Driving Change Through Influence

Justin Bauer is the EVP of Product at Amplitude Analytics. Justin has led Product Management, Design, Education, Growth and Analytics for 5 years now. In this podcast, Justin talks us through all things related to product, product strategy, culture, and how to drive change through influence.

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Question [00:03:31] How did you get started in Product Management?

Justin [00:03:38] Like many product leaders, I didn’t start my career in product and actually didn’t even start in tech. I grew up in a small town, Iowa. I moved out West after my undergrad to work as an econometrician. I had the opportunity to work with a guy named Daniel McFadden who won the Nobel prize in economics based off his work industry choice modeling, which is something that I had done in undergrad.

I really grew passionate about figuring out ways that I could apply some of these analytical skills that I had to the world of business. I happened to meet a partner at McKinsey who was building out their analytics practice. And so I moved down to LA to help him do that. And that was actually where I got my first taste of product which is pretty rare, not many people work at product and consulting companies, but I was actually part of the team that built McKinsey’s first enterprise software package.

After doing that, I could not go back to the world of consulting. I had so much fun and really saw the scale that software can have in helping change people’s lives. And so I’ve been building product ever since.

Question [00:05:20] Tell us about the announcement of your newest funding rounds and what that means for your company?

Justin [00:05:26] It was really exciting moment for us. I think it’s just one step in the ultimate journey of our mission, which is to help the world build better products. It’s something that I’ve been passionate about for a while. Something that our co-founders Spencer Curtis and Jeffery really centered the team of the company over when they started it. And I’ve been lucky enough to be part of that journey. I joined five years ago, and have seen us scale in the of companies that we’ve helped build better product experiences and really excited about continuing to do that into the future.

Question [00:06:11] As a product person, you have to fall in love with the problem and not just with the solution. For you, what are some of those problems that you are passionate about?

Justin [00:06:19] At the highest level, I talked about the mission, helping companies build better products. I think there’s a lot that’s written and talked about in the art of product, but not as much on the science of products. I think that’s really where we’re trying to come in to help solve that problem. How do you understand user behaviour at scale? How do you make sure that you’re consistently evaluating the impact of the changes that you’re making? And how do you empower your company to make decisions off of customer data to take action on that, to ultimately build that better experience? There are a number of challenges within each of those places, but ultimately that’s the core problem that we’re trying to help our company solve.

Question [00:07:15] Since you started a company in analytics, tells us about your experience as a founder first that then transitioned to working in product at a larger organization?

Justin [00:07:22] I had the opportunity to start a gaming company. I started as a passion project with a couple of friends and it ended up taking off. As you can imagine in gaming, a lot of decisions are made based off of the data. So we used a number of the different kinds of products that existed at the time to help us make sure we understood, our users, understood where they’re getting blocked, trying to find things like our aha moments. Like that many people who are here are trying to do right now, at their early-stage companies. As part of that journey, I realized that there are a lot of things that didn’t exist in the market, that we really needed to help us build a better product.

I ended up building a number of those capabilities ourselves and actually got me inspired to potentially start my own analytics company. Because I saw how important these were two decisions I was making and I happened to be working with a number of startups in LA, helping them make the same decisions. But luckily around that time, I happened to meet Spencer who’s one of the co-founders of Amplitude through a friend and they had just started on their path. They had the first version of their product out. For me, we really shared in that vision. Ultimately I think this is true for anyone who is thinking about starting a company, the real reason to do it is because you want to change the world because you’re just so passionate about the problem that you want to solve that you’ll do what it takes to solve that problem.

For me, I thought the only way to do that was to start a company. But once I met Spencer and saw that we were aligned in that vision, it was a no brainer. I knew that I could work with him to ultimately do that.

Question [00:09:36] What are some of the overlapping skills between founder CEO and a Product Manager?

Justin [00:09:42] Especially at the CEO founder level, there’s definitely overlap. If you’re an early stage founder, finding product market fit is obviously critical. At the end you have to start with a world-class product. I don’t think any company can be successful without starting with a world-class product. And that obviously is also the job of a product leader is to build a world-class product. And so there’s a high level of overlap there. I’d also say that, as the skill sets, as the company scales, it’s really critical to be customer obsessed as both the CEO, as well as a product leader. You really have to start from the customer.

I do think there are a lot of things that actually don’t necessarily overlap. It’s important to call those out because there is a lot of the, is the PM, a mini CEO kind of conversation. Some of the key differences that I’ve seen at least, one is, PMs create a vision to inspire and they drive change through influence. They typically don’t manage a lot of people. In fact, the product leader within any executive team probably has the least number of people reporting to them. That’s certainly true for me compared to my peers. The reason for that is I drive change through influence. I influenced the rest of the company and actually think about the company-level strategy and the product level strategy.

We’ll be back next week with even more of the latest insights from the Product Management world. Stay tuned for more!

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