The “success guarantor” of products. What is the job of a product manager?

Hello!  This is R-Hack team.

Do you know a job called “product manager”?

It is abbreviated as PDM and is meant to be the guarantor of the success of a product.

This time we had an interview with Taku who works as a PDM.

R-Hack - Hi, thank you for your time today.  So would you tell us about your job as a PDM?

Taku- Sure, thank you.

Joined Rakuten as a new grad to work on the product construction of GORA!

R-Hack -Could we start from your career history please?

Taku- Sure, I joined Rakuten in 2007 as a new graduate and I have been working for Rakuten GORA service since then.  Initially I started as an engineer but then switched my job to a PDM and have been involved in various projects including Solo-reservation, signatureless-check-in, and development of new functions for inbound and outbound etc.  I was assigned as a manager for the GORA PDM group 3 years ago where I am working with 11 PDM members for product constructions.

R-Hack-So you were an engineer, not PDM when you joined the firm; what was the trigger for you to change your role?

Taku- I joined Rakuten because I wanted to make a change in the Golf industry as I had been a user of Rakuten GORA service myself as a golfer, prior to joining Rakuten.

I applied for the engineer position because Rakuten was not recruiting for a PDM position for new graduates at that time, then changed my job to a PDM later.

After working as an engineer, I felt I would like to get involved in the launch of products and product construction in a closer position to the golfers; therefore, I decided to work as a PDM.

Rakuten GORA service was expanding whilst the golf industry market as a whole was shrinking around the time when I joined Rakuten.

In fact I thought I wanted to learn more, as a golfer, about how a PDM of Rakuten GORA is catching up with the issues of golfers or golf courses, how they construct the products, or how they lead the growth of their services, and also wanted to experience all these things.

 R-Hack -Are the skills required for an engineer and a PDM different? 

Taku-A PDM is required to have a sense of marketing as s/he is required to work on market research in the industry etc.  Also, PDM needs to have the ability to do the deep consideration about various things.  The one who can keep having the ideal target would be a good fit for a PDM.


What’s the rewarding experience as a PDM?

R-Hack - Please tell us about the rewarding experiences as a PDM. 

Taku- I feel highly rewarded when the product we developed with the team members are released to the public and receive reactions from the golfers whose experience have been changed by our product.

Also, we have a lot of opportunities where we can receive both positive and negative voices from the golfers directly, as most of golf courses in Japan are participants of Rakuten GORA service, which is the No.1 reservation site for golf courses with a great number of users.

I find it a very precious thing as a PDM, that I am already in the fortunate environment where we can approach a large number of golfers.

My friends and family members also play golf so I can receive their feedback and such voices lead my motivation towards work.

Keep creating new services.

R-Hack - The role of PDM is different depending on which service you work on – what is it like to be a PDM for Rakuten GORA?

Taku- The PDM for Rakuten GORA should be responsible for handling the product construction and execution phase (project management) in order to provide new experiences to the users or to resolve various problems users are currently facing.

The accountability of the PDM includes the establishment of our concepts: “What the product is originally aimed for”, or “What do users really need?”, and coordination with the engineers / QA team etc., so the PDM’s job covers all steps about the product, from the actual development through to the release.

The PDMs of Rakuten GORA works on the improvement of existing products, but at the same time, they have a lot of opportunities to be involved in the launch of new products.

Rakuten GORA used to be mainly used for booking purpose and now it is being improved for other golf product services in addition to the booking.

Recently we have launched the membership model which contributes to setting up loyal customers and retain them so that the number of plays per annual is increasing.

The PDM for Rakuten GORA will work on not only booking services but also on the development of other golf-related services.


Link up with passion

R-Hack - What is the essential factor for a PDM?

Taku- I think it’s the mindset to “do everything possible!” to move forward with the product development.

The most important factors for a PDM are the ability to direct people, passion, and logic.

There are many stakeholders involved in the product therefore the PDM should listen to opinions from many different people and make a decision on the solution, then proceed to next steps for the product development.  Hence the PDM should be able to do the logical thinking as well as having a variety of options for the decision-making.

R-Hack - What are required to have the variety of options as the PDM?

Taku- First of all, you have to remember people’s faces, as a PDM has a lot of opportunities to meet various people.  It is very important to remember the faces of the people you met.  Then be considerate about your business partner.  The trust relationship is a key for the PDM’s job.  One of the things I have been doing is to go for the Korean BBQ with the people whom I work with, so that we can know about each other better.

R-Hack- What kind of people you wish to work with for future?

Taku- Someone with a clear vision and idea about what kind of product s/he wants to create, or with the firm will to provide the new values and experiences to the users via our services.

R-Hack- A candidate could be interested in the PDM job but maybe worried about not having the experiences or knowledge in the system development – would it be a problem?

Taku- No, it is not a problem at all, the knowledge nor experiences in the system development is not required for the PDM.  Currently 70 % of the PDMs are switched from engineers, however quite often a PDM without development experiences could have wider range of views about the work.

Sometimes the PDM came from the engineer field could set some brakes for certain processes by giving up some of the steps due to his or her “engineer’s view” when brainstorming about the product framework; but if the PDM does not know about such technical difficulties, that is a positive thing and he or she could go ahead 

R-Hack- Could you tell us about your dream as the GORA’s PDM?

Taku- It is to make it the No.1 golf service in the world!


R-Hack- Finally – please give some comments to the readers of this R-Hack article.

 Taku- The job “PDM” would not be so well-known yet in the society therefore I would like to advertise about this job more widely and deeply to the public.  I hope this article would be one of the trigger points for someone to be interested in the PDM.  Thank you.