This week on Product Love, I talked to Christian Idiodi, a partner at Silicon Valley Partner Group. Silicon Valley Partner Group was created to share senior-level experience and best practices with technology companies. At SVPG, Christian stays engaged with the product community through mentorship. Every year, he works closely with two student-led startups. 

Like most people, Christian stumbled into product management unintentionally. 

When he worked at CareerBuilder, he won an annual competition where individuals could submit their entrepreneurial ideas. If they won, they would get funding and time to work on it. Spoiler alert: He won the competition. So what should he do with a massive check and the responsibility of running a business? Product management started calling his name. Now he’s been a product leader for over 15 years and launched over 120 products. 

In this week’s episode, we talked about customer-centric product managers and his favorite PM interview question. 

Customer-centric product managers

Christian firmly believes that product managers must be customer experts. Sure, product managers can be thought of as generalists or jacks-of-all-trades, but their subject matter expertise should center around the customer. 

In fact, customer knowledge can be the best way to evangelize product management within the company. A seat at the table can come from simply being a true champion for the customer. Christian recommends loudly interacting with customers in a very visible way, whether that’s through sitting next to customer-facing teams or going out on the road to build customer relationships.

Product managers can’t just be backlog administrators who hand off tasks to engineering and design. Instead, they’re uniquely positioned to witness customer problems first-hand and come back with a solution. 

His favorite interview question for PMs

During interviews, Christian raises a scenario in which a product manager must build an alarm clock for someone who is hearing impaired. Typically, this question leads him to three different kinds of people. The first is the individual who has a straightforward solution. They immediately say that they’re going to build in sound vibration. The second type is the person who overthinks the process, listing out each step. And the third type is the candidate who actually admits they have no idea what to do.

But don’t lose faith in the third group of people. It’s a useful quality to acknowledge what you don’t know upfront. These people often openly say that they’ve never interacted with someone who is deaf.  Then they describe how they’ll begin to learn more about their end user and how to solve their problem.

When you pose questions like this one, you get a sense of how people tackle risks, but also how they demonstrate their empathy.

Want to hear how Christian led a digital transformation or learn how the discipline of product management has changed dramatically over the years? Listen to the episode above.