Rapid-fire Q & A
Today I answer ten product management questions and provide relevant links for many of the answers. These questions were fun to answer as a lot of them were quite personal.
Product leaders have submitted more than four hundred questions for my “Ask Gib” column. Today, I answer ten questions, rapid-fire:
1. Dear Gib: Can you please explain how to create a differentiated product strategy (incl. the value chain) with a real example from the software world?
Of course. I wrote a product strategy series on Medium, as well as two case study examples:
“A Startup Case Study: Chegg” (Chegg is a textbook rental & HW help company.)
2. Dear Gib: What are the key hacks to snatch that VP Product Innovations job at Netflix?
Here’s the story of how I got a job at Netflix after a two-year sabbatical. The trick is to define what you seek, extend your network, then let the opportunities come to you:
3. Dear Gib: Can you talk about your learnings from the Qwikster branding debacle?
The third section of this “Leaders Lead” essay details how Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, handled the Qwikster disaster and what he learned from it. (In 2011, Reed initiated a plan to separate Netflix’s DVD and streaming services — Qwikster was the proposed name for the DVD spin-out.)
4. Dear Gib: Where do you live?
I live in Burlingame, just south of San Francisco in California. During the summer, I do lots of backpacking with my family in the California Sierras, and we do a big adventure each year (Iceland, Japan, Italy, France). I spend lots of time skiing in Utah and British Columbia with my family and friends in the winter. I try to ski my age in days each year (I’m 58) and backpack about half of that. I’m currently skate-skiing (nordic) with my family in eastern Washington state in the Methow Valley.
5. Dear Gib: You've said you're a builder. Are you becoming a starter? :)
That’s an insightful observation. I see most product leaders as some combination of:
starter (building a company from scratch),
builder (helping a startup with a proof of concept to scale), and
“super scaler” (helping a big company to get even bigger).
Historically I became frustrated by the lack of resources in the early days of a startup, so I saw myself as a builder. (I am a bit allergic to huge organizations and love helping startups to scale.) But to your point, I’m having lots of fun today with my little one-person startup. More here:
6. Dear Gib: What do your children and wife do?
My wife’s name is Kristen Hege, and she runs early development for immunotherapy at a big biotech firm, Bristol-Myers Squibb. (She’s working to cure cancer.) Kristen is also a physician and professor of medicine at UCSF. Kelsey Biddle is twenty-five and a first-year medical student at Harvard Medical School. Brit Biddle is a product manager at Rent the Runway in NYC. I do my best to keep up with them.
7. Dear Gib: Which of your two daughters is your favorite?
I assume this question is from one of my daughters. You are each my favorite.
8. Dear Gib: What motivates you?
Today, I’m motivated by creative challenges. This year I spent nine months working on getting my Net Promoter Score (my proxy metric for product quality) for my virtual events to parity with my in-person events. Now both are in the 70’s, which is considered world-class. I also love to teach, and I’m learning to write.
I am trying to “dent the universe” by being helpful to product leaders worldwide. One of my “labor of love” projects is an annual Product Leader Summit, where we bring 120 worldwide product execs together each year. In 2020, we had 1,000 applicants for 120 spots and assembled a “class” that was 50/50 male/female and 20% Black/Latinx. Learn more here: productleadersummit.com. This fall’s event had an NPS of 82!
9. Dear Gib: What would be PM advice you'd give yourself 10 years ago?
10. Dear Gib: What was your first job?
My first full-time job was as a sailing instructor for the JWorld sailing school in Newport, Rhode Island, San Francisco, and Key West, Florida, during a year-off from Amherst College.
After I graduated, I continued with JWorld for six months in Newport and San Francisco, then got a job in the mailroom at an advertising agency, McCann-Erickson, in San Francisco.
Thanks for all your questions!
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