Micro-Interview: Teodor Todorov, CTO, Founder & Product Management Lecturer

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Teodor Todorov is the CTO at ClearWare, a company that helps startups with software engineering and consulting. He is also the founder and a lecturer at GrowIT, the first IT academy in the town of Pleven (and the hometown of yours truly!).

In under 500 words, he shares: 

  • How he transitioned from technology to product management…
  • His research-based, morning rituals…
  • What he learned from some of his biggest product failures…

And more…  

Enjoy!


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“How did you get into product management?”

I’ve got a technical background, and I spent my professional life trying to grow in technology to get enabled to empower the world through it. However, when I got to the practically highest position in tech (Solution architect), I understood firsthand that technology is not enough to have a successful product.

I identified Product Management as the missing piece by attending an internal training at the company I worked for back then.

Learning the PM body of knowledge and practices helped me to start searching for materials and ways to master it so that I can help my products and the ones of my clients proliferate.

“How do you start your mornings at work?”

I usually wake up at 5:00 and try to stick with the Miracle Morning rituals.

Then, when the time comes to start the working day, I typically exercise a few Pomodoro cycles of deep work to get the truly critical things done before the teams are up. I support them after this, and they help me do the heavy lifting of prototyping, testing and strategizing.

“What do you know about product management now that you wish you’d known when you first started?”

The product is the result, not the start. We all need to focus on the problem first, to understand its context, impact, the people that face it, and the ways to go around it. Then the solution is straightforward. Thus, I wish I knew I must not immediately start implementing an MVP. Instead, the way to go is to produce a series of small prototypes that embody different parts of the strategy, prove the vital hypotheses, and mitigate the risk.

“What did your biggest product failure teach you?”

Nobody just “knows” the problem and the need the customers have.

The arrogance of thinking you know what people think and need (sometimes even better than themselves) has a super high price tag. I learned to be humble and curious, ask short questions, and listen carefully.

The mistake of skipping straight to product development (because for a developer the easiest and most natural thing is to do exactly this) thought me the art of prototyping – a concept that embodies the saying “less is more”.

“What’s the #1 thing that has helped you shorten your product management learning curve?”

Designing, developing, and utilizing prototypes to mitigate risks. People are keen to share all the answers with you, and the product manager’s main task is to master the art of asking the right questions in the proper form. More often than not, this proper form is a prototype. A prototype magically erases the ambiguity, and the abstract concept gets into a living entity that has the power to prove a success, justify the investment, and foster the confidence to continue developing the actual product.

And I realize this is not a thing to flatten the learning curve. However, it is the place where theory meets practice and the place a PM starts to gain proficiency.

“How do you stay updated on the best practices in product management?”

I listen to podcasts all the time. I try to keep up with “Masters of scale“, “Growth stories“, and a relatively new Bulgarian one – the Prodcast. I also follow my favorite writers like Steve Blank and Tim Ferriss and the great resources of Conversion Rate Experts.