Safety in AI Product Management by Waymo Product Leader

This week, Product School hosted Jonathan Greco, Product Leader at Waymo for a special #AskMeAnything session. Jonathan talks about his passion for robotics/automation and how he approaches safety and AI responsibility throughout the product process.

Meet Jonathan

Jonathan Greco, Product Leader at Waymo

Jonathan is an experienced Product Leader currently building great products and features at Waymo.
Before this, he was a Senior Product Manager at Berkshire Grey working on game-changing solutions that combine AI and Robotics to automate omnichannel fulfillment for enterprises. His first Product Manager position was at iRobot where he defined, scoped, managed, and launched the latest entry-level Roomba line. He also scoped and managed solutions for all in-market Roomba SKUs that accounted for more than $500M in global revenue.

How do you think about AI responsibility and safety at Waymo from a product perspective? Are there AI-specific PMs ?

Safety and AI responsibility are critical in autonomous driving (and also in the other robotic applications I’ve worked in). Yes, there are PM roles that cover machine learning and other aspects of AI, and it’s important for these areas to be considered carefully and developed against in an effective way.

You might also be interested in: Explained: What’s the Deal with Deepfake?

open car window without a driver

How do safety standards and other regulations affect the product team’s velocity to release?

Most physical products (and therefore most products in robotics/automation) will have some constraints around compliance and safety. In my experience, it is important to do thorough research and discovery on these in the early stages of scoping so that there are not surprises as you get close to launch. If handled in that manner such matters do not become a drag on velocity because they have been baked into the launch process (as they should be).

What is the common ground in your skillset as a PM that helps you transition between products that require different technical knowledge?

Good question. For me the common ground in my product roles has centered around technical underpinnings of automation, but I’ve actually found that the ability to build the right internal networks in your organization and figure out how to drive quick, effective decision-making are critical for effective Product Management (and the skills for doing that really don’t change much across products and companies).

woman sitting at woman table and waving at someone on her laptop screen

What challenges did you face while venturing into Product Management?

After university I practiced engineering for a little while before going to business school. In business school I specifically targeted making a switch into Product Management in order to combine my engineering interest and fluency with a more holistic and business approach to bringing technologies to market.

I found that most organizations seek Product Managers who already have product experience and not many entry-level product roles are made available. Because of that I spent a lot of time learning the specific industries I wanted to enter (robotics/automation) and networking with people who know the space well. Once I landed my first product role it became much more straightforward to land subsequent ones.

Check out: Cracking the AI/ML Product Manager Interview

What key considerations you would have if you had to choose between creating an autonomous ride hailing service or autonomous trucking?

I suppose my question back to you would be what is the end application? There are a number of companies that are pretty far along in ride-hailing and autonomous trucking, but there is always room for improvement. These days I believe we are seeing more companies focusing on a specific aspect of the technical problem rather than going after the whole end-to-end experience from managing the driving capability to the way the user interacts with it.

truck driving down a road at golden hour

If you’re approaching it having some technical capability that allows for automated driving, it’s important to consider your target market (its size in customers, density, size in dollars), technical development necessary to achieve an MVP, competitive landscape, and your own potential competitive advantages. Of course, there are a number of other considerations as well.

How can project management technology help organizations adopt Agile Frameworks in Product Development?

A handful of the organizations I’ve worked in actively leverage Agile Frameworks. We typically use Jira for these, and I find that it is more than adequate for such applications. That said, the tool itself is not sufficient for having a solid Agile process. This needs to be reinforced by the PM (and scrum master, Product Owner, etc.) and the team needs to absorb and commit themselves to agile principles in order for it to work properly.

Another great read: Agile Product Management: A Study Guide for PMs

How do you stay on trend with product tools/processes?

I’ve found that product tools and processes actually vary quite a bit between product groups in B2B and B2C applications. At iRobot the team and I experimented with some tools for roadmapping and market segmentation, though at other organizations we’ve mostly defaulted back to slides, sheets, and docs as tools. Processes also vary between applications. Overall though I may not be the most savvy person when it comes to the latest and greatest tools.

Interested in finding the best products for Product Management? Read this month’s series on building your tech stack!

Tech Mastery Part 1: Designing Your Product Stack

Tech Mastery Part 2: Adopting Your Product Stack

Any final advice?

Keep thinking broadly about your space and don’t lose sight of the details :cara_ligeramente_sonriente:

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