Product Management All-Star: 6 Questions With Abbi Claxton
We have the best job in the world — we build software for software builders. And we are connected with people you should know. The folks who are building what is next for customers around the world. So we are asking exceptional product managers who are shaping the future to share their knowledge with you.
Abbi Claxton is the head of product management at Crown Commercial Service. Based in Norwich, UK, Abbi has more than seven years of experience working in digital and software. When she's not building products, she can usually be found with her little pack — her partner and their dogs, who are the stars of any video call — playing netball, at the gym, or seeking out new restaurants.
When did you learn product management existed?
"Six years ago, I was working for a software company called SessionCam. I had such a passion for the product and the power it gave to our customers. I had always worked closely with customers to understand their needs, wants, and pain points. I had a great understanding of the market and competitors, working closely with business and technical teams to understand market fit, next steps, and positioning. Because of this, I ended up being somewhat of an 'accidental product manager.'"
What was your first product job?
"My first non-accidental product job was working for Nielsen Brandbank, a leader in digital product content for e-commerce across 39 different countries. The products my teams and I worked on varied from CGI, AI, and voice technology to compliance products. It was brilliant to be able to create such a variety of products and services for our customers and it really cemented my love for product management."
What is the most important trait for a product manager?
"Have strong empathy for your customers so you can understand their needs and help solve their problems. Product managers also need to have empathy for their teams — developers who put in long hours, salespeople who have deals relying on certain features, and stakeholders who need to meet strategic goals. The more we can understand each other's challenges, the easier it is to work together cohesively."
What would you recommend a new product manager not do?
"Don't try to do everything — product management is a team sport. If you are lucky enough to have user researchers, give them the room to use their expertise. Give developers the space to ideate. Work closely with testing, marketing, and data, and allow them to do what they do best.
Supporting the team and giving everyone a seat at the table whilst keeping the vision in the forefront of everyone's minds will give you a much more valuable product than you could ever create on your own."
If product management had a slogan, what would it be?
"To borrow from Jeff Bezos, 'Be stubborn on vision and flexible on details.'"
What will change most about managing products in 2030?
"We will see agile be even more agile. Product management as a discipline will develop even more — I expect we will see it in more universities and recognised qualifications. One of the great things about product management is that each product manager brings something different depending on their background. When we work together and share that knowledge, it's extremely powerful. It'll be great to see how that develops over the next 10 years."
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