#AlwaysBeBuilding — The meaning behind the hashtag

Rocket Ship (Credit: Freepik.com, August 2020)

All views, opinions and statements are my own.


Before we start, here are words wisdom that are more critical than ever. If you lead people as part of your work or have a high degree of influence even an individual contributor, what you do is as important or even more important than what you say.

If you incentivize people to build their own schedule around WFH duties and constraints, take time off, and invest in theirselves, you should do the same and set the tone, so here I am on a Friday morning, not night or weekend, investing time in one of the things that I love the most…connecting with the community interested in Product Management.

This comes with a lot of gratitude for the culture at my workplace and to my own leaders who support such initiatives #InvestInYourself.

Now, back to the post.

Years ago, when I started my career in Product Management, in the middle of a status meeting, I heard someone saying that “shipping was addictive” — the more products you build and ship the more you want to repeat the journey of bringing products and features to life. That comment stuck with me and as years went by, I gained a greater understanding of what it meant.

Fast forward to late 2016, in celebration of a big win from our teams, I introduced the email sign-off #AlwaysBeShipping and that has been followed me over time until these days, typically representing a feeling of joy and pride for the amazing work led by amazing people that I work with.

This year, during yet another meeting — yes, welcome to the calendars of Product Managers — I heard a different interpretation of #AlwaysBeShipping, one that was not the most compelling. It meant something along the lines of “code, test, deploy…repeat,” which is such a narrow view of art and science that lead to a piece of code that ships.

It dawned on me that years’ worth of joy, pride, and celebration could have been lost in translation and misrepresented the work of so many people that poured their hearts and souls into the process of envisioning, building, and running products and features.

The true meaning not coming across, a clear problem of communication, which in my opinion, is the most important skill a Product Manager should develop throughout his or her career — it never ends. So what was that big meaning?

In order to get to the finish line and ship, Product Managers and teams across Design, Analytics, Engineering, Marketing, Legal… (this is a very long list!):

  • Build a vision, aimed at solving a wicked problem and delivering lasting value that changes people’s lives and uniquely improves the business.
  • Build connections, seeing the future beyond “tomorrow” and combining A and B to generate a new C. Or envisioning and building C from scratch.
  • Build shared context, so that teams, peers, leadership, partners, and other stakeholders have clear understanding of the Why and What — How naturally follows.
  • Build momentum, getting people energized and motived to follow and help materialize the vision.
  • Build a path to “get there,” learning and iterating along the way with insights, creativity, ingenuity and a ton of collaboration.
  • Build (healthy) barriers, asking questions, probing, and saying “No” to many enticing opportunities in pursuit of the vision and the highest leverage investments.
  • Build knowledge, becoming the one person or team that knows the customer, the product, the tech, the business — all together — like no other competitor out there.
  • Build empathy, leveraging a variety of research mechanisms and tools to understand, discuss, communicate, and strategize based on customer behavior.
  • Build relationships and influence, in a world where Product Managers have little power, maybe a bit more authority, and without a question, overwhelmingly high accountability.
  • Build a safe zone, one that people leverage to speak up, connect the dots, and unleash the best ideas.
  • Build confidence, when things seem to be going south and people need a boost or help “herding cats” to bring them back to their feet.

Let’s take a pause — this list can and will continue growing over time and I’m sure you know where this is going.

More important than learning that I have pivoted from #AlwaysBeShipping to #AlwaysBeBuilding and the meaning behind the hashtag, is the importance of keeping a growth mindset in your personal and professional lives, learning from others, reflecting on what and how you say or do things, and leveraging those insights to continue growing and improving.

Thank you again for your support. I can’t wait to hear your feedback. It only takes one minute to complete this survey and it will definitely help me along the way.

Cheers, Romulo

Senior Director of Product at Capital One | Founder, Blogger & Mentor | FinTech & Mission-driven Startups