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Putting Customer Feedback to Action by Zendesk Growth Leader

Everybody knows how important customer feedback is for a product. It doesn’t matter if the feedback is negative or positive, it’s all needed to improve the product and to make it the best it can be. This is all clear, but how can you put the customer feedback to action and use it to your advantage?

Growth Leader at Zendesk and Director of Partnerships at Trello shared their insights on the matter.

 

 

Growth Leader at Zendesk

Brianne Kimmel is a growth leader, startup advisor, and Angel Investor. She currently leads growth initiatives at Zendesk including the Zendesk for Startups program. Before Zendesk, Brianne lead performance marketing teams at Orbitz and Expedia where she focused on user acquisition, paid social and international growth. She’s recently visited Sydney, Paris, and Vienna as part of her ongoing “tech world tour” to meet and advise international startups.

 

Director of Partnerships at Trello

Anthony Marnell is Director of Partnerships at Trello where he works with many partners building integrations for the Trello platform. He is the co-founder of the NYC European Tech Meetup and has advised startups at Numa, Impact USA, and TechStars. Previously, he led the US business for the email startup Mailjet.

 

How to Put Customer Feedback to Action

Anthony and Brianne discussed about the best practices on how to turn customer feedback into actionable insights. More specifically, they talked about why customer feedback matters and what the best practices for sharing customer feedback with internal teams are. They also gave tips on how to evaluate signal vs. noise.

Putting Customer Feedback to Action by Zendesk Growth Leader

 

Bullet Points:

  • “Customer feedback is a gift.”
  • The best thing about being in contact with your customers is that no business plan, product or feature, survives the first contact with them.
  • Who owns the relationship with customers? If everyone owns it, nobody owns it.
  • Product, marketing, and support each own a part of the customer feedback experience.
  • Companies can approach listening to what the customer is asking for and build better products by adding the use of a systematic approach to their operating model.
  • Asking for customer feedback especially for a young company can be scary because of over-optimizing based on early feedback.
  • The question is, how to be customer-obsessed but not necessarily build for the customer? And, how to make sure you’re making the right decisions?
  • The customer journey has 5 phases:
    • Reaching out through a number of channels.
    • Support captures the feedback.
    • The feedback is shared with marketing, product and support within the company.
    • Opportunity size: What Changes to make? What is important? What makes the overall performance better?
    • Product improvements.
  • 4 Ways to get started in building a culture of being customer-obsessed:
    • Start measuring
    • Build customer empathy across the organization.
    • Invest in your community by creating, for example, a Slack Community.
    • Organize a product council.

 

Have any comments? Tweet us @ProductSchool 

The Product Book has arrived! Learn how to become a great Product Manager. On sale for a limited time. Get your copy here http://amzn.to/2uJqg9A 

We teach product management courses in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and New York. To learn more about our upcoming courses and how to apply click over to our course page.

Solving People’s Problems as a Product Manager by Facebook PM

People don’t really want products, they want solutions to their problems. This is why it is crucial for a product manager to understand his/her customers’ needs completely and be able to solve their problems by using products.

It sounds pretty complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. In a recent talk, Product Manager at Facebook gave us an example of a real-life process where she solved people’s problems.

 

 

Product Manager at Facebook

Aigerim Shorman is a Product Manager at Facebook. Before Product Management, she founded her own company TripTrotting that was later called Wist. Before her own company, she was an Investment Banking Analyst at USB Investment Bank and taught with Teach for America. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and speaks four languages.

 

How to Solve People’s Problems?

In this workshop, Aigerim provided a clear scope of the product manager role. She discussed the mechanics of the product development process and the communication needed to ensure transparency across stakeholders. Additionally, she talked about how to use user feedback to inform decisions. 

Solving People's Problems as a Product Manager by Facebook PM

 

Bullet Points:

  • At Facebook, they don’t call their user base customers nor users. They call them “people” and their motto is “people problems first.”
  • Product ideas come from various sources; people (users), engineers, competitors, etc. Most importantly the ideas come from problems.
  • Every idea should focus on the customer needs and on understanding the customer.
  • The 1st step in solving people’s problems is doing research.
    • Try to understand what’s happening and what the customers are doing.
    • For example, at Facebook, they noticed that people were using a picture that supported a sports team or cause as their profile picture. The Facebook team started to think how they can make this better for the user and help them express themselves more easily.
  • Step 2: Data.
    • How big is the idea and is there enough data for it?
    • The size of the user base doesn’t matter. If you see a pattern in research think about how you can translate it into bigger numbers.
  • Step 3: Identify pain points.
    • Identify the points in current experience and brainstorm ideas for them.
    • Size the already existing profile pictures and think how you can make the process easier for them.
  • Step 4: MVP
    • Build an MVP quickly (<2 months) and get feedback for it.
    • Think about what is the minimum viable product within the one user base or some group where you and test and see quickly if it works or not.
    • Facebook tested with a couple of partnering logos and sent a call to action. In a couple of days, they had 1M people using the logos. This resulted pointed in the direction that it’s worth doing on a large scale.
  • Step 5: V1 Of the Product
    • The purpose is to gain more feedback.
    • Facebook tried it with the French flag by allowing people show support to the victims of 2015 terrorist attack in Paris. They got 120M in two days to use the feature meaning that it was a success.
  • Step 6: Fully Scaled Product

 

Have any comments? Tweet us @ProductSchool 

The Product Book has arrived! Learn how to become a great Product Manager. On sale for a limited time. Get your copy here http://amzn.to/2uJqg9A 

We teach product management courses in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and New York. To learn more about our upcoming courses and how to apply click over to our course page.

Mobile App Product Management by Verizon former PM

When creating and implementing a new mobile app there are various moving parts that go into development, design, and functionality. How is it different from managing other software products? Former Product Manager at Verizon discusses the process in detail and how applying important data analytics can make or break your app.

 

Senior Product Manager at Paltalk

Shyam Vijayakrishnan is a Sr. Product Manager of the Paltalk (a social messaging app) brand at Snap Interactive Inc. In his role, he drives the design and development of key product features and plans mobile product strategy for both iOS and Android platforms. He partners closely with engineering and leadership stakeholders to collectively achieve strategic business goals of the mobile apps. Shyam also is focused on improving retention of the apps through in-app push messaging, A/B testing, and running engaging marketing campaigns.

Before, Shyam worked at Verizon as a Mobile App Product Manager bringing new innovative apps to the market (Verizon Slideshare, Videocasting, Verizon Caller Name ID to name a few) in addition to managing a few life-cycle products. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce, Accounting and Economics and an MBA majoring in Strategy, Marketing, and Product Management.

 

What is Mobile App Product Management?

Shyam discussed and explored the big world of mobile apps. He talked about the key concepts when creating and implementing a new app, challenges around scaling a product, and all critical functions that need to perform to sustain and allow the app to thrive.

His main points were around what you should focus on when you put a mobile app out and how to scale it. He gave insight on mobile app revenue, retention, and user engagement, and touched the surface of how to use of analytics/tracking in mobile apps.

Mobile App Product Management by Verizon former PM

 

Bullet Points:

  • What to keep in mind when creating and implementing a new app:
    • It has to work on both Android and iOS.
    • The design has to be simple.
    • Will it work online as well as offline?
    • Does it have an immediate gratification system, does it provide status, does it unlock rewards, etc.?
    • Remember to take user feedback by running polls.
    • Think about the pricing.
  • When scaling an app, think about:
    • App optimization: Play Store, SEO, reviews, translation.
    • How to make your database better by indexing, and analyzing and reading data.
    • New technologies/hardware, deep linking, and sharing.
    • An acquisition strategy; advertising and other platforms for engaging.
    • App maintenance; stability and features.
  • The 3 pillars of mobile apps are:
    • Revenue: advertising, subscription, gifts, premium features.
    • Retention: campaigns, out calling/outreaching, social media, Play Store, reviews, customer feedback.
    • User engagement: draw users back by using exciting/relevant info, promos, rewards.
  • Analytics in mobile app product management:
    • It’s fundamental for everything in product management.
    • You can base on data to motivate the team.
    • Create a good layer for data, for example, SDK’s (Flurry, Fabric, TUNE.)
  • Customer feedback and engagement:

 

Have any comments? Tweet us @ProductSchool 

The Product Book has arrived! Learn how to become a great Product Manager. On sale for a limited time. Get your copy here http://amzn.to/2uJqg9A 

We teach product management courses in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and New York. To learn more about our upcoming courses and how to apply click over to our course page.

Managing IoT Products with TechProductManagement Founder

IoT products are constantly evolving the way we utilize technology to make our lives easier. But building and managing an IoT product takes a different kind of experience and skill. IoT expert Daniel Elizalde shared his knowledge with our community, including the challenges, how to be successful, the top five important elements and more.

Managing IoT Products with TechProductManagement FounderDaniel Elizalde 

Daniel is IoT Product Leader with over 17 years of experience managing the complete lifecycle of connected products. The founder of TechProductManagement. The creator of the IoT Decision Framework taught at Stanford, Oxford, and Cornell and used by top Silicon Valley IoT companies. Previously, he worked as head of products for Stem, Inc. He’s a frequent speaker at IoT and Product Management events.

 

What is your background and how did you start in Product Management for the IoT?

I have about 18 years of experience managing connected products. I started as an Engineer and then moved to Product. I’ve managed hardware, firmware, cloud, and apps. I’ve worked as an individual contributor and head of products.

Today, I focus full-time on training companies and product teams on product strategy for the Internet of Things. I teach my IoT Product Manager certificate program online, and I teach at Stanford University and consult with companies.

 

What’s your most effective daily habit?

Every day I emphasize understanding how the IoT ecosystem (from a Product Management) perspective is changing. Keeping up to date with what companies are doing, what works and what doesn’t is very important. It gives you a window into the industry, but also helps you understand the pains your customers are facing.

 

How is product management for IoT products different from other hardware products?

IoT is very complex because it combines hardware and software. IoT Product Managers need to understand these relationships and make sure they are conversant across the technology stack.  I wrote an article that can help. Check it here.

 

What are the top 5 things you focus on as a Product Manager for IoT?

I focus on six key areas so you can have a holistic and strategic perspective of how your IoT product impacts your customer and your company. These areas are (in order): user experience, data, business, technology, security, and standards & regulations. Check out this article where I elaborate on these important topics. 

 

What are the current challenges for IoT reaching mass adoption?

I believe the challenge is about providing value and not a technology solution. Many companies think that just by adding sensors and collecting data from the real-world creates a successful product. This is not the case. Just like anything else, you need to understand your customer and provide value. That’s why I feel so strongly that Product Managers will play a huge role in the adoption of IoT. It’s a Product/Business problem, not a technology problem.

Managing IoT Products with TechProductManagement Founder

 

Are there currently any challenges that you constantly think about or that you’re trying to get better at addressing?

Absolutely! In Product Management, you are never done. You are always looking for areas to improve. I like to break these challenges into four main categories that I call the four pillars of product leadership. You can read more about it here. 

 

How did you transition from engineering to Product Management?

I started as a software developer and then moved into a role as a Systems Engineer. In this role, I had the opportunity to travel the world designing systems for big companies. I was close to the customer and got to hear their challenges first hand. I was also close to Sales. This exposure to business, sales, and technology, blend very well to a transition into Product Management.

My key advice is to find opportunities to be close to the customers. Listen to their needs. Try to move into the “problem space” (Product Manager role) and away from the “solution space” (engineering role).

 

Do you ever burn out? How do you keep up your energy and stamina in such an ever-transforming field?

You have to find the right balance. Find a field that you love, and then you’ll be able to put a lot of energy into it, and it doesn’t feel like a chore. In general, I focus on the Product Manager role, which is strategy and adding value to the customer. That field is evergreen. If you focus on chasing the latest tech trend, then you’ll burn out. That’s never-ending and by itself provides no value.

 

As someone new to a Product Manager role from an engineering role, what are some things I should do in my first month?

The first thing to do is understand how your company works. What is their value proposition? What is the problem they are looking to solve? What are your company’s core competencies? What is their vision, and product strategy? Who are their customers? How does the company make money? Those kinds of things.

That’ll give you a holistic perspective and then you can start figuring out how you can help. Otherwise, you’ll be flying blind.

 

What Myers Briggs personality type are you?

I forget. I like the DISC model better. In that model, I’m a “DI,” meaning very direct, but people focused. BTW, you bring a great point. I believe all Product Managers should do one of these tests to understand themselves and their stakeholders. Communication is one of the top priorities for any Product Manager. So if you can adapt your communication style to your audience, you’ll get your message across 100 times better.

Managing IoT Products with TechProductManagement Founder

 

What’s your favorite IoT product?

I have many favorites. I think the Tesla S car is a great example. It’s just a great car that adds a lot of value to their customers, and they don’t even realize it is an IoT product. In the background, Tesla gets a ton of information about the car’s performance and driving habits, so they can improve their product or launch new products based on what they are learning.

 

What background and skills do you need to be successful in a Product Manager role?

Product Managers come from all backgrounds. Whatever background you have will be very useful in your Product Manager career. Whether it is business, marketing, design, engineering, legal, sales, etc. You just need to understand the other areas that are needed.  

But in general, I think the most important skill you can have (and often the most overlooked skill) is having great soft skills. Check out this article for my philosophy on this. 

 

What are key challenges you see in the internationalization of IoT hardware products?

Internationalization of hardware has a lot of challenges. From supply chain to distribution, installation, localization, etc. I believe the biggest challenge is around regulations. Understanding the local laws and making sure your product can be very complicated.  I strongly advocate working with your legal/policy teams before launching into an international market.  

 

You mention Product Management is “never done.” What’s the next process, or approach change you see coming?

I believe that 5-7 years from now, most products will be “connected products.” It’ll become the new normal, just like today Cloud and Mobile are just the state of the art of how we build products. That opens up great opportunities but big challenges for Product Managers because managing IoT products are way more complex than any “traditional product.”

To stay relevant, Product Managers will need to learn a “systems approach” to managing products including software and hardware. This trend is going on right now, so if we, as a profession, don’t focus on catching up, we are going to be struggling to provide value or even find Product Manager jobs in the future.

 

Have any advice for a Canadian student with PM/developer experience to find a Product Manager Internship in Silicon Valley?

It’s tough; I’m not going to lie. I moved here from Austin, TX. I was able to get traction by being here and being able to network and talk to people directly. Doing it remotely didn’t work.

 

To improve User Experience for the users, what techniques do you use?

My favorite technique is to do contextual research. This means going out to see the customer’s in their environment and experience “a day in the life.”  You’ll quickly realize that their day doesn’t revolve around your product and you’ll be able to understand better how you fit into the customer’s priority. That way you can provide the best experience that fits them, not you!

I see many companies designing products that aim at being the center of their customer’s world. That’s never going to happen. We have to have empathy towards what your customer wants from you and how you can realistically help them.

Managing IoT Products with TechProductManagement Founder

 

You agree with where Gartner puts IoT on the 2017 Hype Cycle?

I do agree. And I believe it is our responsibility as Product Managers to deliver on the promise of IoT and get past the hype. The hype is usually around a new technology being a silver bullet. A solution to all of our problems. But as Product Managers we know that’s not true.

Let’s not get carried away. I do believe IoT is one of the most important revolutions of our time, but on the other hand, IoT is just a tool. It’s just something we now have available as Product Managers to provide value to our customers and solve their problems on a better, faster, cheaper way. That’s the only way we can break the hype. I wrote an article about that. Read it here.

 

What do you like and dislike about pursuing product from a more consultative/educational role?

My mission is to help companies capitalize on the IoT revolution. I’ve designed a framework to do so, and now I teach my approach online, at Stanford and companies. I realized that by being head of products, I could only influence my company. I wanted to have a bigger reach and help many companies. My consultative/educational role helps me do just that.

Now I have Product Managers all over the world taking my courses, and I’m able to impact products in many industries and verticals. Very exciting times. 

 

Is it difficult to hire International people for US jobs in the current political climate for the Product Manager position?

I think it is. I grew up in Mexico, and I came to the US through an H1B visa and then became a citizen. I understand what it is like. I think the challenge is there regardless of the political climate. It is always hard to showcase your Product Management skills because Product Manager is still a young profession. I believe getting a Product Manager job is a lot about networking and getting to know people. But that’s hard to do abroad.

 

Any final words of advice for aspiring product managers?

My advice is to focus on solving customer problems. That is the main focus of a Product Manager. Understand who your customer is, and what are their pains. Lead with the understanding of what they want to achieve and how you can help. Technology, Business models, etc. come later. Customer value first, everything second. 

 

Have any comments? Tweet us @ProductSchool 

The Product Book has arrived! Learn how to become a great Product Manager. On sale for a limited time. Get your copy here http://amzn.to/2uJqg9A 

We teach product management courses in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and New York. To learn more about our upcoming courses and how to apply click over to our course page.

10 Commandments in Product Management by LinkedIn PM

To break into Product Management you need a certain set of skills, experience in the industry and some technical knowledge. Once you get a job you still need to figure out the secrets of doing the job right. What are the Product Management rules that you haven’t heard of yet? 

Here is the inside info you need to know, from LinkedIn’s Senior Product Manager. 

 

 

Senior Product Manager at LinkedIn

Christian Byza is an entrepreneurial and passionate Senior Product Manager with over seven years of experience in growth, technology & online marketing. He is currently working on the international LinkedIn product. In this role, he is leading an agile engineering team of 15+ developers and UX designers building tailored solutions to conquer those international markets. 

 

Vertical vs. Horizontal Product Management

Before that, he ran product for the Social Ads part of Adobe Media Optimizer – an enterprise-class SAAS marketing software that was used by hundreds of customers spending multi-million dollars around the globe. Besides working for LinkedIn Christian co-founded the Online Marketing Rockstars Conference & Expo in Hamburg, Germany. He also speaks at different conferences and mentors startups at the Axel Springer Plug & Play Accelerator about product management & online marketing.

Christian discussed the difference between vertical and horizontal product management and product ownership. He also talked about how his roles changed from owning a vertical slice of a solution to horizontal ownership of an entire market. He shared his insights on what it takes to build great products in a large organization as well as his ten commandments in product management. 

10 Commandments in Product Management by LinkedIn PM

 

Bullet Points:

  • Vertical product management means that you’re an expert in one particular field. 90% of all the Product Manager roles are more like this. The bigger the company, the more vertical the role.
  • In horizontal product management, a product manager is responsible for the entire horizontal product. In a horizontal product manager role, you get to work with many more teams and opportunities.
  • Vertical Product Management in a nutshell:
    • Deep knowledge expert.
    • Focused on one problem.
    • Work with your team.
    • Complex problems.
    • The face of the product.
    • Product owner.
  • Horizontal Product Management in a nutshell:
    • Entire stack.
    • Fix problem in entire stack.
    • Work with many teams.
    • Growth hacking.
    • The face of the market.
    • Market owner.
  • The 10 Commandments of Product Management:

 

Have any comments? Tweet us @ProductSchool 

The Product Book has arrived! Learn how to become a great Product Manager. On sale for a limited time. Get your copy here http://amzn.to/2uJqg9A 

We teach product management courses in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and New York. To learn more about our upcoming courses and how to apply click over to our course page.

Find a Product You’re Passionate About by Airbnb Product Manager

Some of the most valuable qualities of a product manager include leadership, adaptability, and a strong product mindset. Taking these qualities to your interview can help you stand out from the rest.

According to Product Manager at Airbnb, the most important thing is to find a product or company you’re passionate about, in order to go far. She also had far more insights to share with our community. Check out what she had to say in her recent Q&A below.

 

Find a Product You're Passionate About by Airbnb Product ManagerHelen Sims

Helen Sims is a Product Manager at Airbnb, focusing on host acquisition. Airbnb currently has over 4 million listings available across the world – more rooms than the top 5 hotel chains combined! Helen is focused on strategically growing that supply even further. Prior to Airbnb, Helen worked at Zynga for over 5 years as a Director of Product. In her spare time, Helen is an instructor at Product School and enjoys riding around town on her motorcycle.

 

How do you keep your developers motivated?

I think keeping your team aligned with the mission and motivated is super important regardless of their specific role. In general, I recommend finding out what motivates the individuals on your team. I’ve found there can be pretty high variety here.

Some people are motivated by impact. For these individuals, I recommend consistently showing quantifiable metrics that show the impact of their contributions. Others are motivated by customers. For these individuals, I recommend sharing anecdotes and customer reviews to show the real impact that you are creating for them. Focus on how your products have made their lives better.

Other individuals are motivated by technical challenges or all sorts of other intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. The most important part is having those conversations so that you know what motivates the individuals on your team and you consistently remind them of how everything ties together.

 

What was your first role in Product Management?

My first role in Product was as a Product Manager at a gaming company Zynga. They had an amazing training program, and I’m very thankful for the vast amount I learned there. It’s also an example of a company that hires Product Managers with limited product experience.

 

How is product structured internally in Airbnb? Do you collaborate much with product groups?

It’s all relative, but I’m proud of the large product community we have at Airbnb. We’re structured into business units, but there’s a decent amount of overlap between teams and business units. One thing that we’re evaluated on as Product Managers is our ability to communicate with stakeholders around the company and anyone who may be impacted by decisions made on your product. We have a few concrete tactics that help with this:

  1. On 1-pagers/Specs/PRDs we explicitly list out anyone who should be made aware of this upcoming change.
  2. We have a live document called “WOW” (Who Owns What) that we can reference at any time.
  3. I make a concerted effort to eat lunch with a different Product Manager from around the company minimum three days/week to learn about what they’re working on. It ends up being some of my favorite hours of the week!

Find a Product You're Passionate About by Airbnb Product Manager

 

What advice would you give to people that want to pursue Product Manager role for a career change?

There’s no standard path to becoming a Product Manager, but here are the four most common ones that I see:

  1. Have a technical background (CS undergrad, experience as a software engineer, etc.).
  2. CEO/founder of a small company.
  3. Go to Business School or similar advanced study.
  4. Work at a company you’re passionate about in a role outside of Product, and transfer into Product management.

Depending on your background and time horizon, I might recommend a different approach. Finding a company or product you are incredibly passionate about and becoming an expert is a good strategy no matter what.

For example, one of my favorite anecdotes is about someone who really wanted to work at Twitter. He spent $100 on mechanical turk learning about who the Twitter VIP’s were and wrote a blog post about it. The blog post went viral, and when he interviewed on Twitter, they recognized him as the author. He did ultimately get an offer. This is where going above and beyond and showing your passion can help, even if you don’t necessarily have a technical background or an MBA.

 

How important is it to be on the same page with your management team and have their support?

This is incredibly important! I do want to clarify that this doesn’t mean you need to blindly agree with management’s first instinct. You should be a big part of shaping the narrative as well, and if you disagree, you should feel empowered to share your point-of-view (backed by data or qualitative research) and influence decisions. However, it’s critical that you and the leadership team are on the same page.

Think about it this way. Try to build a house where the architects aren’t on the same page as the construction company. What happens? Probably nothing good. But also, if the architect draws something that the construction company knows won’t work, they should feel empowered to share that information and adjust together as well.

 

Can you talk about the career trajectory of a Product Manager?

This can be slightly different from company to company and even specific Product Manager roles within a company, but in general, you see something like this:

Years 0-2: Junior level position, “do work with help.” You may have a mentor or manager who works on projects with you or gives you detailed feedback. Scope of work = <6-month projects

Years 2-4: mid-level position, “do work independently.” You may still have a mentor or manager but they likely are not working with projects directly with you, and instead, you’re the sole owner of larger projects. Scope of work = 6-12 month projects

Years 4-6: the senior level position “empower others to do work.” This is where careers often fork between management and IC roles. (note: you can always change your mind, this decision is never irreversible. I recommend everyone try management at some point). As an IC you’ll own larger projects, and as a manager, you’ll start to influence broader initiatives. The scope of work = 12-18 month projects.

Years 6-10: You’ll start to own much larger scale projects, or may even start managing managers. Scope of work = 18 months +

Years 10+: Up to you! By now you’re a strong leader capable of helping others or owning very large projects end-to-end that can influence an entire company’s trajectory. Maybe you start your own project or take on a high-level leadership position.

Find a Product You're Passionate About by Airbnb Product Manager

How does competition factor into your product roadmap decisions? To what extent do you follow the market when you’re deciding what projects to prioritize?

There’s a principle in Product Management stolen from ice hockey (of all places!): “Skate to where the puck is going.” The idea here is that if you just copy your competitors, you’re skating to where the puck is. By the time you get there, it’s already gone, and all you’ve done is built the same thing as your competitor, but they did it first (and have probably iterated and made it better since then).

It’s important to remain aware of what your competition is doing but more so to see trends and predict where the entire competitive landscape is moving – not just to copy existing landscape.

 

Would you say noncritical bugs should remain in backlog to further shape the product or is it key to shape a feature to its 100% before moving on?

In general, you should be making decisions about what to prioritize based on impact. While you should always aspire to ship clean code with no bugs, inevitably things always slip through the cracks. When you’re deciding whether or not to fix a bug, you’re primarily looking at the opportunity cost of fixing that bug and anything else you could be working on instead.

When you think about it in this way, you can typically make objective decisions about what’s best for your customers. Sometimes, even if it’s painful, that means a lower-impact bug lives on a bit longer while you build something that will drive more value instead.

 

What made you shift your career from Zynga to Airbnb?

I went to work at Zynga because I was obsessed with the product and believed wholeheartedly in the mission (“connect the world through games.”). I would run late to meetings because I was waiting for a crop to harvest in FarmVille. I decided I needed to work there before it ruined my life. This ability to deeply understand and empathize with their target customers was very helpful in making me a successful Product Manager.

After six great years at the company, I found Airbnb’s mission resonated more strongly with me (“Belong Anywhere.”). I similarly had become a power-traveler on Airbnb and was staying in Airbnbs almost every weekend and even lived full-time in Airbnbs for four months. The lesson here is that no matter the industry, it will be very helpful if you are deeply passionate about the product and the company’s mission and have a deep understanding of it when you apply.

Regarding the move itself, what you’ll find is that the Product Manager skillset is very easy to adapt to many different situations and industries. Ultimately leadership skills, analytical acumen, impact-driven decision making, and customer empathy will be helpful no matter where you end up working.

Find a Product You're Passionate About by Airbnb Product Manager

When you started your first Product Manager job what did you do during your first month?

A lot of listening. These are typically the goals I have for the first month in a new role:

  1. Meet everyone on the team (and don’t just learn their names but get to know them. What do they enjoy (both inside and outside of work)? What motivates them? What are their short and long-term goals (again, both inside and outside of work?)
  2. Deep understanding of what’s currently working and (more importantly) what’s not working! The best way to learn this is to ask people, but also to observe.
  3. Deep understanding of the current product and the competitive landscape. Do complete deconstructs of competitors and figure out their strategy.
  4. If possible, learn what’s been tried already. Chances are you’ll have a few “I can’t believe no one thought of this yet” moments. And most of the time, with a bit of digging, you’ll find someone who did indeed think of it, and there’s a good reason it hasn’t been done.

 

Do you think it’s a viable path to jump from UX Research/HCI specialty into Product Management?

Absolutely! There’s no standard path to becoming a Product Manager, but I’ve seen this jump before. Typically Product Managers have a superpower. I’ve found that for Product Managers moving over from research, the superpower is frequently user empathy. I’d emphasize this skill but also working on others that will help round out your Product Manager skillset (analytical skills, project management skills, etc).

 

What are some critical skills needed for professionals to transition to junior/associate Product Manager roles?

It’s highly dependent on your interest and the role you are looking for. In general, with entry-level Product Managers, hiring managers are looking for whether or not you have raw potential, not whether or not you have refined skills. Here are some things you can do to help demonstrate this potential:

  1. Communication skillsPractice, practice, practice both written and oral communication, including preparing and presenting powerpoint decks.
  2. Opportunity sizing – These are those tricky interview questions that ask “how many golf balls would fit on a school bus.” Yes, they are challenging, but no they aren’t impossible! Look for examples of Glassdoor and practice answering them.
  3. Customer empathy/UX – Do you understand what does and doesn’t make a good user experience? Look critically at some of the apps and products you use every day. What’s great about them? What could be made better?

 

What haven’t we asked about your experience as an Airbnb Product Manager that you believe is important to share?

One thing that often gets overlooked at dual-sided marketplaces is all of the personas. For example, when thinking about Uber products, you should be thinking about not just the rider but how changes will impact the driver too. It’s the same at Airbnb. When we make changes to the product, we have to think about how it impacts both the guest and the host (and sometimes, even more, personas too!). This isn’t unique to Airbnb, but it’s a unique characteristic of marketplace companies.

 

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