How product leaders can accelerate both their learning and career growth

  • Seek high-growth companies
  • Build your network of peers and mentors
  • Be ready to learn and unlearn
  • Learning to work effectively with engineers, designers, data scientists, project managers, researchers, marketers, customer success peeps, and CEOs is half the challenge of a product leader career

1991

  • Trip Hawkins, the CEO and Founder of EA, interviewed Gibby for a PM role
  • Helped Gibby with shipping a product on time
  • Develop multiple products in parallel so you can swap in one product for another
  • How to deal with imposter syndrome
  • Lead with the critical feedback first

1994: Creative Wonders (an educational software startup)

  • Greg Bestick was the CEO of my first startup, Creative Wonders
  • He taught me how to think about brand and positioning, and how marketing and product organizations can work together effectively
  • How to form successful work relationships
  • Form
  • Get to know each other to build trust
  • Storm
  • Begin to challenge each other's ideas
  • Norm
  • Develop shared ideas and approaches
  • Perform
  • Build strong cross-functional alignment

The Learning Company

  • Built a large category of children's educational software, but competitors copied their work, and the children's software category became a commodity
  • Lessons learned: the importance of building hard to copy advantage through brand, unique technologies, network effects, and economies of scale

1999: FamilyWonder, a family-focused e-commerce company

  • Jonathan Kaplan, the CEO, took me aside to explain: "Gib, we are going to visit Sega of Japan for a week- they want to buy us. For the first five days, we won't talk about business. We'll eat, drink, and do Karaoki. On the last two days, when we finally talk business, I need you to be comfortable with long silences - listen carefully."

2003: Epoch Innovations, a dyslexia technology startup

  • Keith Rabois was the catalyst for my growing focus on quantitative data to understand how customers behave

2005: Netflix

  • Learning by doing: Delight customers in hard-to-copy, margin-enhancing ways
  • Simplify the product by focusing on simplifying the experience
  • The balancing act of qualitative and quantitative
  • Too much management squeezes the life out of innovation
  • Learn how culture helps talented individuals make great decisions about people, products, and business
  • Get outside Silicon Valley
  • Test big changes
  • Create a culture of "well-formed adults"

2010: Chegg, a textbook rental & homework help company

  • Fully commit to “What's next”
  • Ignore purchase price when evaluating acquisitions
  • Use this simple model to evaluate projects
  • Is it big enough to matter?
  • What does success look like
  • How do you measure success

Conclusions

  • Seek high-growth companies that put you in proximity with talented leaders you can learn from, plus set you up for battlefront promotions
  • Build your network of mentors and peers
  • Be ready to learn and unlearn as both technology and your job evolve
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