Jennifer Yang-Wong is a product leader who formerly worked at Uber, before moving into the rarified heights of Venture Capital. But, not as an investor but as the VP of Product for a tech-led VC firm. We spoke about why a VC firm needs a VP of Product as well as numerous reflections on the trouble that we can have when trying to apply product thinking and move beyond founder-led decision-making.
1. There's no one way to do product management, and no one's doing it "right".
There's no one way to do product management, and no one's doing it "right". It all depends on what you need for your stage of company, and whether you're sales-y, ops-y, or product-y in mindset.
2. There's no "number" or formula you can apply to decide whether to blow up your roadmap.
In a sales-led organisation, it's common for big deals to torpedo the best-laid plans. Your appetite to do this work will vary, but it's not as simple as saying "X% of revenue and we do it!" But, whatever the number is, it should be really, really high.
3. It can be tricky to know when to bring on the first product hire and move away from founder-led product management
One of the founders is generally the de facto "head of product", often with no specific product training. They do many of the same things that the product team would do, but not necessarily in the same way, and with less process. This can cause clashes when the first PM comes in.
4. Getting a super process-oriented PM in as the first PM might exacerbate the issue
You do need some rigour from the PM you bring in, otherwise, what's the point of bringing them in? But, if you bring someone in who is too dogmatic or has worked for much larger organisations, you may find a cultural mismatch and inevitable clash when everything they do seems to slow you down.
5. In some companies, it might be the second "first product manager" that succeeds
Founders may mis-hire if they don't have a strong understanding of what product managers bring to the table, or how they want to work. It's unpleasant to think of, but sometimes the first PM takes the hits, moves on and is replaced by a second PM who can start to make progress since the founders have a better idea of what they'll get the second time around.
You can connect with Jennifer on Twitter or on LinkedIn.