The Product Management Leaders Podcast

Innovation, Types of Product Leaders & Defining ICP (with Tammy Hahn, CPO of Groundswell, Cornerstone OnDemand)

November 19, 2021 Voximplant Season 1 Episode 11
The Product Management Leaders Podcast
Innovation, Types of Product Leaders & Defining ICP (with Tammy Hahn, CPO of Groundswell, Cornerstone OnDemand)
Show Notes Transcript

Hi all, we are excited to share the eleventh episode of The Product Management Leaders Podcast with you!

Our aim with this podcast is to connect you with some of the top PM leaders and share their real-world strategies and tactics for building world-class products.

In today's episode, Grant Duncan speaks with Tammy Hahn, CPO of Groundswell. Groundswell provides a unique financial service, which allows companies to create personal foundations for its employees and match employee contributions straight from payroll. Tammy was previously the VP of Product Management at Cornerstone OnDemand managing a team of over 50 people, helping propel the company forward for over 10 years. She has a lot of engaging insights to share.

Leave us your thoughts about the episode and subscribe to be notified of the upcoming ones!

This podcast is sponsored by Voximplant, the leading serverless communications platform and no-code drag and drop contact center solution.

Voximplant enables product leaders and developers to integrate communications into their products such as embedding voice, video, SMS, in-app chat, and natural language processing and it enables customer service teams to run their whole operation from one place. 

Join over 30,000 businesses trusting Voximplant such as Burger King, 8x8, and Hyundai.

If you have any questions, tweet Grant at

Grant Duncan  0:05  

This is the Product Management Leaders Podcast in which you hear from some of the top PM leaders about their real world strategies and tactics for building world class products. It's sponsored by Voximplant, the leading serverless communications platform and no code drag and drop contact center solution. Voximplant enables product leaders and developers to integrate communications into their products, such as embedding voice, video, SMS, in app chat and natural language processing. Join over 30,000 businesses trusting Voximplant. Now let's jump into the show.

Hi there, it's your host Grant Duncan. Today I'm speaking with Tammy Hahn, Chief Product officer at Groundswell. They provide a unique financial service, which allows companies to create personal foundations for its employees, and match employee contributions straight from the payroll. She was previously the VP of Product Management at Cornerstone On Demand managing a team of over 50 people helping propel the company forward and being there over 10 years. She has a lot of engaging insights to share. So I'm excited to interview her today.

Hey, Tammy, it's so great to have you on today. So can you start by sharing a little bit about your role and what company you're at? 

Tammy Hahn  1:25  

Sure, absolutely. Great to be on the show today, Grant. My name is Tammy Han. I am Chief Product Officer at a new startup called Groundswell and Groundswell sits on the intersection of FinTech and philanthropy. And what we're trying to do is to democratize or decentralize philanthropy and make it accessible to everyone, we understand that not all of us can be the point 1%, and we can't necessarily all individually have the social impact of a Bill Gates, or a Warren Buffett or a Rockefeller. But together, we can create a groundswell of change. So reimagining the way that people give, and invest for social impact. 

Grant Duncan  2:13  

That sounds like a really fun company to work at. I know so many people want to have their work be meaningful and have a social impact. Sounds like you're on the frontlines of that. Very cool. And could you give a brief background of your experience before then, as well, so people can understand your journey to where you are today? 

Tammy Hahn  2:33  

Yeah, absolutely. So my degree was in computer science. So I actually started out as a developer, and quickly realized in 6 to 12 months that I didn't want to be a developer, I didn't want to be the one taking requirements and executing, I wanted to be the one giving requirements and determining what we should build. So I switched over to product management, although back then this was 2004, product management was still in its infancy. At the company that I was at, which was Barclays Global Investors at that time there wasn't such a role. It was basically a created role by me. And it was because I was a developer, and we were working with our internal customer, which was the traders who would be trading on this electronic platform, and they would give us requirements. And then we would build it and they would say, no, this isn't what exactly what I wanted and go back to the drawing board do this again and again and again. And about a year later, we finally get something that was useful to them. 

So I thought there must be a better way to do this. I actually created the product management role there at Barclays. And then I decided that it rained too much in San Francisco. It was March of 2008. It rained the entire month, and I moved back to LA which is where I'm originally from, where I went through many iterations of what it is that I wanted to do. I worked at a PR firm I worked in advertising, I worked at a comedy club doing all sorts of different things, which then led me to my destination at Cornerstone OnDemand, which is a human capital management software company that's based out of Santa Monica in Los Angeles. When I joined Cornerstone It was about 40 million in revenue about six product managers and we were all reporting directly to the CEO. We were selling about five different product lines and then fast forward the following year we IPO'd and then spent the next 10 years there where we took the company from that original 40 million to 850 million. That team of six became a team of over 100 globally, which included product managers and designers and the five product skews turned into 28 or 29 different product skews by the time that I left that we were selling independently. Crazy, crazy amount of growth process team and technologies that we used. 

Grant Duncan  5:11  

Wow, that must have been quite an experience to be on that journey there. So it sounds like you've kind of been at that, that time where maybe you're taking something from 1 or 10 to 100. And now it sounds like you're maybe more in the zero to one scale with early stage startup. Can you share how you think about those differently? 

Tammy Hahn  5:35  

Yeah, absolutely. You know, I took it for granted, at Cornerstone going from 1 or 10 to 100, always having customers that were lined up, that would readily give us feedback, be beta customers test out the product before we went and rolled it out. And I think that's a key difference in going zero to one, you just you've, you've got connections and you've got your network, but you're pretty much begging people that aren't already paying and asking for something to go and validate an idea, and then potentially rolling it out to their users if you're in a B2B space like we are.

And so getting those early testers is really, really hard and a zero to one versus a 1 to 100. Another thing is at Cornerstone because we were such a large team, over 100, people could be specialized and go really, really deep in their area of expertise. We had a separate research team, a separate UX team, a separate UI team. That added to a lot of complexities and handoffs, like a giant game of telephone where you're doing a lot of handoffs, but at the same time, you just develop such expertise in your area, and you were just a subject matter expert, and you could go super, super deep in something. Whereas in a zero to one case, you're much more of a generalist, which is fascinating to me as a product leader, or product manager at heart, just really trying to understand what other people do in their roles and their pain points and what they do day to day. I have definitely newfound respect for account executives and business development representatives trying to hustle and get your first customers just all of the things to make a company and a product successful.

Grant Duncan  7:31  

Yeah, that's awesome to hear. So how do you think about scaling your team at Groundswell in the future? I don't know if you have people today, but if not how do you think about hiring? Who will be some of the first key characteristics for your early hires? 

Tammy Hahn  7:53  

Yeah, absolutely. I think what I'm looking for are the people that can flex, that are these generalists that aren't afraid to go high level and get into the nitty gritty. There is no product yet, so you don't even have metrics to fall back on to have a hypothesis in terms of what is going to optimize a certain flow-- the flow doesn't even exist. It's almost like you have to pick somebody that has the notion of getting deep into data analytics later, but also has enough confidence and intuition to do those first flows to even see what usage patterns come back as, what qualitative feedback comes back as. And somebody who's willing to to operate without a little bit of data and operate in that space of relatively unknown and be decisive. 

Grant Duncan  8:56  

Yeah, that makes sense. What metrics do you look at most often? 

Tammy Hahn  9:03  

As I mentioned Groundswell, we're still in design definition phase. Early days you're just making hypotheses. I definitely have the North Star metric defined. So what is that one key metric that indicates that your users and your customers are finding value in your product? And then I've got hypotheses about sub KPIs. Right. What are other indicators of success in each part of the funnel? It's just a hypothesis right now in terms of what is our core flow, what value do we add to our end users into our customers, but I think it's super important to define those very early on especially in each of the steps of the funnel. I use the growth framework the pirate framework AARRR: acquisition, activation, retention, referral, and revenue. For each of those, I've defined the areas of the product in which it would indicate that a user is within each of those funnel steps. And that just serves as a starting point to understand. We know initially for a funding round that investors really care about the number of users that are on your platform. So I'm going to really focus in on that top of the funnel of acquisition and activation. Really understanding what metrics are going to drive those. And for us, it's total number of user accounts, and then activation would be total number of users who have made a donation or a contribution into their personal foundation. Those are key metrics that I'm hoping to observe. Now, when you look at a product like Cornerstone, there's many different modules of functionality that they provide. We actually had different North Star metrics for each of those product lines, even if we did bundle all of those things together. And they were much more tied to business metrics as well, like, "what does retention look like, and overall customer perspective?" "What does customer lifetime value look like, from an overall customer perspective?" Very much more tied to the metrics that matter to the business. Whereas in the groundswell side of the house, it's much more tied to "can we get adoption and users picking up a system?" 

Grant Duncan  11:22  

Yeah, it makes a lot of sense how there's a difference there. And that's really cool that in the past, you've even had it by product or product line. So for someone with your kind of experience level, how do you find new jobs? And I'm not saying you're looking for a new job right now, but I think, you know, people are curious about this kind of thing.

Tammy Hahn  11:49  

At a product leadership level, at any sort of leadership level, there are far fewer jobs and opportunities than an individual contributor. There's 10 individual contributors at any given company, but there's only one leadership position. It's not like you can just go to any job board and hope that you can find a VP level position or a Chief Product Officer or SVP at a leadership scale. So it's almost like you have to network, you have to know people who are either in the recruitment space, or you have to know product leaders at other companies who have been reached out to by companies that they don't necessarily want to work for, but they may find very, very interesting. And I did that, I made it a point to network with people in the Venture Capital space, their recruiting teams, I make sure to keep up all of my relationships with the big tech recruiting firms, Diversa, Riviera are some ones that come to mind. And I make sure that those relationships are upheld, even in a passive state. Maybe I'm not interested in looking for an opportunity now but that doesn't mean that I might not be interested 5 years from now, or 6, 7, 8 years from now, or maybe some big opportunity comes up in a space where I'm super passionate about. And that's what happened with Groundswell, right. I was super passionate about making social impact in this world and doing good for the world, and not just helping rich people get richer.

Grant Duncan  13:29  

That's great that it worked out for you in this way. So if you were to think about a pie chart of your time on a day or week, what does that look like?

Tammy Hahn  13:39  

At Groundswell, it's quite different than what it was at Cornerstone. At Cornerstone, I would say, I spent a lot of time in meetings. Managing, I didn't directly manage these 100 people, but there were 100 people in the product organization, there was a lot of time that was spent on facilitating those conversations, one on ones, alignment meetings, making sure that all the time zones, were talking to each other in an asynchronous fashion, especially post pandemic. It was just there was a lot of meetings and I found very little quiet time in terms of actually getting strategic work done. It was much more project management at that level. 

So that was what my day to day look like at Cornerstone. At Groundswell it is quite different being the sole product person today, although hiring, I'm doing every aspect there is, I'm doing the discovery, I'm working with the design team on creating designs, I'm running the experiments and testing it out with potential users. I'm also working with the engineering team and we didn't have a CTO until pretty recently. So I was doing sort of the mentoring of the engineers that we did have to work on POCs, and to just test out tech feasibility. My tech background allows me to be able to do those things. I can read API documentation, I can provide guidance at a very tactical level. So I find myself really shifting a lot in the day to day of going from tactical to strategic, and back again. 

Grant Duncan  15:28  

Yeah, it sounds like it's probably fun to get back into the heart of it, and execution and really putting your product management skills to the test in maybe a more hands on way. That's cool. 

Tammy Hahn  15:41  

Definitely. Yes. I mean, it's been quite some time since I had written my own user stories, my own PRD, or any of those things. So there's a little bit rusty, it was definitely like, oh, get this dusts off of me and put pen to paper on some of these things. 

Grant Duncan  15:58  

Yeah, that's great. So we had a listener ask a question that they're curious to hear your thoughts on, Ancho asked "for products, how do you determine when to keep them as is? Or when do you need to pivot? Or in some cases, when do you need to kill it all together?" 

Tammy Hahn  16:23  

Yeah, great question. I think I would start with looking at the metrics. The product growth graph that we all know and love peaks at a certain point then sort of declines, and that's when you know you need to deprecate said product. I would really try to understand the metrics, what does growth look like from a usage adoption perspective, as well as from a business perspective. Remember, product is a leading indicator, and you sell, assuming it's a B2B sort of product, and that's a lagging indicator, revenue is a lagging indicator. You want to understand, what are some predictions that you're heading towards that peak, it's not growth, from a business metric standpoint, it's growth or adoption and usage from your product standpoint. So you want to key in on those KPIs that might be indicators that people are starting to drop off from a retention perspective, or new users adopting or referring is starting to drop off. But you still might see that continuous growth from a sales perspective. 

Now, when those numbers do start to, you used to be growing 50%, month over month, now you're only seeing, 20%, 10%, you're starting to see that little bit of a dip from a product usage standpoint. Then you might look at the sales metric standpoint, and still see that that still seems to be growing at 30% month over month and continuing to grow. In which case, I would recommend putting that into a maintenance mode, and doing small optimizations that your customers are asking for. When that growth sort of stagnates from a sales perspective, that's sort of when you need to be evaluating "what are my costs for even maintaining this product?" "What does customer support look like the operational costs?" "How much time is your engineering team spending on defects?" Things of that nature, to understand "might this product be nearing end of life?" Do we want to redesign and build a new product that sort of still serves this pain point or is qualitatively your customer base are saying, we stopped using this because we found a different approach, or this is no longer an issue. We are now all remote as an example, so we no longer use this feature in this product that helps us do things in office as another example. And at which case, you would determine okay, now the cost of operating this particular product is outweighing the future profit. Understanding that your engineering team has needs to have focused time on innovation, that is a good time to be putting a product to rest. 

Grant Duncan  19:13  

Yeah, those are hard decisions. But I think that's a great framework to help people think about some of the factors and metrics to consider. Can you share about how you think about prioritization and trade off decisions? 

Tammy Hahn  19:28  

Prioritization is always hard. Every stakeholder is always demanding something from a product manager. It's really, really hard. And I think it's all about starting out with the right objectives upfront, right. So I have a saying that the way that I operate as a leader is align on your objective, collaborate on the strategy and then execute the tactics. It has to be really clear coming from the business perspective, what is our objective as a business is it to grow is it to retain our customer base? Is it something else? Is it to just improve our brands? And then, what is the strategy for that, right? If it's to grow, are we going to penetrate a new market, go into a new vertical, expand our product offering. And that might be tied very closely to your sales goals. We're going to do this by increasing our existing customer base, their lifetime value, by adding on new products that are tangential, that are a new price point. Or it could be, new customers all together again, by penetrating a new geography or a new vertical. And that sort of indicates to a product person, okay, well based upon these objectives and goals, and how we're going to measure success as a business, what might we prioritize? And what doesn't fit along that? If you're trying to penetrate into the Emir region, as an example, and you get somebody in the US on the federal side, saying, "hey, we need to add in these compliance features for our federal customers" or, for us to sell into our federal base, you can point back to the business objectives and strategy to say, "hey, that doesn't seem aligned with what our objectives are." Now, that doesn't mean ignore your existing customer base, if you've got, 10 million or millions of dollars, on the line of your existing customer base who are really upset because, the core workload that they bought, or the core value proposition that they hope to achieve is not being met. Like that's something really to take into consideration and sort of providing that data point to your leader, to your executives, whomever, and make a recommendation on where you're going to spend your time. 

Grant Duncan  21:45  

Yeah, great points. So in that zero to one world, how do you know when you have product market fit?

Tammy Hahn  21:54  

I know it's such a loosey goosey term, product market fit? What does that even mean? How do you put dollars in around that? Is it when you have 10 paying customers 50 paying customers, five white papers or testimonials that they find value in your product? I think that's a little bit fluffy. I think it's hard to say, from a personal standpoint, I do believe that venture firms have narrowed in on that definition You need to have 2 million in revenue and, a certain number of users and certain percentage of growth, year over year, etc. But I think to me, it's like going zero to one, it's how do you continue to expand out your target audience, and continue to have raving fans as you expand out. So in the zero to one phase, it's really, really important to have focus on who is your target audience in that initial rollout, let's call it a alpha rollout. I hate the word MVP, because everybody just simplifies everything into this, MVP word. So forget it. There's milestones leading up to whatever is considered MVP, which to me is like, okay, great, you've launched the product. And now there are people lining up to buy it, I guess that's what MVP means. There's all these milestones that lead up to that. So you might say, milestone one, we are going to target just friends and family. And they look like this type of user with this type of behavior. And you make them raving fans before you expand out your target audience. And you say, okay great. Now we're gonna bring in like people that are external to our network, maybe two degrees removed, but they must have these characteristics. And for us, it's people that already give today, are already philanthropic. We're not trying to completely change somebody's behavior that isn't already giving today. That sort of thing. And as you continue to expand that audience, when do you actually have not just a big enough sampling size? Let's call it like 100 users, but when do you have a big enough target segment where you feel like you have good enough representation, let's say 80% of those users are using the product finding value, you've got the testimonials, and they're actively using on a, whatever your metric is daily, weekly, monthly? For us, it's monthly, on that sort of basis and who are willing to refer you so really across that growth metric standpoint, you've got 80% advocates within that target market.

Grant Duncan  24:39  

Yeah, one of the things you're kind of hinting at there is being able to define your persona or your ICP. How do you go about doing that, especially in that zero to one early stage, when maybe you don't have 1000s of customers to do analysis on research with?

Tammy Hahn  25:03  

I went through that painstaking process over the last several months. And I would say that it has been quite difficult because initially early on most companies don't actually start the, I'm going to call it the quote unquote, the right way, where you're solving a particular problem. And you're not opinionated about the solution. Typically founders come in, if they're not from a product background, they're opinionated on their solution. And it's unclear what problem they're trying to solve. I would say almost like, initially you're validating, what are the problems? So you talk to who were who are the stakeholders who are the like hypothetical customers and user personas, and you just go and you try to understand their problems. Then you try to narrow in because you've got to classify yourself, what groupings each of these personas fall into. Maybe it's for us, we consider white collar versus blue collar. We consider generational gaps we consider things like do you come from an SMB mid market or enterprise size company, as an example. And you start to categorize each of these stakeholders that you're talking to potential customers or potential users, and you're trying to map their problems. You're trying to see what problem applies across the board versus, what's a niche to every single individual grouping. Then based upon that grouping, you want to classify, highlight in green, yellow, whatever it is everything that applies across the board, and you want to hit on those first, then you want to identify the smallest grouping of requirements. From a product standpoint, that's the easiest to roll out where to build the least amount of things. And you want to pinpoint those and try to build those out as much as possible.

Grant Duncan  26:54  

Yeah, that's a helpful framework. Thanks for sharing that. Yeah. So for someone who is in product management, now, maybe they're a senior pm or something, what would you suggest as steps to take for them to be on a path to become a VP or SVP or Chief Product officer one day?

Tammy Hahn  27:13  

I think there's two things. The first thing that you should consider is whether or not you want to be a product leader of leading people, or you want to be a product leader,who's really great at product management. So the full lifecycle of actually executing a product from discovery to design through execution, and rollout and deprecation. Because not everyone is to be a great people leader. And I would say, as you move up the path of people leader, especially in a larger organization, the further away you move from actual product management. As I was explaining earlier, at Cornerstone, I spent a lot of time managing stakeholders, and being that communication conduit, making sure that everybody was aligned to objectives, and were heading down that path towards meeting those objectives. Versus getting to go and Ida in a room. I participated in some design sprints, but I really wasn't super active because I was just too far away from the actual things that were happening in the product to really understand. If you want to go up that people leader path, it's almost more about coaching and communication and project management. It's definitely, how are you're helping the next generation of product managers, take that next step? How do you tactically execute in a sustainable, scalable way for the company? And then how do you quickly adapt your processes as the objectives of the company and the growth phase of the company change? So further away from product, which is a little bit sad for me, versus somebody who wants to get just really, really skilled at Discovery and going deep into discovery, and maybe you become a researcher, or an r&d team, or somebody that wants to go a little bit wider across the product management lifecycle altogether? I think there's paths for both types of people and I think you're really figuring that out early is really, really important to take that next step. Let's say to go full circle back, let's say you do decide you want to become a people leader, you want to go climb that ladder, become VP or CPO one day. I think the best way to do that is to get mentoring opportunities as quickly as possible. It doesn't even have to be at the company. Whether you reach out to people on LinkedIn or let yourself be open. I think there's a setting on LinkedIn that allows you to be open to mentoring people starting to write articles on medium and providing your guidance and your experience on how to be a great product manager, are super important steps that you can take that demonstrates people leadership qualities that your manager might be looking forward to say "oh, you're ready to take this next step."

Grant Duncan  30:14  

Yeah, great points. I would add also that I think company size can play a part in this as well. Even as you've shared about your experience, the types of opportunities available in large companies is going to look different than small company for people management, or even the type of work you're doing if you're going to be more end to end or more specialized.

Tammy Hahn  30:38  

Yeah, totally. Yeah.

Grant Duncan  30:41  

What sources or communities do you use to continue learning? 

Tammy Hahn  30:47  

A couple of books that I highly recommend every single product manager read, if they haven't already, Inspired by Marty Kagan, and Hooked by Nir Eyal. But otherwise, in terms of community perspective, I'm very much actively reading medium all the time, following product management. LinkedIn is also a great resource where you can follow  really great product leaders, and their content is just stellar on point. Some leaders that I follow Gibson Biddle, who used to be head of product at Netflix, and then at Chegg, who's got great content that he posts on LinkedIn, you can also follow him on substack, and on Medium. Those are great channels. And I would say, start adding yourself to the slack communities, there's product collective, there's UX and UI design collective. There's all these new resources popping up that you can participate as a in as a community, that have been super helpful, because getting a lens outside of your own company, and what you know, is actually really, really important to developing your career as a product manager, because what works for you in one place, probably or may not work for you and another place, and they might run completely differently as a product organization somewhere else. So expanding your knowledge of how other companies work, is very, very useful.

Grant Duncan  32:19  

Yeah, that's great point. And sometimes things are transferable, other times, like you're going to have to maybe take away the principles and apply them in some kind of new setting. So how do you recommend PMs deal with failure?

Tammy Hahn  32:38  

First of all, I don't like to call failure failure. It's more like a misstep. So to me, take away product management and real life. When you learn how to ride a bike, you fell off before you actually were able to ride the bike unless you were some bike riding genius when you were a child. But it's a misstep. It's what did you learn from that misstep? More so about the failure itself? So it's a learning process. I only considered a failure if you fail to learn, and you repeat that mistake over and over and over again. I would say, when you when you approach, quote, unquote, failure or a misstep, be really intentional about writing down and keeping a track of what it is that you learn and how might you not make that same mistake again, in the future. I highly recommend doing pre mortem meetings in sort of, understanding up front what are all the things that can go wrong? And determining what are the things that you're going to address in terms of  what's Plan B? versus this is a known risk and we accept it.

Grant Duncan  33:55  

Yeah, I love that pre mortem idea. I don't think a lot of people are doing that, but that can be super valuable.

Tammy Hahn  34:01  

Yeah it's a great tool. It also gives an avenue for the people that tend to err towards being prepared. I'm definitely have a personality type where I like to be prepared. I'd like to create plans for everything and a plan a and a plan B. I quote Mike Tyson a lot, but it's like, "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face." I'm like, "Well, I have a plan for getting punched in the face too" what happens then. The pre mortem really gives you a meeting a space to feel safe and not being called the negative Nancy or the pessimist. And just bringing your concerns all out on the table. And it's not about saying like we shouldn't do this because of here are all the reasons that we can fail. It's more about being prepared for the things that can go wrong and even just awareness of things to look out for.

Grant Duncan  34:58  

Yeah, anchor points. How do you think about presenting to the Board of Directors? Do you have any tips for people?

Tammy Hahn  35:06  

Breathe. So I was actually quite fortunate at Cornerstone that one of the key capabilities that our CEO set us up with was he expected every product manager to be amazing presenters. And he gave us a lot of opportunities to be great presenters. Giving us coaching and development, hiring an external party to come and coach us. And then giving us the opportunity at events, HR tech was a big event for all human capital management type of companies, we would get to speak there. We also had customer conferences that we held twice a year, we would speak there. And these were audiences of, anywhere between 50 to 2000 people. So I feel very blessed in getting thrown into the fire early on in terms of losing my nerves, presenting to large audiences. I don't get the nerves that some might get in terms of presenting to a board. And I think the advice applies to anything, it's really recognizing your audience, what is it that they care about? Not what you care about selling them? Or what metrics you care about sharing?What do they care about and tailoring your presentation, your conversation dialogue around those things? This is not about you, presenter. This is about them, and what they want to hear.

Grant Duncan  36:34  

Yeah, totally. And that probably doesn't mean just making a slide full of text.

Tammy Hahn  36:40  

No, definitely not. Always have a narrative, always have a story to tell, don't: “feature, feature, feature”, don't! Nobody wants to see that.

Grant Duncan  36:52  

Yeah, totally. What's one of the hardest product decisions, you've had to make?

Tammy Hahn  36:57  

So many? I think your question about prioritization and how it aligns with, when do you know to continue to invest, or put into maintenance, or to deprecate. Those are always the hardest decisions, because you're never gonna make everyone happy. And you just have to be okay with that. Number one, like that example that I gave about, telling somebody in the federal space, that you're not going to build their enhancement for their sales reps, but you're gonna instead invest in EMEA, because that's what the business goal is. You have to recognize you're still saying no to somebody whose livelihood and whose own team has a quota to hit and things to do. Any decision you make affects a team of people who have a different set of goals and objectives. And so being a product manager and being a product leader is heavy, because you got to be okay with that. And you have to really strongly have conviction that the decision you're making is what is best for the business, as well as for your customers and users. You're really sitting in the middle of that trifecta there. And lastly, of course, your technology team is actually capable of building a product that is performant, reliable, and scalable for that particular solution. I would say like those key prioritization decisions, to not build something big in favor to do something else and be focused, and that, will always be your hardest decisions. You're essentially saying, we can't do everything well, so we're gonna pick, what are the top two or five things that we're gonna knock out of the ballpark so that we can move things forward across those three different stakeholders?

Grant Duncan  38:53  

Yeah, those are definitely tough decisions. How do you think about building in customer experience and customer engagement into your products?

Tammy Hahn  39:02  

I've been blessed to be in product for such a long time. But early days, we just didn't have the tool sets that are available now. But now there's like new tools like user leave that you can embed surveys into, you've got full story to fully understand how users are using your product, you've got product analytics tools to understand, what is actually happening in the system, you've got user testing, user interviews, to go get qualitative feedback about why those things are happening. There's just a new tech stack out there that makes it makes it totally achievable for a product person to understand not only A) what is happening, which is your quantitative data of how people are actually interacting with the system, and then B) like doing that qualitative research to understand why users are behaving that way and then optimizing around that. There's so many different ways now, in which you can achieve and really understand how to optimize for your users, and even understanding who those users are. And again, always going back to like, what is it that you're solving for that user base and really understanding who those people are?

Grant Duncan  39:02  

Yeah, great points. If you were to have any parting advice for an aspiring pm leader, what would that be?

Tammy Hahn  40:25  

There's so many things to say. I think it goes back to standing your ground and having the data to back you up on why you're choosing to make the choices that you make. I think the worst thing that you can do is to be too agreeable for the sake of being agreeable and getting people to like your decisions. You have to be okay with not everybody's going to like your decision. But you need to have the conviction and data to back up, why you're making those choices, those very hard choices to be able to focus. Focus is definitely the downfall to great products. It's when you get to the point where you're just like your breath is way too large. You're just trying to do too many things that don't align to an outcome for the business or for your users. So just get your evidence, have conviction on what you want to focus on, and stick to your guns.

Grant Duncan  41:30  

Great final points. Well, thanks so much for coming on today. Tammy, really appreciate the time. I think you've shared a lot of great insights. Thanks. Have a good day.

Tammy Hahn  41:38  

Thank you.

Grant Duncan  41:44  

Thanks for listening to today's podcast, and thanks to our sponsor, Voximplant as well. If you're looking into how to improve your communication and customer engagement, check them out. Lastly, if you enjoyed this episode, please leave us a review and tell your friends, so that others can find it more easily. Have a great day. And feel free to reach out to me, Grant Duncan, if you have any questions you want asked in our next episode.