Gods, Superheroes, and Product Managers by Randy Silver

BY Randy Silver ON JUNE 29, 2018

John Carpenter’s “Big Trouble in Little China” is a 1980s masterpiece, and easily one of the silliest action movies you’ll ever see. It’s remarkable for a very simple reason: Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) may be the film’s lead character – he’s front and centre on the poster — but he’s not actually the hero of the story. He’s actually the goofy sidekick.

Jack Burton is not a product manager.

In the late 1990s, Ben Horowitz wrote an inspiring memo that cast product managers as the CEO of the product. Too many people have read it without understanding a critical point – CEOs also answer to other people. If they don’t deliver, their customers (or the board, as their proxy) will fire them.  Whether you’re product manager or CEO, there’s one thing you all have to keep in mind: you are not the hero. (Don’t worry, you’re not the goofy sidekick either.)

There is only one hero: your customer. Your job is to give them the tools they need to succeed. If you don’t, they’ll go somewhere else.

If you’re not the hero or the CEO, then what role does a product manager play? In this talk from MTP Engage, I use pop culture to illustrate how we can best work with our customers, stakeholders, and teams, and how employing the right mindset leads to success.

Randy Silver


Randy Silver

A recovering music journalist & editor, Randy Silver has been working as an interactive producer & product manager across the US & UK for nearly 20 years. After launching Amazon’s music stores in the US and UK, Randy has worked with museums and arts groups, online education, media & entertainment, retail and financial services.  He’s held Head of Product roles at HSBC and Sainsbury’s, where he also directed their 100+-person product community.   He's also spoken at Mind the Product Engage (Hamburg), at a number of ProductTanks (London, Zurich, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Oxford,  & Brighton... so far!) and at conferences across the US and Europe.