Meet Marcus Torres, Director of Product Management – Mobile at Salesforce.com. Marcus, having focused on designing dynamic products and solutions in the mobile space for the past eight years, has a unique perspective on the “it” stuff of 2014 – Product Innovation and Mobile.
How do you describe the field of Product Management to others?
In today’s world a product owner is an innovator, a product advocate and a delivery man. We are constantly evaluating trends, products and services to help change the lives of our customers. Once we have decided on a product (or feature to an existing product) it is our job to advocate the product and its benefits to our team and the market. But a product does not exist until users have it in their hands, so being able to drive product development to deliver your vision to market is one of the most important arts of product management.
What do you love about Product Management?
I can “feel” my product in the hands of customers. It does not matter if my mobile products are software or hardware. What matters is when a customer is using my product, they have a “feeling” about it and its impact on their business or life. Life is measured in experiences, so should the products we use.
How influential were your decisions around what to study in college on your career?
College provides a unique set of experiences and glimpses into various potential fields. But today’s economy is driven by the willing, not simply the prepared. Early in my career I was willing to learn new skills that have afforded me new experiences and growth. This eventually lead me to my current role, and I expect in 10 years, I will have a different role because I am willing to constantly refine not only what I do but also who I am.
Was there a unique event, or series of events, which heavily influenced your career choices?
In the beginning of my career, my role was more technical/engineering focused and I enjoyed it – I was happy. But improving the tools, software and/or products around me to make my life more efficient was always a focus of mine. Over time I was able to evaluate and communicate what features or products are needed and that progression led to where I am today.
Did you have a mentor early in your career that helped guide you?
Several actually. At each company I have joined there was always 1 key person in my corner. Most of my mentors took notice due to my ability to deliver but I also sought out people who I respected both personally and professionally because some of my largest personal growth events came from my professional life.
What tips would you give to someone looking to find an active mentor to help them with career pathing?
I would highly suggest you do not simply look at the “top” of your professional food pyramid as the factor for who you want as a mentor. What you want in a mentor is not simply someone to climb that companies corporate ladder but someone to coach you on who you want to be and where you want to go. Write down a list of your key values. Start with 20, then cut it down to 10, then 5. Look at your network of people around you. Who conveys those values? Identify them and then engage them. Most people are willing to help, and some are even flattered by the request.
You’ve worked for both small and larger companies. For those considering joining an early stage startup, what advice would you give to them?
Only join if you are passionate about what the company is doing. In my experience, a lot of people want to join startups to “live the dream” with this preconceived notion every startup is going to be a Twitter or Facebook. 99% of startups will not make you rich. 99% of startups will not have the resources to provide free lunches, arcades and lifesize Q-berts. If you can work with risk. If you believe a job description is simply a short summary of what a candidate may do but not what they will do. If you can succeed through failure vs fail to succeed, then a startup may be for you. Otherwise, there are plenty of mid to large companies that can challenge you if you take the time to pick wisely.
As you look at the hiring pool today, are you seeing something unique about these candidates?
Creativity has never been as pronounced as it is today. Resumes, interviews, and conversations used to be “buttoned up”, crisp and stale. Today’s talent differentiates themselves by expressing who they are in a creative, yet professional way. Crayons and graphs alone will not get you hired, but the ability to communicate your value will.
As you were transitioning from technical to more business side, how did you differentiate yourself to get noticed?
I think it really goes back to my willingness to learn and take on challenges both as they were presented and as I identified opportunities. It’s a mix of both – you can’t just wait for the right opportunity to present itself to you.
What advice would you give to a younger you?
When it comes to “work” you have a choice:
Sell your soul and be rich. You can choose a life that revolves around high value transactions and churning them as much as possible: wall street, real estate, etc. This type of life would ensure wealth but my time, values and soul would be stripped down to a stereotype. I imagine some people may try to argue you can have both but how many iBankers, VCs, hedge fund managers or brokers care more about people and relationships than commissions and returns. We are all products of our environment. And there are some environments whose reality/world is in a bubble. The choice you have is this the kind of bubble you want to live in.
Follow your passion and be intrigued. This path is filled with bumps. Passions change. Passions fail but you are rarely bored. You are rarely idle. You work hard on what you love and thus it feels like you are not working.
Find a job and be predictable. This is really for those who want certainty in their lives. People who know what their day entails and what expectations are required. These are the “jobs” that allow for hobbies, family, and friends to always be before the job and never after it.
The reason I would discuss this with a younger me is because I would have wanted to know that there are other paths in life. In retrospect, I would not have changed my path but some people fall into life and simply allow it to take them. Choices are part of life, and people should know what those choices are before embarking on it.