Back to resources

How to Lead Decisions By Following Market Problems

Innovation / Experiment
Managing Expectations
Feelings Aside
Personal Growth

4 November, 2021

Joey Lei
Joey Lei

Principal Product Manager at Kasten

Joey Lei, Principal Product Manager at Kasten, discusses his knowledge regarding the downsides of being enticed by the zeal of a technology using examples of his most recent passion: cryptocurrency.

Problem

Don’t fall in love with your technology, fall in love with the problem you are trying to solve. I relate the lessons of transitioning from engineer to product manager as explained by a current market phenomenon: cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency is in a state of extreme early adoption, arguably at valuations well beyond its practical value/utility. Many are enamored by the transformative possibilities with cryptocurrency with only a handful of projects surviving the chasm. With so many users invested in cryptocurrency, it is easy to be blindsided by its popularity. The major challenge of the product manager should be by following the market problem you are trying to solve rather than focus on the technology itself.

Bitcoin's volatile journey is a great extreme example of this. Its original purpose was to be a digital cash currency alternative that would, for example, enable the unbankable (3rd world countries) with a form of currency exchange with high liquidity. Indeed some time ago, it was a promising alternative to fiat currency. We’ve even heard the story of the 10,000 BTC pizza purchase. However, at current valuations and cost to transact (thanks to proof-of-work economics), it has become a very expensive technology to drive the transactional and cost expectations of a digital cash wallet. A product manager who follows the philosophy to solve the shortcomings of the technology, rather than identify the best way to meet the market need, may find themselves with a short-sighted product strategy.

Actions taken

Let’s say you hypothetically were the product manager for a digital wallet app that’s mission was to enable easy payment for goods and services for all. Let’s say that you bet its future on Bitcoin early on and was architecturally designed around transacting Bitcoin, with a full ecosystem of Bitcoin-only partners. In Bitcoin’s current maturity, a technology-driven product manager might be influenced to commit all of their resources and seek the expensive and costly path to improve Bitcoin’s blockchain, to make it more scalable to handle the demand of our digital wallet app which has millions of users. Since hindsight is 20:20, we would have learned this would have been a fatal mistake.

A market-driven product manager may have realized the headwinds in the technology early enough and identified that Bitcoin cannot scale for the commonplace user and would be instead of searching for a technology pivot: for example a re-architecture of the wallet to be currency-agnostic: to support other cryptocurrencies, or would have found its way evaluating potential alternatives, such as Paypal, Venmo, Google/Apple Pay, Amazon Cash, other cryptocurrencies like Stablecoins, or even the tough decision to halt operations.

In the case of Bitcoin, it has completely renewed itself as a gold-like reserve in the cryptocurrency world whose primary use case today is as an inflation-protected digital asset. Very few technologies get this kind of second chance. But remember, our mission wasn’t in the investment of inflation-protected assets. It was to enable easy payment for goods and services for all.

Lessons learned

  • As a product manager, make sure you are in tune with real-world adoption for the right use case. Using Bitcoin, there are a high number of investors, but few “users.”
  • Your product may require an unexpected technology pivot if it is no longer serving the needs of your users. Follow the market problem, which should lead to necessary decisions in a product’s lifecycle.
  • Product management is a journey, not a sprint. Although we measure ourselves in incremental objectives, having a long-term view will keep your head afloat and pointed towards your overall goal. Take failure in strides rather than a final result.

Discover Plato

Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader


Related stories

The Art of Asking Why: Narrowing the Gap Between Customers and Users

24 May

Jord Sips, Senior Product Manager at Mews, shares his expertise on a common challenge for product managers – finding root causes and solutions.

Customers
Innovation / Experiment
Product
Personal Growth
Leadership
Stakeholders
Users
Jord Sips

Jord Sips

Senior Product Manager at Mews

Navigating Disagreements When It Comes to Priorities

9 May

Pavel Safarik, Head of Product at ROI Hunter, shares his insights on how to deal with disagreements about prioritization when building a product.

Innovation / Experiment
Product Team
Product
Dev Processes
Conflict Solving
Internal Communication
Collaboration
Convincing
Strategy
Prioritization
Pavel Safarik

Pavel Safarik

Head of Product at ROI Hunter

The Optimization and Organization of Large Scale Demand

4 May

Kamal Qadri, Senior Manager at FICO, drives the importance of setting expectations when optimizing large-scale requirements.

Managing Expectations
Delegate
Team Processes
Prioritization
Kamal Qadri

Kamal Qadri

Head of Software Quality Assurance at FICO

Why You Should Take Technology Risks in Product Development

25 April

Matias Pizarro, CTO and VP of Residents at ComunidadFeliz, recalls a time in his early career when he took a technology risk that had wide-ranging benefits to his product's user experience.

Innovation / Experiment
Product
Scaling Team
Dev Processes
Matias Pizarro

Matias Pizarro

CTO and VP of Residents at ComunidadFeliz

Identifying Individuals for Career Growth Opportunities

22 April

Jay Dave, Sr Director Of Engineering at Synack, shares how he has learned to identify team members for promotion by observing their interactions with non-engineering leaders and how they handle stress.

Handling Promotion
Personal Growth
Sharing The Vision
Retention
Stakeholders
Jay Dave

Jay Dave

Sr Director Of Engineering at Synack

You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.

Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.