A Q&A with Nemo Blackburn on must-have tools, habits and workflows as the Founding Product Manager at Primitives

Each week we talk to people we admire to learn about how they work: their processes, tools they use, and what drives them. It's an opportunity to get a sneak peek into how other builders and makers do their jobs. So you might get inspired and learn something new, or, at the very least, get a song recommendation.

This week we talked to Nemo Blackburn, the Founding Product Manager at Primitives, a fast-growing startup building experience-based NFTs (If you’ve been to a web3 event lately, it’s likely you’ve seen their QR codes around).

p.s. – Nemo's current song on repeat is That’s How Strong My Love Is by Otis Redding, so feel free to listen while you read to put you in the mindset 🙃.

So, what’s it like being the Founding Product Manager at Primitives?

I define my job as “creating a vision for the future and charting the path to make it a reality.” One of the things I love about working at the intersection of NFTs and social is that I get to spend time imagining the possibilities that these new technologies unlock – which is fun on its own – and I also get to work with a team to make them real!

How did you get into that?

I grew up in Oakland, CA so I’ve been around the tech world my whole life. After college I worked as UX designer but quickly found that I also enjoyed playing with data and working with engineers. Product management was the best way for me to combine multiple skillsets and interests into one role.

What's one thing you swear by in your work as a product manager?

Always ask why. Especially about what to build next, but also about what meetings to have, what marketing channels to use, etc. Always asking why forces me and my team to question our assumptions, consider ideas from multiple angles, and ultimately results in clearer thinking.

What's one tool you discovered recently that you now can't imagine your life without?

I’ve been using Mode Analytics to write database queries and make quick visualizations. I know my way around SQL but python scares me, so I used to write queries, download a .csv and make graphs in Excel (embarrassing but true 😂). Mode saves me a lot of time because I can do it all in one place.

What other tools do you use that people may not have heard of?

Magnet app – great window resizing tool for Mac. Rectangle app does something similar. PMs tend to have lots of apps open at the same time, and it really helps me keep things organized.

What’s one habit that has changed your productivity and work life for the better?

Take 5 minutes to write about how my day went before I log off, and take 5 minutes to plan my next workday before I go to bed. The first write helps me compartmentalize days and make sure I track any learnings or to-dos that fell through the cracks. The second write helps me get excited about my next day and have a plan to make the most of it.

What's one thing you've learned recently about how to be more productive and happy at work?

Know the difference between problems you need to solve yourself, problems you need to delegate, and problems you can just ignore.

As a product manager, you have endless messages to respond to and tasks to-do. What’s your system for managing your inboxes and to-do’s?

I have one to-do list in Notion for big projects and a running to-do list in Apple notes for quick tasks. I block time to work on items from my lists – one thing I love about Primitives is that everyone at the company has an open calendar, so when I’m doing deep work it’s understood that I won’t respond to messages immediately. That said, if I don’t have a block and I’m not in a meeting, I stay active on Slack. I check my email once in the morning and once at night.

What’s one book you think every early startup founding teammate should read?

The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni – startups don’t work without clear communication and healthy conflict.

That's it! Hope you discovered a new tool or workflow you love. Follow Nemo's work at primitives.xyz or at @nemoblackburn on Twitter.

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