The Importance of UXR for Product Managers with Meta Product Lead

This week, Product School hosted Abi Gurumurthy, Product Lead at Meta, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Abhinav emphasizes the important of user experience research (UXR), as well as how he solves problems and defines metrics.

Meet Abi

Abi Gurumurthy is a Product Lead at Meta working on their Messenger and Instagram Direct Messaging Products. Before that, he was a Product Lead at RingCentral for two years leading their flagship enterprise product. He also has six years of experience as a Technical Product Manager at Ericsson.

What’s your favorite research method to use when starting out a new product or feature?

There is no one size fits all. The common methods are user research, focus groups, user testing, an important part is also using data to tell a story -> Essentially getting both qualitative and quantitative feedback.

Personally, my favorite would be user research since it tells an end to end story on what the users want, what is lacking, why is it important and what problems people using your product faces everyday.

What is the best way to do user research?

two people seated at coffee table on couch with a microphone and laptop in front. One person is smiling at the other, who is faced away from the camera

If you have existing products in the market, you can use that already. If you don’t and if you are thinking of 0-1 products, then you can do something as simple as asking framed questions, to showing a mock, to showing a working prototype.

Check out: Do’s & Don’ts of Interviewing Customers to Build Great Relationships

What importance does Meta give to the large amount of customer feedback/requests it must receive?

User Feedback is definitely taken into consideration but as a PM that is not the only data point you should rely on.
Users love to talk about solutions and propose ideas but your job is to filter the solution and understand the problem deeply. Direct user feedback sometimes overlaps with user research where similar problems are surfaced. You will work with your UXR partner to understand the top 3-5 problems that requires you to dive deeper and prioritize.

Advice for aspiring PMs:

  1. Focus on learning the craft and not just clearing the interview.
  2. Be truly passionate about products at work and beyond. It helps to keep the momentum.
  3. There are 5 core tenants—design, execution, strategy, analytics and leadership for any type of PM interviews. Be focused on each one as every single aspect will be utilized.
  4. Most of the interviews are realistic and its what you would do on the job
  5. Keep an open mind, be transparent and honest
  6. Enjoy the journey more than reaching the destination
  7. It’s a hard job, so be prepared for that since you will have a lot of exposure and high stakes
  8. Build something on the side (if feasible). If you come across problems in your daily life, think about how you would solve them. Eg: Grocery experience sucks? What would you do? this puts your mind to work and changes your mindset
  9. Do a lot of mock interviews
  10. Courses don’t help that much. Instead if you have the opportunity to work with a PM at your current company, use it and shadow them. Do some tasks for them and learn on the job.
  11. Use your existing projects and suggest how would you improve the product to your PM peer—this would give an opportunity for you to do PM work and would also help your PM colleagues to give you a shot at transitioning into product within your company. It’s the easiest way for aspiring PMs who are in a different role currently.

What are the frameworks or strategies do you use for problem solving?

person standing in front of large sheet of butcher paper and pointing to what's written there

Start with first principles—what is it, why is this a problem, are there alternate solutions available in the market, do we have other products within the company that solve this problem? This would clear your mind to understand if this is really a problem or your assumption. UXR would help you understand more.

Once it’s clear, the next step becomes solutioning for the problem and thinking about a wider variety of possible/scalable/performance and reliable solutions that provide great user value.

You might also be interested in: The Problem Framing Canvas: The Who, What, When, Where, and Why Behind the Problem

How would you go about increasing the adoption of a particular product or feature?

There are N number of ways/growth hacks to do this. Easiest would be to let the user know that such a feature exists since as PMs we worry a lot about our features but the end-users sometimes are not even aware that such a feature exists. Discoverability and awareness will give you the first boost in gaining adoption.

What are the traits of a candidate who does well in the Product Strategy round at Meta?

There are no product strategy rounds at Meta for PM interviews. Product sense or design is where you will probably be tested for strategy.

How does one succeed at the “execution” questions in a PM interview at Meta?

  1. Try to be as clear as possible
  2. Understand which product you are talking about
  3. Understand the users who use the product
  4. What value does it bring?
  5. What would be something that you would want to go up into the right to ensure success and what can go wrong if it goes up into the right.

These are just the basics. And your goal in the Execution interview is to set success metrics—think of it as you are telling your team what success looks like. Most importantly, be structured and don’t start giving a laundry list of metrics where the interviewer might get lost. Doing all this should set you on a path to success.

For more on this: Behind The 10 Most Common Product Management Interview Questions

How do you go about defining success metrics or defining what success means for a product?

The simplest answer is: take a product that you use and define what success means for you as a user. That is exactly what success is for the PM of the product. As a PM, you will focus on the value a product brings to the user and translate it into success metrics (NSM).

Which framework or process would you suggest to find the North Star Metric (NSM)?

campass in ray of light on top of a paper with numbers on it

Ideally this:

  1. What is your product?
  2. What is the user value of the product/feature?
  3. What problems does it solve?
  4. What is that one metric that you will look at to ensure that the problem or set of problems are getting solved?
  5. NSM is a double edged knife so you would need to balance it out with some guard rails as well.

Read next: What Is Your Product’s North Star?

What tools do you use to track and report on OKRs?

I don’t think I can specifically talk about Meta but in general G Suite is the most commonly used to track goals and how you/your team perform against those goals.

Do you link JIRAs or PRDs back to OKRs? How do you manage this?

Your PRDs should have specific success metrics/goals you have set out to achieve.

Do OKRs roll up from the various product areas in Meta to a higher level?

Every org has its own set of goals/priorities they would want to achieve and the company will have the top priorities listed out as well. And specifically for product orgs—you will have a clear set of goals to accomplish and it’ll map directly to company-wide goals. This breaks down the further you go down into teams and individuals.

Each org will contribute towards the top-level company-wide goals in some way, shape, or form. Every team’s work will directly relate to the mission of the company. This is true for any product-based company.

Another great read: The Difference: OKRs vs KPIs

What do you like best about Meta’s product culture ?

group of people sit or stand around a desktop screen that is facing the camera. one person is indicating to what's on the screen. there are colored post-it on the wall in the background

Product culture here is awesome. You have the autonomy and the freedom to make decisions and the executives support you to do that. It’s a very self-driven culture here and the people who succeed are the ones who take initiatives on their own.

What are the key qualities that make you stand out as an ideal candidate for Sr. Product Manager at Meta?

  1. Effective communicator
  2. A trusted partner where engg/design/data science and other XFN teams can rely on you
  3. Providing psychological safety to the team
  4. Have a crystal clear way to define a problem and positively influence the team to invest in solving the problem, and clearly defining what success look like.

Again, these are just the basics but a strong foundation for a good PM.

How should one choose the type of PM role and team?

Its very dependent on the individual and there is no templatized answer. The team for success depends on your manager, direct colleagues, the work you do, the impact you create and what you want to achieve in your career. The easiest way is to talk to every XFN to understand their role, needs and the team before choosing one.

Read next: Different Types of Product Teams (Core, Platform, Growth, First)

What do you make of the Shape Up Methodology vs typical scrum/agile?

I don’t particularly like any of it personally. In my opinion, the best dev methodology is what works best for your core team. Talk to your EM and SWEs and understand what ways of working are the most efficient. Align the stakeholders to follow through and establish a process that works for the team. This is easier to do in smaller companies.

How do you handle burnout?

It’s going to be there in any role, not just PM. But I treat the conversations with my team close to heart and we have weekly sync up where we discuss things beyond work, that gives a personal touch and also take the stress away a bit. Beyond that, have a hobby that motivates you beyond work—what you look forward to during the evenings and weekends. That will keep you motivated and takes the mind off work during your off-hours.

Imposter Syndrome – do you feel it ever goes away?

It never goes away. I and many others suffer from it and it’s natural. But, remember that you were hired for a reason and you are there because you did a good job in your past companies and in the interview. Trust yourself and you will be fine. We all are learning every single day.

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