Marty Cagan

Marty Cagan is the founder of Silicon Valley Product Group, with over 20 years experience in Product Management, including leading Product teams at Netscape and eBay.


Well my name's Marty Cagan. I have been doing product a really long time actually, more than twenty years. I started my career as a developer actually for ten years at HP Labs, Palo Alto California, and I decided after a while that I was interested in making sure we were building things that people actually wanted and cared about and so it drew me into the product side and I've kind of been a student of product ever since.

Why would you recommend Product Management as a career?

Well I don't recommend product to everybody because it is a tough career. I mean I like to be very honest with people, it's tough. There is a ton of work. It is not a nine to five job. I know several jobs that I think are much better for work life balance. But I also say it's an amazing job and I think there's a very strong argument to say it is the most important non-executive position in a company. It's really second only to CEO and you can't say that about a lot of jobs. And a lot of people have found that this is not only a great job and a great career but it's a proving ground for eventually starting their own company. In fact a lot of the best investors out there will only invest in someone who has proven they can be a Product Manager successfully

What do you look for when recruiting Product Managers?

So when I'm looking for Product Managers I'm looking for a number of things. First of all I'm looking for passion. You can't fake this. You have to be genuinely passionate about products and about technology. Some people really don't like technology. Some of them just sort of roll with technology. Other people embrace technology, and you're looking for people that really do embrace it. And they're constantly thinking of how they can solve problems in new ways, what the technology now enables, what it inspires.

So you looking for that product passion. You're looking for somebody, I mean, I've only worked in technology products. That's my whole world. There's another area of non-tech products like consumer packaged goods. I don't really work in that world and I would argue it's probably a different job anyway. But in the tech world we're looking for people that have strong technical foundation. We do prefer a technology undergraduate degree. We're looking for people that are passionate about solving problems for real customers. They really do want to help people. It's their way to change the world in a positive way.

You're looking for people that understand that there's a lot of skill sets involved. For engineering, design, working with the different parts of the company, working with the different kinds of users and customers and are willing to tackle that. So it's a big set of skills we're looking for. Like I said it's a hard job.

What advice would you offer someone considering a career in Product Management?

Well this is a tough job to do an internship for. Because normally that's how I love to answer that is do an internship. It's awesome. You get an exposure in... It's tough to do an internship for product. There are not many companies that even offer an internship with product, because internship is typically three months, and in product, you know, three months, you've just getting warmed up you know. It's not enough time to really do too much and really get a taste for the job.

I do think you can learn a lot by sitting down and meeting some real Product Managers. Going to lunch or dinner with a real Product Manager is a terrific opportunity. There's so much since been written. Books, articles, blogs, videos. You can see and start to decide if that's really for you. If you think that job is for you.