My Blueprint

Josh Elman
7 min readSep 6, 2020


My friend Luc Levesque wrote a piece on having a personal blueprint. It’s a great way to outline your work style and your quirks. Some people have called this a “user guide” or a “personal introduction”. Luc asked me to contribute to a group of others sharing them publicly and for the first time I assembled mine from a number of pieces I had written separately. I wanted to post here on my Medium too.


I’m thrilled to be working with you all. I care deeply about building great products for customers that help them in their lives. I feel so lucky to get to do so with a great team.

Building products is always a team effort. Everyone gets to bring their unique skills and perspectives to the table. Our goal as a team is deliver a great product and service together — beyond what we could as individuals or the sum of our parts. I want to help everyone apply their best skills as we deliver a great product and service to our customers. Along the way, I’m excited for all we’ll learn from each other and the fun we’ll have together.

This said, I know each person is shaped by your own experiences and your own goals and dreams — both for our customers and for yourselves. We all likely have different preferences and styles for how we like to work, and we all have our own quirks. It takes understanding each other so that we can collaborate best and really delight our customers.

Here are some of my beliefs. I hope laying these out will help us work together better. I’m happy to talk about any and all of them!

1. I value strong customer focus 🧐

I feel so lucky we get to build products that people use in their lives. We have to sometimes remind ourselves that we are building products that people use enrich their lives, not that our products become their lives. We should always talk about our customers as people with their own needs, wants, and skills. When a product isn’t easy enough to use, is complicated to get started with, does something for the customer they didn’t expect, this is our responsibility to improve, and not the customer’s fault. Customers are not percentages or data points.

I like cutting through the data to get to the core anecdotes and stories that matter. Those can really help contextualize opportunities. Sometimes in a debate I may get stuck on or push back on something that could make logical sense for the business, if I can’t understand it from the customer perspective.

2. I believe in testing strong hypotheses 📝

Whenever we are building something, we are trying to create something new that hasn’t been seen before. It’s hard to fully predict the results. What’s most important to me is understanding the hypothesis we’re testing. This may be to see if we can introduce a new behavior to our customers, or remove some obstacles that many customers are experiencing without otherwise hurting the business.

I find it really important to distill the ideas into a strong hypothesis so we know what we are really testing for. If someone is pushing a project without a clear hypothesis, then we won’t have any way to measure its success. The scientific method of observation -> question -> hypothesis -> experiment -> analysis -> iteration is a great way to approach product development.

I look for and push hard for this on projects i work on.

3. The (real) best result is learning 🏫

Whenever you go out and test a hypothesis with a new product or feature, one of the best results is seeing your customers adopt and love the new experience.

But more importantly, the real best result is the learning that comes back to help you do better next time. This learning can comes from success, failure, or surprise cases, and really especially the failure and surprise cases. I find that nearly all new features come back with mixed results — some new behaviors look good, some metrics or customer behaviors have shifted away from what’s best for customers or the business. Being able to tease these apart and compare them to what you predicted with your hypothesis is the most important part of learning from shipping.

I highly value taking these results and turning them into learnings that help us make better predictions and decisions next time. It’s important to be honest about things that didn’t work and understand where you were wrong and try new things next time. You’ll see me dwelling on this sometimes until we’ve extracted the right lessons, before finally and quickly moving on. One thing that is important is looking at the surprise and success cases with as much scrutiny as failures as you try to extract the core learnings there too.

One of my favorite sayings is:

“Be passionate about the opportunities and clinical about the results.”

4. Always assume good intentions 🥰

One of the most important things for me and for working with others is to always assume good intentions. Every day we all bring our whole selves to the table. By default I assume that everyone I work with has great intentions to produce the best products for our customers and build a sustainable business. When there are disagreements, we should seek the truth behind those disagreements and pick a path that we can all commit too, even if we still disagree but commit. I assume the best disagreements are coming from everyone wanting the same end goals but bringing unique instincts and perspectives. There are rarely right answers, the best way to move forward is to learn. With any partner, any customer, or more, when you assume good intentions by default it helps everyone seek the shared truth much faster.

Sometimes people have other things going on in their lives that might affect their behavior. It’s even more important to assume good intentions and trust in those cases.

5. Focus is critical 🔍

As I’ve grown over my career, one lesson that I’ve learned too many times is how easy it is to overestimate my or other capabilities of how much we can get done at once. I’ve often started and tried to keep too many balls in the air since, well, everything could be an opportunity.

One critical learning for me is that doing fewer of the right things at one time nearly always results in having more opportunities in the long run.

Focusing as a team and delivering real value to customers is all that matters. Every time you do this successfully, you get the chance to do more. It’s critical to pick the things that matter, say no to everything else, and get them done.

This is an area I believe in strongly. Though, I’m personally not always the best at holding to this. Sometimes I may need to rely on my colleagues to help hold me accountable to keep my own focus, and that of the team around me. If you see me trying to do to much, or proposing we try to do too much, please just call it out!

6. The journey should be fun 🕺

Building things is often a long journey over many years. There may be milestones such as shipping to customers that are exciting. But these are often just one step along the way and are more often the beginning to learning than an ending of any building process.

I believe strongly in making as much fun along the way. It’s great to laugh during brainstorms, I love to use silly codenames that produce a smile, and to make sure we get breaks along the way. And I invite it from all of you too.

7. Remember customers only have the product we ship 🚢

When building things together, it’s important to remember that we have access to all of our ideas, plans, visions and often works in progress. It’s easy to forget that customers are only using the last public builds or older, and might be stuck with older devices and equipment. We have to take responsibility to bring customers along the journey with us, not just drop something new in their laps. we can’t explain it to them in person, so it becomes more important that we convey our views and introduce them properly to our products and ideas.

A few quirks about working with me

1. I’m an “external processor” 💬

This means I often talk through things out loud before coming to a conclusion. This can be great because you get to hear most of my thought process if you are with me. And your questions and feedback really help. But this can also be annoying if you want a clear and concise answer and you get lost following my ramblings. I generally do get to a clear and concise answer. But if I’m not making sense or all over the place, please just interrupt, ask, and I’ll do my best to synthesize and clarify.

2. I love helping with problems but… 🆘

I love helping whenever someone comes to me with a question. I’m often full of ideas and occasionally some good ones, so come at me! My goal of course is to help you solve the problem on your own and make the best decision. Sometimes, though, I jump right in and come up with a bunch of solutions and start throwing them at you. It’s how I’m wired and I love to help. Please remember I’m not trying to tell you what to do, just to empower you with new ideas. These are just suggestions and hold me to that.

3. I care a lot about the impact and legacy we leave 🏛️

I get excited about products to work on because I want to make things that have a big impact on the world. I’ll sometimes get pushy if I think we aren’t thinking big enough or having the kind of impact we should have. I believe we need to move as fast as possible to get there, and will often look for an angle to move faster. Sometimes I’ll push too hard — so just call me out on that — the most important thing is delivering on our commitments and I don’t want to overwhelm that from happening.

For further reading:

Here’s something I wrote about A Product Manager’s Job.



Josh Elman

I love building products that people use. I‘ve helped build Twitter, Facebook Connect, LinkedIn, Robinhood. Investor in Medium, Tiktok/, Discord