This week Product School hosted Caio Scofield, currently a Product Manager at Lyft for an #AskMeAnything session. Caio talked to us about defining Product Management, transitioning into PM, and remote team culture.
Caio is a Product Manager at Lyft where he leads Driver Acquisition. Prior to his current role, he was a PM at Microsoft’s Office Growth team. Caio is originally from Brazil and started his career as a management consultant at Bain & Company before switching to PM after his MBA at Kellogg (Northwestern University).
“How do you define Product Management?“
I see Product Management as the role that a) leads the Product’s vision b) is the champion of the users internally and c) is the catalyzer of change, making sure the right people are aligned to deliver the vision.
“Lyft has been pivoting towards a B2C business, while Uber is focusing on B2B. If you can demystify some of the thought process around when and when not to consider your competition, and strategies to deal with them apart from pricing would be helpful.“
Lyft has been historically stronger on rideshare B2C due its history and brand (the “friendly” version of Uber). That doesn’t mean it does not desire to also make strides into the B2B segment, and we do have modes catering to it.
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“Coming from from a program manager background, how did you make the swap into product management?”
Microsoft actually has a single role name for both Product and technical Program managers which in their case they call Program managers.
“How important is it to think about product management from a UX perspective rather than an Engineering perspective?”
In most cases yes though it might vary a bit in case the product you’re leading is highly technical (e.g. a backend platforms or APIs).
“How is Lyft’s product team structures like in SF, for instance, the different areas and their focuses, as well as the most demanded skillsets/ personalities in the company?”
Lyft divides itself into 3 main groups: Rideshare, Bikes/scooters and Level 5 (autonomous division)
Each group will have many sub-teams with dozens of PMs in each. In general, all groups with exception of L5 have the same interview questions and criteria. They want PMs that have user empathy, vision and analytical skills.
How important is it for PMs to specialize in certain areas (e.g. growth, ecommerce, data/ML/AI, etc.) vs being a generalist? When should one specialize in their PM career?
There is no one answer for this. It depends on your style and your career aspirations. Specialization is perhaps the safest to achieve senior PMs positions at good companies (switch is easier from company A to company B if you already worked in a specific area they want). Generalists is well suited for people that get bored by specializing too much and also desire eventually to pursue entrepreneurial paths.
Any tips for a strategy consultant starting a new PM role?
Main tips would be to exercise your execution skills, avoid wasting too much time preparing perfect presentations.
“How is your day as a PM at Lyft. Could you elaborate on the common tasks you undertake, stakeholders/ cross-functional team members you talk to, and the kind of decisions you make?“
Easier to tackle on a weekly basis. Each week I have
-3 standups with eng team, 5-6 weekly 1:1s with EM, Marketing and other PMs, a couple weekly team meetings with x-functional stakeholders of my product area, a couple weekly meetings with PMs within driver org, bunch of ad hoc meetings to discuss issues that come up
-loads of slack and few emails
-4-10h writing PRDs
-8-12h doing analysis/creating presentations
“How useful did you find your MBA in helping you pivot to PM? Were there for any classes/activities that really informed your product thinking?“
For me it was super useful since it opened doors both for a career switch and a country switch at the same time. Most of the big tech companies recruit on campus. Both courses (user analytics, design thinking, product mgmt) and the career dept of the school are great assets help the switch. That doesn’t mean MBA is the only way to do it but it worked well for me.
“How is it working with the Driver community? Is it difficult channelising driver focus on the kind of customer experience Lyft would want customers to have ?”
Good question. It is very difficult to balance supply and demand because drivers are independent contractors that are free to work at any time and location they choose. What we try to do is provide as much visibility to them as possible of where and when demand is expected to be high. Under certain conditions we also employ monetary incentives as another mechanism to increase supply when needed. For customer experience tips and other incentives to top rated drivers align the driver’s own interest to provide the best possible service at all times. In case of continuous or aggravated issues reported we also have the ability to remove the bad apples.
“What’s your advice to the new Product Manager that are just finding their feet in Product role?“
-Schedule 1:1s with dozens of people so you can understand the company and your area space with as much detail as possible.
-Go through all the user flows yourself so you can feel what is working well and what are the pain points.
-Your EM is your closest partner, make all plans together
-Treat your eng team like peers, not subordinates, your job is not only to prioritize new features but to remove roadblocks from their way.
-Make other functions like design, marketing and DS feel like they’re part of the product team and regularly update and ask their input.
-Be kind to yourself, most times it takes 6+ months for you to start delivering large impact.
“What are the best working characteristic traits you try to find when working with other Product Managers at Lyft?
What is the number 1 thing you think all Product Managers can improve on?”
Most fundamental trait? Collaboration. Nobody wants to work with jerks no matter how genius they might be.
#1 thing all PMs can improve on? I don’t think you can generalize anything to all PMs since it’s a role that a person can come from many backgrounds.
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“I am currently pursuing MBA from Chicago Booth and have been exploring consultant and PM routes post-graduation. You having being experienced both roles, can you comment on how they differ work-wise and comp-wise if possible? “
The roles are very different. Management consultant is a high level strategy and analytics role. You’re analyzing what’s wrong in some area of the company through data and user/market research and then create great looking ppt decks to explain what’s wrong and how to fix it to senior leadership of the company. Consultants operate in small teams of usually 4-6 per project and you’re fully immersed in a client for 2-6 months then move to the next. High exposure to important things but you’re an advisor. Hours are usually 50h+ per week.
PM you work mostly with people from multiple functions (eng, design, marketing, ops, etc) to lead a small product area. That means A LOT of small team meetings, some product specification documents and some exec presentations (although it’s not normally to the CEO and they don’t need to be super polished). The “mini-CEO” term for PMs is an overstatement since product is not everything but you do have a lot of decision making on your hands (although always best to have people aligned). Hours vary widely by company but on avg is substantially less than consultants.
Comp wise they usually offer similar amounts right off the MBA (consultants with higher base and bonus but PMs have the equity component). Career ladder is designed to be a fast “up or out” for consultants, PMs is usually more slowly. Check Glassdoor for consultant salaries and Comp.fyi for PM salaries.
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“As an aspiring PM from a non-technical background what are some tools/data-analytics programs do you recommend to brush up on and start learning?“
If you haven’t taken analytics classes then take some. If you can’t take them in college then find some online. Tools only matter once you know the fundamentals.
“What are the mistakes you made early on your PM career that your current self might warn you about?“
Make an effort to attend all of your team’s eng stand ups. Even if you find yourself spacing out sometimes you will learn more rapidly over time how things work and the eng team will build confidence that you have their back since you’re there to listen, say what you’re working on and how can you help them
“Do you suggest working remotely on pm role? Also what kind of tools are required for pm’s? ,And are working remotely?”
Well, most of us are working remotely atm, so it’s definitely doable. The difficult part is onboarding to a new role. Also I don’t recommend remote in case the entire team is onsite and you’re the only remote one but if everybody is remote that’s not a big issue.
“How do you prioritize features? What’s the measure of A/B testing is a success or failure in identifying the customer reaction?”
Prioritization is a bit of an art. Some of the dimensions involved are:
-Estimated impact to the user and to the business
-Size/complexity of the effort (your eng team and other dependencies)
-Other costs (e.g. $)
-Risk (legal, financial, reputational/brand, privacy, etc)
-Company wide priorities and org’s priorities
-Capabilities available (maybe you have backend engs available but is short on android/ios)
AB test success metrics and thresholds vary by feature and industry. In general try to find the main KPIs you’re trying to move and see if there was statistically significant changes to them. If some were up and other were down define which ones are more important and trade-off equivalencies between them (e.g. i’m ok with X going down 1% if Y goes up by 5%)
What tools are you using? & Do you make products after hours?
Slack, G suite, Mode (SQL, dashboards), Tableau (more dashboards), JIRA are the main ones for me.
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“How critical will it be in the future for all PMs to have technical / engineering skills? Will there be demand for the “non-technical PM”, and if so which skills should I continue to hone most?“
There are many “non technical” PMs. Probably half the ones I know don’t have an engineering background. What they all have in common though is that a) they’re know analytics and b) they are not afraid to talk to engineers about technical aspects. Even if they don’t know the details they need to understand general mechanics of the products they manage. Experience can give you that but basic coding and software architecture classes can help.
How do you try to re-balance and align your team when not all members of the team are on the same page, or when tempers flair?
That’s tough one. It can happen often on unhealthy team dynamics.
a) If things get heated, pause and put contentious subject on hold for later in the meeting or a follow up meeting.
b) Sync with the person on 1:1 basis (maybe their manager was on the meeting and they felt compelled to defend something). Try to understand their perspective.
c) In case there is no alignment or common ground seek advice from your manager on how that person or team operate and could be convinced.
d) Schedule a sync with both your and their manager (and the person). Try to explain the misalignment as objectively as possible (example: whether priority X or Y is most important)
e) Escalation beyond this is best handled by your manager.
Join us next week for another #AskMeAnything Session for more insights from Product Managers around the world!