Gayle Laakmann McDowell and Jackie Bavaro’s PM Advice 

by Ariel Smotrich

Gayle Laakmann McDowell and Jackie Bavaro are likely two names you’ve come across if you’re interested in a career in product management. They have both worked in product management roles for top companies such as Asana, Google, and Microsoft. Not only are Jackie Bavaro and Gayle Laakmann McDowell incredibly talented product managers, they are also great teachers of the craft. 

We give you a snapshot of Bavaro and Laackman McDwoell’s product management career advice below. You can pick up their books, Cracking the PM Interview and Cracking the PM Career, to help you find the best product manager jobs and improve your career trajectory.  

If you want to keep building your business acumen, consider taking an online business class, like brunchwork’s Business Intensive. You will develop 8 critical business skills, learn from top business leaders like Jackie Bavaro, and expand your business network.

1. Asana’s Pyramid of Clarity – developed by Jackie Bavaro – will help you achieve strategic alignment. 

Asana Pyramid of Clarity

The Pyramid of Clarity was developed by Asana to get everyone at a company to understand the mission of their organization at a high level. 

At the top, your mission statement explains why your organization exists.   

In the middle, include your company’s yearly strategy, plus a set of objectives spread across different product teams. The objectives should focus on how you’re going to win in the market and succeed in the upcoming year.  

The bottom of the pyramid should include key results and projects tied to your objectives. Focus on day-to-day tactics such as features, tickets, and technical debt.

Note that a great product roadmap is like a charcuterie board. It should have a strong balance of different elements, such as meat, cheese, and fruit. For example, if you wanted more revenue from a product you may focus 20% of your effort on existing users, 50% on getting more customers, and 30% on product improvements.

2. Validate ideas quickly.

Jackie Bavaro and Gayle Laakmann McDowell believe that validating your ideas quickly is critical to your success as a product manager. 

Here are three ways to help you validate your ideas: 

1) Call a customer and ask their top 3 problems with your product. If they named the problem that you’re trying to solve, you’re on the right track. If not, you should reconsider. 

2)Analyze your recent data to see the level of customer interest in the product or feature you are trying to improve. 

3)  Run A/B tests and beta programs for product changes. See how customers respond to your changes to understand which ones resonate best.

Validating ideas will save you time because it allows you to focus solely on ideas that improve your products.

3. Study popular products to keep improving as a product manager. 

Start with a product everyone uses but doesn’t like; for example, Craigslist. 

Rather than focusing on the faults of the product, like Craigslist’s older layout, figure out why so many people still use it.

Then study products that everyone likes, such as Netflix. What are they doing on their site that’s better than the competition? What are the reasons for the product’s superiority? 

When studying, keep track of the patterns that all great products have. 

Apply these patterns to your projects to raise your quality bar, enhance your creativity, and improve your career trajectory. 

4. Gayle Laakmann McDowell and Jackie Bavaro’s advice for new product managers.

If you are new to product management, Bavaro and McDowell recommend that you work for a larger company that has a strong track record of building good product managers. Bavaro and McDowell believe that it is better to work for a larger company first because it allows you to absorb best practices. 

When you start at your new job, Bavaro and McDowell recommend forming a relationship with your new team before trying to impose a new strategy. Learn the current methods for each team member and gain a deep understanding of what they are worried or excited about. 

Rather than jumping towards controversy, be a connecting view to guide your team to find the best solutions and ideas.


It is important to keep yourself sharp in the competitive field of product management. 

If you want to learn more information, check out Jackie Bavaro and Gayle Laakmann McDowell’s book Cracking the PM Career

If you’re starting the interview process for product management jobs, check out Cracking the PM Interview by Jackie Bavaro and Gayle Laakmann McDowell.         

Looking to take the next step in your career? Check out brunchwork’s Business Intensive to learn from top business leaders, such as Jackie Bavaro, expand your network, and skill up. 

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