The “secret sauce” Product Manager

As I described in one of the previous blogs, in 2003, I moved from an engineering role to a product management role. After a couple of weeks, due to an acquisition, I got a new boss who was based in the US: this was something new for me as it was the first time to work for a “remote” boss.

To overcome the lack of physical visibility, as a highly motivated and independent person  I am, I immediately put myself available for the new leader, starting to help him out in different activities and initiatives. I proactively developed product positioning, strategies, pricing and making sure that everything was done and taken care. Additionally, I made sure that all work was done with a unique detailed quality.  Soon my new boss invited me to important meetings, called me frequently to bounce ideas, sent me to visit important customers, etc.

After a year of passionate work, he invited me for an analysts briefing in Boston: the evening before while we were having a nice dinner he says: “tomorrow you are on!”. I was scared but so happy: I called my wife without realizing it was deep in the night but I had to share the excitement.

After two years, in one of the executive meetings in Dallas, the company surprised some employees by recognizing them in their performance. As the host start to introduce one winner, she started saying: “this is the secret sauce everybody wants to have in their team“. That was me.

So, how do you go from a “normal” ingredient to a secret sauce? My take is in five simple points:

  1. make yourself available;
  2. work proactively
  3. deliver quality and differentiating work;
  4. read, watch and learn;
  5. be positive and curious about things in general;

One of the advantages of being in Europe is that my morning is reasonably quiet and next to the normal tasks I have, I take the time to learn. It can be everything. For example, lately, I run into a Youtube video how CEO works (2min each from WSJ). From one, I watch all of them of different CEOs from different industries. I become curious to learn what they do during the day, who they hire or not, why they do certain things. Very interesting with a lot of similarities. New things learned again.

As the Italians say, it’s the secret sauce that makes your meal special!


PS: don’t put parmesan cheese on a fish pasta dish!

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