It's difficult to categorize Justin Washington. He spends his days in product management with Apple, but you can also find him maximizing all 24 hours of the day behind a camera, creating music, or mentoring others.
You might just say he's a misfit — his words, not ours.
8 questions with Justin Washington
Below, we went in depth with Justin across multiple topics, including product management, personal branding, and the tools and tech he can't live without.
1. As an experienced product manager, what are the biggest misconceptions about the role you’d like to dispel here and now?
Probably that you need to be “technical” or have an engineering background. The core competency is empathy, so I’d say you need to be technical enough to empathize with your collaborators and stakeholders, which will undoubtedly be engineers. It will show that you have respect for their domain, which will build trust between you and them!
2. You’ve done an amazing job building a personal brand over the years — what made you start investing in this part of your life/career?
I didn’t realize it, but I’d been doing it all along. Throughout academia, and in my professional career, I knew that positioning would be my greatest asset. I knew I was always one relationship away from the next opportunity, so it’d be best to make sure I curated and presented myself in a way that would attract the opportunities I wanted. Now, it’s just been about centralizing it, and I’m so glad I can do that with Polywork!
The core competency [of product management] is empathy, so I’d say you need to be technical enough to empathize with your collaborators and stakeholders, which will undoubtedly be engineers.
3. As you’ve built your personal brand, what’s been the most difficult part about standing out?
I think the great thing about the landscape today is that authenticity is winning. People are growing exhausted with being sold, proselytized, evangelized, and pitched on these platforms.
Being relatable is probably beating out being aspirational (or, out of reach). The whole “no aesthetic is the new aesthetic” motif is also a thing now. If you’re truly yourself, that will cut through louder than the loudest bullhorn.
4. You’ve also been one of our earliest adopters of Polywork (thank you!). Is it safe to say we are seeing a more holistic version of Justin on Polywork?
I’d say so! Before, there were pieces of me spread out across multiple services and sites. I’m so glad I can point people to a central hub, and furthermore, Polywork can easily support the representation of my multifaceted self.
5. You, like many others in our community, are truly a multihyphenate. What are you passionate about outside of your 9 to 5 that helps bring balance to your life?
Music is my first love – singing, songwriting, producing, arranging, and just listening. I really don’t know where I’d be without it. It is one of the chief mediums by which we can connect emotionally to one another.
Also, photography! Capturing moments and emotions in many genres (music, lifestyle, fashion, sports) has also brought me great joy.
Mentoring and coaching up the next generation of black and brown professionals in tech is also something I keep close to my heart. I wouldn’t be here without it, so I make it my duty to pay it forward in this space.
If you’re truly yourself, that will cut through louder than the loudest bullhorn.
6. You’ve created an all-encompassing personal website on Polywork? Something that’s noticeable is you “sweat the details” — can you take us through how that’s reflected in your Headline and About Me/personal branding statement?
I was so glad to see that this was possible with the templates. It was a great way to introduce the many facets of my personality, interests, and skillset. I’m able to tell you who I am personally & professionally in a simple, poignant headline.
In “About Me”, I just expanded on that. I wanted to be concise so that it’s easily understandable while giving the complete picture of who I am. I lead with “creative technologist” because I think it’s a well-rounded phrase encompassing the creative aspects of product management, my technical background as an engineer, and follow with my actual creative disciplines outside of tech.
7. In your portfolio section, your passions are atop of your 9 to 5 — was that an intentional choice for the audience that lands on your site?
That’s partly that way because I feel like my music + photography are much richer, more interactive, and expansive at the moment! That stuff is also more likely to be updated frequently, as it’s what I have direct control over. Also, LinkedIn is generally the place to dive deeper into my “professional” side. I wanted my other work to stand out a bit more, here.
8. Keeping everything organized is a job in itself. Are there any “tools of the trade” that help you stay on top of everything?
Craft – the most beautiful & feature-rich writing tool out! Easy enough for scratch notes & complex enough for more structured project scoping. I’ve used it for personal and professional thought memorializing and idea generation.
Cron – best calendar out there!
Standard Resume – resume building tool with beautiful, modern templates. I’d say it’s the Polywork for resume building 🙂
Things – my go-to “getting things done” tool.
Linear – on the work front, the best issue-tracking/project management tool known to man, seriously. I can’t use it anymore at Apple (we have our own in-house tool), but I used it at previous companies and fell in love.