Several months ago, I was drafting an internal job description for a new position on our Product team. Among the many qualities I thought this person should have, I listed Passionate about product.
It seemed like an obvious thing to include. Of course someone who wanted to work in product would love product and immediately know what it meant to be passionate about product.
But my manager at the time, who had recently joined the Product team from our marketing team, was confused. What exactly did you mean by ‘passionate about product?’ she asked. I stumbled, and removed it from the draft listing after realizing I didn’t have a clear answer. The answer was so obvious to me that I didn’t know the answer, and I admitted to myself that the inclusion of that line was probably a somewhat misguided dog whistle.
The position didn’t end up getting posted for other reasons, but the question wouldn’t leave my head: What exactly did you mean by “passionate about product”?
It wasn’t until a few months later that I finally realized what I had meant.
“Product” means a lot things. It means creating something that not only solves a user’s problem through elegant, easy-to-use packaging but through a core solution that is better than the competition. It means being an advocate for the user. It means solving problems. It means being close to the heart of what your company does by creating the thing that is sold. It means blending disciplines and skill sets to create things that are valuable, usable, and feasible.
But I don’t think that’s really what I was referring to when I was talking about being passionate about product. All of those things are the what, not the why.
It was on coffee walk with another coworker several months later, discussing a completely different topic, that I vocalized what I had meant months before:
I love product because I love the idea that you can make someone else more efficient.
I love the idea that you can provide a service that lessens the amount of time someone spends on something that does not play to their skills, and allow them to both do that thing better and free up their time to focus on other areas where they are more uniquely talented. It’s division and specialization applied, and I love playing a small part of making other people — and the economy as a whole — more efficient and productive through product.
And history backs this up. Economic history shows that the more connected an economy is, the more successful and healthier it is. On an aggregate level, we’re all collectively better off when we rely on each other for goods and services. This is not to say that modern economies are perfect. There still exist massive inequalities and unrealized potential. But, historically speaking, the majority of us are collectively much better off than we would have been had we lived 200 years ago.
Thanks to philosophies like Conscious Capitalism, there has emerged an awareness that financial gain for the creator and value to the buyer — and other stakeholders — do not have to be in conflict. Doing things that benefit others do not need to be relegated to the weekend. They can happen throughout the course of our everyday business activities.
And all of this has been accelerated by the internet, which has unlocked two powerful things. It’s given all of us the ability to figure out through historically unprecedented access to information and other people the ability to learn what interests us and which disciplines may suit our skills. And it’s also never been easier to create new products and in doing so make incremental improvements on the lives of others — to your own benefit and theirs. Through technology, we have the ability to create things that make other people’s lives better on a here-to-fore unprecedented scale and be compensated for that value we’re bringing into their lives. It’s simply phenomenal.
So I guess that’s what I meant when I said passionate about product. Being passionate about product means being passionate about making the world a better place through technology. And there’s nothing else I’d rather spend my days doing.