Product Leader We Admire: Andy Armstrong
We frequently like to profile Product Leaders we admire to help inspire you and your team. This month, we are excited to introduce you to Andy Armstrong.
Favorite product book/ podcast:
I’ll listen to On with Kara Swisher 7 days a week. She started as a tech journalist and is now the Oprah of tech. She’s a great combo: great communicator, deeply connected, and, like any good journalist, is guided by facts.
Book – Ramp Your Brand by James Richardson. I’ve spent much time building B2B products for B2C executives, so I have kept one eye on the world of the consumer and the other eye on the levers of successful consumer businesses. For others in that world, or even for B2B leaders who believe that there are lessons to be learned from consumer businesses, this is an easy read to get into the mindset of a B2C executive. At a higher level, it’s full of lessons about thinking beyond the product and keeping the needs/wants of the end customer in mind, something all product leaders have to keep front and center.
Professional mantra or guiding principle:
Stay Curious. My default setting is “inquisitive.” I love building new products/services, and I think curiosity about target audiences' needs, competitive offers, and unique business models is key to driving innovation. In addition, I think a “what would happen if…” mentality is an essential counterbalance to the requirements of process discipline, stakeholder management, and all the other essential parts of product management. A curious mindset is also a key characteristic in new hires and anyone I work with.
Best career advice you ever received:
Find your coaches. This is certainly true from a career standpoint (actively seek out people you can learn from) and a product management standpoint. Product people often sit in the middle of multiple priorities – functional, geographic, line of business – and need internal sounding boards to help them make or influence the right decisions. I’ve found this to be especially true when starting a new job or on a new project. It’s vital to recognize that the best coaches aren’t necessarily the most senior people – they can be an admin who knows the players very well, someone you’ve worked with in other companies, or even business partners in HR, IT, or legal.
Favorite product launch you have been part of:
There have been several – from small product extensions to new brand launches – and most have a special place in my heart. One favorite was early in my career; my company was an insights-based research & advisory firm that used qualitative information to help C-level execs make smarter decisions. The company asked our new product team and me to create a new revenue stream using quantitative info, something we’d never done before. It was the definition of building the ship while sailing: in about four months, we got internal buy-in, made a go-to-market model, assembled a small network of client advisors, and formed a joint venture with an intelligent startup with whom we built and launched what was, at the time, a very innovative data, benchmarking, and insights service for Fortune 500 clients.