Building Human Machines is Product Management

Tommi Forsström, VP of Product at Shutterstock, shares how he builds and motivates teams and instills a strong product culture.

Over the course of his career, Tommi has held roles as an engineer, engineering manager, and product manager. He’s now VP of Product at Shutterstock, one of New York’s most exciting technology companies. Throughout his journey, Tommi has learned a lot about how to be an effective product leader.

I first asked Tommi how the role of a product manager is different from the role of a product leader. His perspective is that as a product manager, your job is to build great products, while as a product leader, your job is to build and empower product teams. He creates “human machines” that are setup to build successful products without him needing to intervene.

While product managers focus on the fundamentals of product management, such as product research, analytics, and user experience design, Tommi focuses on the factors that create an environment where product managers can be successful, such as culture, hiring, management, and process.

He emphasized the importance of hiring as a way to build a great culture. His approach is to build rock star teams as opposed to teams of rockstars. He takes into account that everyone is different and a team needs to be cohesive in order to operate effectively.

Tommi shares his best advice for screening for culture fit, instilling values, and career mentorship. Here are the highlights:

  • Tommi’s perspective on the role of a product manager vs the role of a product leader (5:47)
  • How Tommi makes company values actionable on a day-to-day basis (12:57)
  • Tommi’s favorite job interview question for screening for cultural fit (15:41)
  • Tommi’s advice for motivating employees (20:48)
  • Tommi’s advice for product managers who aspire to become product leaders (22:52)

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