What I’m doing
As part of our hiring at Simple, there’s a little question at the end:
Please include a cover letter telling us something awesome about you and the projects you’ve worked on, along with the best product management book you’ve ever read, regardless of claimed subject. (You like “Design of Everyday Objects?” So do we.)
We ask because we’re curious about candidates, and we get often get more information in the cover letter than we do in the resume (for instance: why are they in product management? Do they read all of a job listing before applying?)
A surprising proportion don’t have a book. For those who did, I decided I’d read all the books that came up and do a little write-up on their place on the Product Management Bookshelf.
Have a suggestion for something I should read? Nope! Gotta apply.
Our first book
Today, a leading response in no small part by being massively popular when we opened our listing, Ben Horowitz’s “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”
Is it worth reading? No.
Sarcastic summary: successful wagon-train driver reminisces about how very sore his whip hand got driving those horses to death.
There are some good pieces of advice in here: the compressed “what a Product Manager should do” summary is a succinct and useful description of the job, and there are indeed bits worth reading.
And one must appreciate a business book that isn’t told in fable form.
But it’s not good. The only connecting thread in the book is that Ben Horowitz sure went through some tough times! Over and over, there’s a crisis, but he and his team had to make huge sacrifices!
There’s never a consideration of whether the sacrifices were worth it: he’ll mention the costs his teams took on as evidence of their heroic resolve. And because they came through, it’s all justified. The skies part, options vest, and there’s glory enough for everyone to bask in.
The result is if you see your leadership team reading this and talking about how much they’re inspired by it, you should be wary.
I’ll humbly submit as an outsider, as someone who has not accomplished what he has, that the truly difficult thing would have been to avoid the deathmarches entirely.
And his examples — if reading about one company’s dependence on one customer doesn’t set off all your Product Manager danger senses, you need a vacation.