Insights on Product Management in the US Federal Government

Welcome to our Product Newsletter, a biweekly email highlighting top discussions, and learning resources for product managers.

What We Will Cover In This Edition:-

Top Discussions: 

1) What are the hottest IT trends that a PM should be riding right now?

2) Product Managers in the US Federal government

3) Overemployment Prevention Methods

Top Learning Resources:

1. 4 Things I Learned after 61 Product Manager Interviews

2. The Product Management Cheat Sheet

3. HOOK Model & A/B Testing: PM Case Study


Top Discussions

Question 1What are the hottest IT trends that a PM should be riding right now?

As a product manager (PM), it is crucial to identify the best tech waves to ride.

  • Which industries and specialties should you bet on right now?
  • Which tech waves should you focus on?
  • For example, which industries, specialties, should a PM right now bet on?

– Carolyn Miles


A] Don’t ride waves, find a specific niche that you have expertise/interest in, and stick to that. This way, you can build a highly specialized skillset over time, and can keep jumping to better and better roles within the same field instead of constantly changing industries.

– Jane Winfred

B] Several industries and specialties hold significant potential for PMs at present. One such area is artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), which continue to revolutionize various sectors, including healthcare, finance, retail, and autonomous vehicles.

By understanding the applications and implications of AI/ML, PMs can leverage these technologies to drive innovation and create impactful products. Additionally, the Internet of Things (IoT) offers immense potential, with connected devices becoming increasingly prevalent in homes, cities, and industries.

PMs can seize opportunities within IoT by developing smart products, optimizing connectivity, and leveraging data analytics. The field of cybersecurity is also of paramount importance, as digital threats become more sophisticated. PMs well-versed in cybersecurity can contribute to developing robust solutions and safeguarding sensitive information.

Furthermore, emerging technologies like blockchain and virtual/augmented reality hold promise for PMs seeking to explore new frontiers. By staying informed about market trends and aligning their skills with the demands of these industries and specialties, PMs can position themselves to make impactful contributions and ride the tech waves of the future.

– Bobby Duncan

C] One of the biggest difficulties I have as a PM is defining OKRs that don’t have some KPI that rolls up to some customer-facing Product team. Ultimately, I have very little influence over those metrics, so I shy away from them. There are the obvious KPIs that engineering likes to fight me over (scale, availability, SLAs, etc.).

Otherwise, I try to focus on specific capabilities and platform operating cost…which sometimes just feels lame and myopic in light of overall business strategy.

The other thing I’ve experienced…from a career perspective, promotions seem to take longer. As your platform matures, the number of big bang product releases decreases over time.

And nobody notices how good of a job you’ve done when nothing goes wrong. The promotions I have seen are when something is obviously wrong and you get in there to clean up someone else’s mess.

– Matthew Shun


Question 2) Product Managers in the US Federal government

Do federal agencies in the US recruit product managers? If so,

  • What do they (PMs) work on?
  • How does it compare to the private sector?
  • How long does it take to get hired?

– Juan Allo


A] Federal agencies do recruit product managers for various projects and initiatives. The roles and responsibilities of a product manager in the federal sector may differ from those of a product manager in the private sector, depending on the agency and the project.

Generally, federal product managers work on projects that benefit the public, such as infrastructure, healthcare, and defense. The hiring process for federal jobs may take longer than in the private sector due to security clearance requirements and other regulations.

Additionally, federal product managers may need to navigate complex bureaucratic structures and adhere to strict budgetary constraints. Despite these challenges, working in the federal sector can offer unique opportunities for making a meaningful impact on society.

– Corey Amorin

B] Yes, federal agencies in the United States do recruit product managers for various roles within their organizations.

While the specific titles and job descriptions may vary, product management roles can be found in federal agencies that develop and maintain software applications, digital services, and other technology-based solutions.

The responsibilities of a product manager in the federal government can include:

  1. Identifying user needs and requirements: Product managers work closely with stakeholders, including end users and government officials, to understand their needs and translate them into product requirements.
  2. Developing product roadmaps: They create and manage product roadmaps, outlining the vision, goals, and timeline for the development and enhancement of digital products or services.
  3. Collaborating with cross-functional teams: Product managers work with multidisciplinary teams, including developers, designers, testers, and subject matter experts, to ensure the successful delivery of the product.
  4. Prioritizing features and enhancements: They make informed decisions about feature prioritization based on user feedback, resource availability, and strategic objectives.
  5. Managing product lifecycle: Product managers oversee the entire product lifecycle, from concept development to deployment, maintenance, and continuous improvement.

To explore product management opportunities within federal agencies, you can visit official government job websites like USA JOBS or individual agency websites. Additionally, networking with professionals in the federal government or leveraging online platforms that connect job seekers with federal opportunities can be helpful in finding relevant openings.

– Gary Houston

C] Yes. In my limited experience, it is not all that different from private. There still are “CEOs,” but they are agencies not people. There are still awful managers out there who can sabotage your career and good ones who can make you feel fortunate to be employed. There are still measurements, but they tend to be less focused on revenue.

Bootstrapping and the caliber of your product team are, in my opinion, the two most difficult aspects of Fed PM.

The former because most innovative and intriguing technologies are blacklisted, and not all vendors or SaaS are acceptable for use. You have discovered a specialized piece of software to address a challenging data problem. It is unfortunate that you have to use a product that is 20 years old and has not been updated in 5 years.

The latter since it is sustained by work is alive and dead by contractors. Additionally, contracts are always up to competition, and your preferred agency may be changed without justification by one that is vastly inferior.

You may have also heard a lot about bureaucracy and red tape. That is overstated in my opinion, or at the very least, it is not what you anticipate. Although federal work naturally progresses more slowly than private work, interagency dependencies and security clearances are the actual roadblocks.

So while both Fed and private PM jobs include some element of luck, I would say Fed work has a lot more moving parts. I consider myself quite fortunate to be in my current position, yet anything could change, such as a new manager or presidential administration.

Good Luck.

– Malcolm Sequeira


Question 3) Overemployment prevention methods

No video calls, won’t commit to any in-person meetings, will cancel even the most basic meeting appointments, won’t answer even the most basic inquiries about what they are working on a macro level, won’t attend a (required) annual retreat/working session, and isn’t anywhere to be found on LinkedIn or the internet.

As I was not involved in their hiring process and I took on this person from another team, they consistently fall short on pretty much everything that isn’t a canned pop-platitude about PM processes.

I’m curious in hearing from you if you’ve suspected or discovered an OE person on your team and how you handled it.

Personally, if they took care of business, I wouldn’t mind at all, but they’ve already failed miserably on a number of fronts.

– Samantha Yuan


A] Regardless of OE status, failing to deliver is straight PIP worthy. Either they take it seriously and improve and you don’t have to waste time hiring, or you fire them against performance if they don’t shore up.

– Kane Morgan

B] Yes, there was a member of my staff who we were aware worked full-time elsewhere. consistently failed at tasks, gave haphazard answers, and was unable to articulate fundamental elements of the difficulties on which he was meant to be working. Finally, I merely instructed him to return the equipment because Friday was his last day. Due to the fact that someone is now actively tackling the issues he was supposed to be handling, we have advanced more without him.
In the end, it does not matter if the person has OE; what counts is that they are performing the task at hand.

– Nathan Endicott

C] Deal with them the same way you would any other underperforming employee; put them on a PIP, give them very specific performance goals to meet, arrange for required, regular video check-ins, and give them a timeframe to improve. To make sure they attend meetings, you can include clauses like “must contribute regularly to team meetings, planning, as necessary.”
I would not presume they are overworked because I have heard from folks who are depressed, have health concerns, etc. Where they were engaging in all of the behaviors you mention (apart from using LinkedIn), but where they simply needed coaching to get out of a difficult personal stretch.

– Maria Wilson


Top Learning Resources

Going through 61 interviews across 20 different companies in just 6 weeks was intense, but it taught me so much about the product management interview process.

In this post, I’ll share four key takeaways from my experience that I hope will be helpful for anyone who is currently looking for a product management role or is trying to jump to the next level in their PM career.

The Product Management Cheat Sheet

A collection of links to the best product management frameworks, models, tools and articles available online. These resources cover a wide range of topics, from agile methodologies to user experience design, and are designed to help product managers stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices in their field. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out in product management, this collection has something for everyone. So why not take a look and see what you can learn today?

HOOK model & A/B testing: PM case study

In this assignment, I need to imagine working as a PM for Growth at Netflix. I want to implement growth hacking tactics to improve one of their product metrics, Show Watch Rate, which means the percentage of users who open at least 1 show/movie to watch after starting a session on Netflix. For this initiative, I need to implement the HOOK Model to raise user engagement with Netflix content & implementing A/B Testing on the App Homepage.


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