level of data isn't good enough anymore. I need to know which form was filled out the most, what selection from my dropdown menus resulted in the most exports images, which sequence of steps result in the most purchases, and which of my sales reps have the most customers interacting with the new feature we launched in beta.

To get any of that, most user analytics solutions require the user has to put in significant effort. Start from scratch...literally a blank page. Learn a data structure and definitions. Learn a query language/system, then start creating charts, graphs, tables, and dashboards. This may sound easy, but you are looking at many, many hours of effort, only to get data you may not fully understand and may not even be correct.

The other day, I had to contact the customer support team of an analytics product I use, to get help on how to count the number of unique users my app had. With all my experience using, buying, implementing, and building analytics products...I had to contact support to get help with the most simple, fundamental of queries.

It doesn't have to be this way. It wasn't this way with early web analytics, and its not this way with software performance analytics. When I log into New Relic, I am immediately presented with data that provides value, answers questions, and leads me down a rabbit hole. Yet, when I engage with user analytics tools....I'm starting from nothing. This pain isn't isolated to getting started. Even once I've spent hours.....days setting up dashboards, reports, graphs, and charts, I'll still have to start from scratch at other times. Build a new feature? Start writing more quires to know how that feature is used! Want to know something different about your app? Get working on a new dashboard!

Nothing comes for free with user analytics. We have powerful access to data, but the data is meaningless without a significant investment to use that data. Why can't user analytics be more like New Relic software performance monitoring?

3. Users must know what they need to know

I find most user analytics tools to be incredibly limiting in the value they provide. The benefits are in theory unlimited, yet to reach much of that value, the user has to know what they need or want to know. With the amount of data we collect these days, and the rate at which our data collection grows, I believe there is significantly more value hidden in the data, and we don't even know how to extract it.

As discussed earlier, most use analytics tools require the user to write queries, create charts and graphs, and build dashboards. We do this with what we know. We know we want to see a count of user. I know I want to see what percentage of my total user base was active in the last month, I want to see which pages are the most popular, which option from the drop down menu was the most popular, and what percentage of people drop off at each of step of my ideal user flow through the product.

What if users forged their own path through my product, defying the path I thought they would take, and the path I created my reporting around? How would I know? How would I measure and see the impact? I likely wouldn't know. Something in the data would have to peek my interest and drive me to discover this funnel of user behavior, before updating my dashboard to capture my new learning.

How many more insights like this might be hidden in my user analytics data? I'm guessing there is a virtually unlimited number of observations that can be made on user analytics data, and through the noise is likely signal that we are missing, because we didn't know to look for it. I want the user analytics solution of tomorrow to tell me what I should know, instead of waiting on me to ask the question.


User analytics products aren't perfect, but they aren't all bad either. I'm a new user of Heap Analytics, and I'm really enjoying the product they have built...their auto track + retroactive data capture saved by butt the other day! Mixpanel offers a fantastic product, and is the best solution for funnel and cohort analysis on web or mobile apps. Google Analytics was a game changer and one of the best things that has happened to content producers.

What do you think, how do web and user analytics tools need to evolve in order to provide value tomorrow? Let me know on Twitter or comment where you were linked to this post.

More on Product Management (Part 2)

Recently, I published a post that outlined 9 principles that make for great product management (On Product Management; May 23rd, 2017). I enjoyed writing the post as it was helpful for me to get my beliefs in a single place, and I was lucky to attract a great audience. My readers had some valuable thoughts, insightful questions, and astute clarifications via LinkedIn comments, Slack discussion, and direct emails.

In this post, I want to address some of those points of discussion, clarify a few things from my original post, and explore a few more principles that make for great Product Managers.

If you haven't read my original post, take a moment to read it and come back to this one. Finally, thank you to everyone that contributed thoughts, counterpoints, questions, and praise...you've helped me become a better writer, and a better Product Manager!

More on the Product Manager's role with vision & strategy

I started my last post out by saying that the role of a Product Manager is to shepherd through a vision...the vision of a Founder, a CEO, or a Chief Product Officer. I went on to talk about the PM's role as a leader, rallying the team around a vision and strategy, and developing products that serve multiple stakeholders. A couple of my readers pointed out that my message might have contradicted itself, and could be taken as a statement that vision and strategy aren't the role of the Product Manager.

This topic gets at a phrase that is commonly thrown around around Product Management, that being a PM is like being the CEO of a Product. I like this statement because it alludes to the type of work that a PM does, and the level of leadership they must demonstrate. I dislike this statement because it implies that the PM is ultimately in charge, that they can do what they want and have no equal in the organization.

While I absolutely believe that Product Managers should influence and contribute to company vision and strategy, and they should set a vision and strategy for their area of responsibility, the truth is that most of us work as part of a larger organization. Most of us have a boss, have a leader we work with. Many of us work at the companies we do because we were attracted to the mission and vision that their leadership put in place. If the Product Manager is setting company vision and strategy, rather than the C-suite, there's a problem. Similarly, if a Product Manager isn't helping the C-suite refine, build on, and advance the vision, there's also a problem.

More on user stories and project management

In my first post on effective product management, I made what turned out to be a controversial statement. I said that effective Product Managers aren't JIRA jockeys. This raised a lot of eyebrows and had many readers asking "but if not the PM, who?"

I firmly believe that the greatest value a PM delivers is not in JIRA, Pivotal Tracker, or any other project management tool. Thats not to say that a Product Manager shouldn't spend any time in these tools. These tools provide value to the team, and Product Managers should be involved in the workflow that takes an idea and turns it into reality.

Great Product Managers avoid being JIRA jockeys by doing two things: they communicate effectively early in the product development process, and they share the responsibility of management and oversight with other leaders.

Effective, clear, and complete communication upfront avoids the need for a micro-manager in JIRA. I do this through a Product Requirements Doc framework that aims to give my teams enough information about the problem and desired outcome that they can create development tickets with much more involvement from me.

Product Managers aren't the only leaders on a team. If the PM is the 'CEO of the Product' then the Engineering Manager is the CTO. Strong Product Designers have been present on every great product team I've worked on, and they should be looked to for leadership and direction. Finally, at larger organizations, Technical Product Managers can work alongside Product Managers to provide direction, validation, and management of the development process.

I believe that the amount of time spent in JIRA or similar tools is a view into a company's culture and the effectiveness of a PM. Product Management does not equal Project Management.

Effective Product Management orgs report through the CEO

Something I didn't touch on in my earlier post was the placement of Product Management in the org chart. There are a two common reporting structures for Product Management: Through the CEO or through the CTO. While both can work, I believe the best results come from Product Management organizations that report through the CEO.

This preference of mine stems from the idea that Product Management is about more than engineering. Engineering groups are singularly focused on technology, whether its the technology that customers interact with directly, or the backend and foundations that the product is built on. Conversely, Product Management is cross-functional by nature, working across pricing, customer support, sales, marketing, and more.

While the Office of the CTO can effectively lead Product Management, reporting through the CEO is a better fit. Like Product Management, a CEO's role spans the entire organization, influencing all aspects of delivering a product. Reporting through the CEO avoids potential conflicts of interest, where tough decisions must be made and priorities identified, and more easily allowing for a solution that might not be an engineering one.

Product Management is about more than code

In my last post, I may have ignored a principle which I feel is so important. The product is more than your software. The product is the entire experience that a customer or user has with your company. From how they first learn about your product, to how they are sold to, how they are on-boarded, how they use the product, how they are supported, and even how they are 'off-boarded", so to speak. Its all your product to the customer, they don't put walls between your marketing and your code, or between sales and support.

Effective product managers influence and lead all aspects of the product. They think of things like user documentation as part of the product. They know that interacting with customer support is part of the value being delivered. Sometimes the best way to move a product forward, to move the needle on sales or net promoter score, is to fine tune the non-software aspects of your product. If a Product Manager doesn't take responsibility for a cohesive product experience, its likely no one will and each customer touchpoint will remain silo'd.

Nike doesn't just sell shoes, they sell an identity. Blue Apron doesn't just sell meal kits, they sell time-savings and the joy of cooking. Software companies don't just sell access to code, they sell solutions to problems.

Am I living in a Product Management dreamland?

So am I crazy, or is my view on effective Product Management realistic? Truth is, its both. I have outlined a bit of a dreamland, a perfect world, but not a world that I've experienced at any single company or role I've held. That said, every philosophy that I've outlined is one that I've experienced personally or seen at other organizations. All of these philosophies are reasonable individually, and together they are a rare but special reality.

Some of these principles are ones that we can do on our own, as individuals seeking to be better at our jobs. Some of these principles require the mandate and support of our organizations and our bosses. If you desire more of a strategic and leadership role in your work as a PM, ask yourself two things. First ask if you are doing the things you can do with autonomy to be a more effective and efficient PM. Then, ask yourself if you are working for a company that wants and values leadership in a Product Manager.


This is part 2 of a 2 part series on effective Product Management. If you haven't read part 1, head on over to On Product Management for principles exhibited by great Product Managers.

You look ridiculous with those wires hanging out of your ears (Or, Apple's best product in years)

Seriously, you look ridiculous with those white headphone wires hanging out of your ears. Remember when those wires meant you were cool? That you had the latest technology and were a trend setter? They now say that you are lame. You are behind the times. You don't know what cool is. You might as well wear socks and Teva's.

Remember this? Ads with images like this graced billboards, magazine pages, and tv, making white headphone wires the symbol of cool.

Remember this? Ads with images like this graced billboards, magazine pages, and tv, making white headphone wires the symbol of cool.

A shift in style, fashion, and technology is happening. Apple defined what digital cool was, and they can change anytime they want. They are replacing the old cool with new cool. The new cool is also the best product they have made in years: the Apple AirPod Bluetooth headphones. This product is so well designed, so well made, they will go down as one of the best product's Apple has ever made. I love this product, more than I ever thought I would. Below is my review.


A few months ago, I purchased a pair of Apple AirPod headphones. AirPods are Apple's first foray into wireless, bluetooth headphones. Sure, they own Beats which offers a few bluetooth options, but this is the first offering under the Apple name, and with the absence of a headphone jack in the iPhone 7, a critical offering.

Image Credit: Apple

Image Credit: Apple

With this product, Apple took some risks. Instead of making bulky over/on the hear headphones, or those silly around the neck wireless/but not really wireless headphones, they stuck with their iconic headphone design...just without the wires. That means the headphones are two, small pieces. They also look rather funny, with the "stem" that the wires would usually exit from, poking down out of the hear into thin air.

Had I told you a year ago that this is what Apple would do, you'd have thought I was crazy. Today, I am here to tell you that I think this is the best product that Apple has released in years...maybe since the original iPhone. Apple will sell 100's of millions of this product, at the price of $159, which is an attractive combination for Apple and it's shareholders (I am one).

So, why do I like these headphones so much? Read on.

Simple design

The design of these headphones shows exactly what Apple does so well: simplicity. There is nothing unnecessary on these headphones. No buttons. Plain white. Small. Beyond the physical design, they just work. They simply work. Easy to pair. Easy to use. When I first got my hands on them, I thought I'd have to figure out a new way to interact with a nuanced device, but I was wrong. They work out-of-the-box with almost no thought.

Pairing & using

Getting started with AirPods is easy. Just take them out of the box, and while near one of your iOS devices, clip open the lid on the case. They'll pair right away, with some handy visual indicators on your phone to confirm whats happening. One of the things Apple was really smart about was integrating AirPod info into the iOS operating system.

Of course, they also pair with your MacOS devices (laptops & desktops), WatchOS, and any other device that supports Bluetooth 4.0 or higher...even your PC or Android phone. Paring with non-Apple devices won't be as easy, but they still made it nice and simple, with the product's only physical button being a nearly invisible pairing button on the back of the case for pairing with non-Apple devices.

Simple pairing aside, the best feature of AirPods is how easy they are to use! Remove them from their case, put them in your ears, and you are ready to go! Seriously, no other action necessary! No power button, no need to pair, no need to select an output source. They just work, flawlessly! Whether with my iPhone or MacBook Pro, these headphones are the most simple bluetooth device I've ever used.

A few other things: They connection never seems to drop or degrade, I don't have to repair to reset, like I have had to do with some non-Apple bluetooth devices. The range is also great. The version of Bluetooth that they run is rated at up to 60 feet and I can confirm that they do operate well at 30-60 feet from the source. I also find the sound quality to be just fine...I'm not an audiophile or a music nerd, I only need decent sound for podcasts and short term music listening.

Battery & case

Apple did something unconventional for bluetooth headphones when they designed the AirPods, they made it a 3 piece product. The headphones are individual, disconnected pieces for the left and right ears, and they come in a case, making for 3 pieces of hardware.

There is a great reason for this. Apple has created a great combination of size/portability and battery life. They did this by putting a few hours of battery power in the headphones, and many more hours of use through a battery in the case. The case serves as a place to hold/secure your headphones, a way to charge them, and a way to recharge them on the go.

I got my AirPods in mid-April and have used them off and on 5 days per week since then. In early June, I count only 5 times that I had to plug the case into a lightning cable for recharging. Thats because the battery capacity in the case is enough to recharge the headphones themselves many times over. A headphone charge should last for 2-3 hours of continuous use, but I tend to use them for 20-60 minutes at a time, and then put them back into the case for safekeeping and automatic recharging. So, my headphones are almost always at 100% charge when I use them.

This combination of small batteries in the headphones themselves, a larger battery in the case, and a design that encourages placing in the case between uses has resulted in fantastic effective battery life. Like electric cars, battery life is typically the #1 concern of any wireless device.

Light sensors

The first time I used my AirPods to listen to music, I discovered a hidden and useful feature. Each headphone has a light sensor to detect when they are in your ears or not! They way Apple uses this feature is to pause/stop audio....and I presume to also conserve battery life.

When wearing AirPods, removing one from your ear will pause the audio you are listening too (music, podcast, whatever...might also pause audio/video but I haven't tried that yet). Putting the headphone back in your ear resumes the play of audio from where it was paused. Removing both headphones is like pressing stop, putting them back in your ear will not restart your audio.

What a simple, useful and unexpected feature! Thank you to the Apple Engineers that thought of this, its truly a feature that makes these headphones a delight to use.

Tap to control

In addition to removing headphones from your ear to control your phone/computer, there is one other way to interact with your Apple devices through the AirPods: double tap either one of the headphones while in the ear.

The default setting for double tap is to engage Siri. This is handy if you have your phone put away and want to do something like check the time or compose a text. The action on double tap can be changed to play/pause music, and I suspect with future software upgrades to both the AirPds and iOS, we'll get more possibilities.

Its Siri though that makes these headphones powerful. I suspect that Apple will take on Amazon Alexa via headphone integration, not through an in-home device. The killer use-case for voice controlled technology is mobile, and physical devices like Echo speakers will go the way of the landline telephone. Apple knows this and is building for a future that revolves around personal mobile devices for voice commands, and these headphones are a key element of that plan.

What could be improved on

Of course, the product could be improved in a few ways. I miss volume control. The freedom of wireless allows me to put my phone away more than wired headphones allowed for, but I can't control the volume except for with my phone. This is slightly annoying.

I also find that switching between devices to be less seamless than I'd expect from Apple. I use my AirPods with my iPhone and with my MacBook Pro. During the workday, I'll switch between the two a few times. There is no seamless or easy way to switch, and I can't be connected to both at once. So to switch, I have to disconnect from the Bluetooth menu on one device, and initiate connection to the other device. When I do this, it seems to take a long time for the connection to be established.

Finally, I wouldn't mind some other features, like wireless charging, longer battery life, and even some basic noise canceling would be nice. Those things will come with new iterations over the next couple years, and you can bet that I'll be first in line to buy new generations of this amazing product!

On Product Management (Part 1)

Update: Thanks to the huge response from readers, across LinkedIn, Twitter, Slack, and Email, I've written a follow up post to expand on the below thoughts and address reader feedback. You'll find a link to that post at the end of this one.


Recently, I've been asked a few times what my philosophy is on Product Management. I have to say, I've never thought about my philosophy on Product Management before being asked this question. Sure, I have thought about various issues and ideas related to Product Management, but I've never developed a holistic philosophy. As I thought about the question, I started to realize that I do have some solid beliefs, strong feelings, and best practices on this topic.

This blog post represents my personal philosophy on Product Management. It isn't perfect, it may change over time, and it isn't an exhaustive list. What you will get is a look into what I feel strongly about, how I work as a Product Manager, and what I believe leads to great products and thus, great businesses.

Product Managers are the shepherds of a vision

I believe that the fundamental job of a Product Manager is to turn a leader's vision into action. At a certain point, a Founder/CEO is no longer able to be day-to-day with product development. Product Managers exist to ensure that a Founder, a CEO, or a Chief Product Officer's vision is carried out. This is especially important as companies launch additional products or serve multiple use-cases.

Some may say that being a Product Manager is a "mini-CEO" or the "CEO of your product." I get the meaning of that statement, but it goes farther than I'm willing to go with a comparison. Instead, I like to think of myself as a shepherd. I'm overseeing an asset. Leading it to green pasture. Protecting it. Turning it into something more. Delivering.

When I worked at New Relic, the vision was that every Knowledge Worker would one day log into our products on a regular basis to inform their work. Our mission was to be the first, best place for companies to go to when seeking to understand their digital business.

We believed in that mission and worked towards that vision, but it wasn't exactly a roadmap to get there. Thats where Product Managers come in. They chart the course to that end goal, showing a team what they need to do in the short, medium, and long term in order to get to the destination.

Easier said than done, of course. Read on for more.

Product Managers work across a continuum

One thing I love about Product Management is the opportunity it gives me to work on so many different things. One day I am focused on Marketing, another day I am engaging with Customer Support, and most days I'm working directly with engineering. Similarly, Product Management offers the ability to be both strategic and tactical. One minute I'm setting a product vision for three years in the future, the next I'm working with a UX Designer to determine how to reduce friction for users of a single functionality in the product.

I've also found that some Product Managers gravitate towards certain areas of responsibility, while minimizing their efforts in others. This approach in itself isn't bad, but a good Product Manager understands where their time is best spent. I believe a good Product Manager knows when to let other's do what they do best. When to let Designers and Engineers work with freedom, and when to listen to company leadership for strategic direction. I stay out of the weeds and focus my efforts to the right of center on the continuum of tactical and strategic activities.

Product Managers are the voice of the customer

When most people think about Product Management, they probably think about serving customers. When I think about customers as they relate to Product Management, I like to to go a step further. I look at it as my job to represent the customer at every table I'm invited to. It doesn't stop with product features, its my job to ensure that Marketing delivers what the customer needs, that the support infrastructure offers the customer what the require, that the sales process meets customer expectations, and that pricing aligns with the value delivered.

Your product is more than just software. It's the entire experience a customer has with your organization. Don't just represent that customer with your roadmap, it's a Product Manager's job to represent them in every discussion that happens.

Product Management is a partner to Sales

Before I became a Product Manager for the first time, a friend asked me a trick question. He said "As a Product Manager, who do you think your customer is?" Easy question, I thought! The obvious answer is the end user.

My friend suggested I was wrong. He went on to make the case that Salespeople are the customer we serve as Product Managers. While I don't fully adopt this line of thinking (I struggle to think that anyone is more important than the end user), I have carried the spirit of this idea with me in my work.

The argument goes like this: If a Salesperson is excited about my product, educated on its benefits, equipped to sell it, and confident in what it will do for the customer, the Product will succeed. Ultimately, Product Managers are measured on their success of the Product. So, unless you work in an industry with self-serve products, you better have good relationship with the Sales organization.

Personally, I love working with the Sales. I find it to be a great way to get in front of customers, and an efficient way to collect feedback. I'm also a Salesperson at heart, and I love the feeling of winning someone's business!

Product Managers balance stakeholder needs

When I make product decisions, there are three key stakeholders I am thinking about. I'm constantly asking myself: what does my current customer base need from me, what does the industry/market of the future need from me, and what does my company/employer need from me? Rarely will I make a decision where one of these stakeholders is ignored, and never will I make a decision without considering all three of them.

Its obvious to say that the customer's needs are important, and its true. That said, be careful not to ignore customers you don't have yet, the customer of the future. When I meet an existing customer's needs, or the needs of a persona/market that I already serve, I'm likely optimizing for retention and incremental sales. When I think about the industry/market at large, I'm allowing myself to deliver what my existing users would never tell me they need. I'm opening up exponential opportunities, positioning my product to be an industry leader in the future. Finally, looking to my employer as a stakeholder isn't about ensuring I continue to get a paycheck. Rather, I'm looking at company strategy and ensuring that the decisions I make for my product, my user, my future market.

The best decision I can make is the one that serves my existing customer, positions my product to be a market leader in the future, and delivers towards the company strategy.

Product Managers are industry experts

As a Product Manager, I don't know everything and frequently my team is better than me at most things. The one thing I know I can do better than anyone is to be an expert in the industry my product serves. In fact, its my job to be an expert. No one within my organization should know more than me about the market I serve, the users I have, and the problems we solve. The beauty of this is that just about anyone can become an expert, with effort and time. The downside is that it will take time. No one becomes an expert overnight. We either bring it into the job from past experience, or we learn it on the job. Either way, a successful Product Manager is a respected authority on the industry.

Product Managers serve as Leaders & Coaches

Despite the title, often times Product Managers are not managers of people, they aren't the boss. Engineering doesn't report to them, nor does Marketing, Sales, or any other team involved in taking a product to market. Instead, Product Managers are leaders. They use influence to get things done. Effective Product Managers convince people to come along on a journey, working together to ensure success.

Additionally, my job as a Product Manager is also to be a coach. I'm sharing my industry expertise with others, removing obstacles so others can do their best work, and loudly praising the team's success.

Product Managers belong outside the office

There is a program called Pragmatic Marketing and its essentially Product Management school. If you take one of their courses, specifically the Foundations course, you'll likely hear the instructor make a lame but memorable joke. They'll tell you about something called NIHITO ("neh-he-toe"). Its an acronym that stands for Nothing Interesting Happens in the Office. As lame as the instructor will sound when they make that joke, the sentiment couldn't be more true.

Product Managers should spend a majority of their of time out of the building, or at least away from their desks. The more I am sitting at my desk, the less effective I am at my job. Rather, much of my time should be spent talking with customers and engaging with other teams within my organization. This is not to say that 100% of time spent away from your office is equal to 100% effectiveness, but how you split your time is an indicator of effectiveness. You also don't have to literally leave the building to achieve the figurative example...talking with customers in any way, even a simple phone call or studying user metrics qualifies.

If I had to boil it down, my perfect time-split would be this: 1/3 of my time talking with customers, 1/3 of my time working with other teams, and 1/3 of my time synthesizing what I've learned into a strategy, roadmap, and product requirements.

Product Managers are not JIRA Jockeys

You'll notice that in this entire blog post on Product Management, I haven't once mentioned JIRA Tickets or User Stories. There is no question that User Stories are an effective way to communicate product requirements and JIRA is a great tool for organizing and planning product development efforts, However, writing and moving around JIRA tickets is not the best use of a Product Managers time and expertise.

I believe a Product Manager's time is best spent being an industry expert, turning company vision into product strategy, developing a roadmap, making the user persona's and problems clear, removing obstacles so my teammates can do their best, work, and supporting them however else I can. Moving one JIRA ticket above another doesn't equal effectiveness. Ensuring others have everything they need to do great and the right work, that does result in being effective.


I've said a lot about Product Management, but in a way I feel like I've barely scratched the surface. This line of work is one of the most fun, rewarding, yet complicated and ambiguous around.

I'd love to hear your take. Did I get it right? Do you disagree with anything? Did I miss something? Join the conversation with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or wherever you found the link to this post.


For a follow up on this post and my response to comments and feedback, check out part 2: More on product management