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Well, as it turns out, a lot.
I had my first French macaron during my connecting flight in Paris a couple of months ago – it had me at first bite. I still remember when my teeth first met the crusty surface. Then they descended into the chewy core, which was followed by just the right amount of fillings to top off the ultimate delectable experience. I thought the whole world must have been added to each macaron, only to learn later on that the ingredients are incredibly simple. After about the 5th one, I started contemplating whether or not my husband and I should continue on to Spain, which was our final destination, or stay in Paris and eat our way out of every single patisserie that carried this tongue altering narcotics.
Once we returned to California, I was determined to find these Parisian treats. Soon enough, I started eating my way out of the local bakeries – from Pualette to Miette to XP Patisserie and even Starbucks – yes, THE CHAIN – who knew!
As if that wasn’t enough, I decided that I would learn to make my own macarons. So I’m taking a 3-hour class in LA late December. I figured that if each macron costs $1.65, and a class costs $50, taking the class was no brainer. So this is now my little personal challenge. I consider myself a good cook, but I don’t bake.
So what do bakers and product managers have in common? In general terms:
Creativity: In baking, it’s about taste, presentation, tools and techniques. In product management, it’s about design, processes and resources. Yes, you CAN be creative in how you use your resources to get things done!
Patience: In baking, every step has to be meticulously done – the ingredients, the step by step preparation, and the wait . . . before you can enjoy the fruit of your labor. Product Managers generally lack patience. That might just be the nature of A-type personalities. But patience can result in better timing (i.e., go to market), better outcome (due diligence in planning, execution and QA) and increased productivity.
Persistence and the desire to achieve perfection: When I scoured the internet for a macron recipe and for people’s experience in making macrons, the common thread seemed to be the multiple attempts. One person went through 7 batches before he was happy with the outcome. PMs persistency comes from selling ideas they truly believe in to both the internal and external stakeholders. Persistence is also about finding an optimal solution to a problem.
Pride: In baking, it’s about repeated business via word of mouth. It’s about who wins the bake off contest, and if you have kids, it’s about who’s mom makes kick butt cupcakes. In product management, it’s the satisfaction of seeing your product move off the shelf and knowing that you’ve put your heart, soul, sweat into creating something that never existed before. It’s about making a difference in someone else’s life because of your product(s), or better yet, it’s about making a better world.
Passion: Bakers exists because they are passionate about food. If you don’t believe me, just look at their size (I’m going to get into so much trouble for this). As a marketer, I’m guilty of accumulating a lot of personal “stuff” I might not need. My husband accuses me of it, and I tell him that the product was so brilliantly marketed that I just had to buy it. Truly the bottom line is that if you are not passionate about the product that you manage, you are less likely to succeed.
So will baking make me a better product manager? Maybe . . . but I’m sure going to find out!