Finding Product Managers in Greece
Developing or hiring?
When I joined ORFIUM 2018, I was the first Product Manager and the second Product hire after the Product Designer. When we started growing, we had to decide if we would hire ready product managers or if we would build them, if we should look at the Greek job market, or if we would hire remote PMs from abroad; ORFIUM was already working with our business team overseas, so it wasn’t out of question.
Today we have reached 9 Product Managers and 20 Product People in total. Here are our learnings, so far.
Mindset > Experience - We have been building a team for a specialized market, copyrights for the music industry, based in Greece. We couldn’t seek people with prior business knowledge in Greece, and everyone will need to be trained and onboarded. So, we decided to focus on the PM traits, and we would train everyone in the Music Industry. We created a complete training and onboarding kit, and we started looking for good PMs or at least people with a product mindset. Today, our teams can challenge even the “standard experts of music” in meetings.
“I still try to hire more for aptitude than experience. We don't always require been-there, done-that types. Checking boxes on a resume is easy. Assessing aptitude is harder. Look for hunger, attitude, innate abilities. Perhaps, look for the same career-frustrated person I had been all these years. It was quite satisfying to turn this into a high-powered strategy to drive business.”
Amp it up - Frank Slootman, CEO of Snowflake
Hire for PMs, not POs - It was easier to find POs in Greece. So many greek companies have gone under some kind of an Agile transformation. We decided to go with PMs, even if we had to train them. Today these people are strategic contributors.
Raise the bar of the Product Sense - Initially, we hired people for their problem-solving capability and their analytical thinking. Smart people however are not always good PMs, it wasn’t enough. Many lacked product sense and UX understanding. As the company grows and gets more visibility, we have raised our standards. Lately, it has started to pay off in the day-to-day work, you don’t need to say much or overanalyze things, you can see the product team acting.
We are the hiring managers & recruiters - We were approached by hiring agencies, and we tried to give the sourcing process to our HR department. Nothing worked. No one could understand what makes someone a good PM candidate, even after briefings and meetings. Don’t hire Product people through some proxy, ever. Today we use our Product Ops team as the validator of good hires.
Grow your team, let people leave - We have training programs for PMs, each PM has her dedicated problem area, and we are following and experimenting with frameworks and practices. We have a team of Product Ops to support every PM to grow internally. But we had to let people go. We believe that ORFIUM is a playground for PMs to learn and try amazing things, but we can’t keep people if they prefer B2C products, and have good offers. We get Senior PMs who praise how we work by comparing their past experiences, so we feel we are on a good track.
Consider that every applicant knows what a PM is - Yes, PMs come from diverse backgrounds, and no one has graduated (yet) from a Product Management school or program. More and more people want to become Product Managers because it is a trending position. Even if they have some traits, people who aren’t actively building a product mindset are not a good fit. They are struggling and don’t realize what is wrong. So, lately, I spend more time understanding the intentions of the candidates and explaining what’s the life of a Product Manager.
Entrepreneurs are good PMs - Generally yes. Some of our best PMs have entrepreneurial backgrounds or experiences in startups. Being a PM is not about being a co-founder, it has overlaps but it differs; (a) a PM doesn’t own or manage any resources and (b) a PM has many more stakeholders to manage apart from the investors. So, she is not the smartest person in the room, and can’t do things without alignment. We are working on it by building proper alignment ceremonies and interfaces.
We are proud of trusting the Greek job market, and we consider that we have contributed to growing some people that will become amazing Product Leaders. I can’t wait to see what our people can do, even beyond the current organization. Building and developing product people should be part of the day-to-day things a Product Leader does in an organization.