Adrianne Wang Martinson

Adrianne Wang MartinsonShare

Head of Product, China Platform, Airbnb
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Adrianne Wang Martinson
Head of Product, China Platform, Airbnb | Formerly Microsoft, Salesforce, Box, AdobeMay 11

Resource constraints are a very common challenge for any team and company that I’ve worked for. I tend to focus on business priorities and how the identified product area can make an impact on those priorities in my framework rather than letting resource constraints limit my thought process. Once everyone, including leadership, stakeholders andt the team, are all agreed on the business priorities, I will then look into several solutions and how these solutions can move the needle.

Another important step is to compare the identified business priorities to other priorities and do a thorough tradeoff analysis. In particular, what do we have to trade off if we go with the solutions I proposed? Does it make sense to put resources in the area that I identified instead of others? As a product lead, I prioritize business impact and believe it is also practical to keep in mind short vs long term value we want to capture for the company.

Adrianne Wang Martinson
Head of Product, China Platform, Airbnb | Formerly Microsoft, Salesforce, Box, AdobeMay 11

The first product manager of a startup plays a crucial role as one of the foundational members. S/he not only needs to quickly lay the product strategy, create short and long term roadmaps, and build development processes, but also potentially extend responsibilities wherever help is needed, including user research, marketing or even as a QA engineer.

Here are initial 30/60/90 day goals to achieve this as the first product manager:

30 days: Be open minded to listen, observe and learn

  1. Understand the company and its business model in depth, including history, challenges, overarching strategy and short/long term goals
  2. Learn the products and features to get familiar with them
  3. Understand company culture and dynamics
  4. Get to know your team and key stakeholders, including engineering, design, product marketing, operations and sales
  5. Learn about any existing processes and gain context on them

60 days: Identify opportunities and form a strategic plan

  1. Identify the problem spaces of user pain points, business challenges, technical and operational needs
  2. Layout the user journey to identify product opportunities
  3. Prioritize the opportunities, define an MVP and build a roadmap
  4. Identify success metrics
  5. Got leadership and stakeholders’ buy in

90 days: Start execution and iterate

  1. Form and develop a plan to work on the detailed solutions
  2. Test out the solutions and iterate
  3. Build and iterate on the progress to have an efficient eng development cycle
  4. Potentially build a product management team
Adrianne Wang Martinson
Head of Product, China Platform, Airbnb | Formerly Microsoft, Salesforce, Box, AdobeMay 11

A product management role varies from company to company, and size of the company is subjective. I will share my point of view, assuming a small company has less than 50 employees and a large company has more than 500 employees, in several dimensions.

Ownership and Scope

In large companies, product managers often own established areas, like a feature or feature sets. Large collaborations are required with other product managers for alignment and dependencies. It is unlikely to have opportunities to build something from 0 to 1 but more so to enhance or redefine the goals for features.

The scope of product management is also well defined as many functions, including product marketing, design, data science, content, and UX researchers, will support the product management function. If you want to focus on core product management, then it is a plus that you have great support functions.

In small companies, product managers often own business lines or several product areas. Also, figuring out a viable business model by identifying markets and capturing value from the target customers are critical. Thus, Product Managers need to find the market fit, carve out product solutions, and iterate quickly. The scope of product management is often broader, requiring them to lean in more with limited support, so they might need to analyze the market, conduct user research, form product and marketing strategy, define a product MVP, set up A/B testing and pull data themselves.

Product develop cycle, processes and collaboration

Large companies often have structured processes in place, so product managers can either follow or improve on them. A common challenge that product managers who work for larger companies have is to get consent on product direction from leadership and stakeholders. The development cycle for the product is longer as there is overhead to collaborate among many different teams and functions before product planning is finalized.

For small companies, it is highly possible the processes needed for many areas are ambiguous, and the product manager needs to build or enhance them quickly. While less effort is needed to get consent on product direction like product managers for large companies, the product managers for small companies need to figure out ways to come up with product direction using more limited market analysis, customer feedback and data than large companies might have.

Small or Large company?

Product managers who are mission driven, enjoy ambiguous work and a faster paced environment - and are excited to take more risk for bigger returns - are a good fit for small companies.

For ones who want to have a very well defined scope, enjoy following processes and need a stable income with a good work and life balance, large companies are more suitable for your needs.

Adrianne Wang Martinson
Head of Product, China Platform, Airbnb | Formerly Microsoft, Salesforce, Box, AdobeMay 11

There is no doubt that retaining top talent is critical to any organization not only because of the value top talent brings, but also because it takes time to find and ramp up a new hire. While establishing a new team, hiring the right person who is a good fit for the team and the company contributes greatly to talent retention. What I offer to my talented people to retain them are: understanding, recognition and growth opportunities, which are all built on a trusted foundation.

I strongly believe trust is the foundation for any form of relationship, including leadership, partnership, mentorship and any work that requires collaboration. And, trust needs to be earned - it takes a good amount of time to earn and very little time to break.

Over the years, I have found that the concept “Caring Personally while Challenging Directly” as taught in the book “Radical Candor”, has helped me to earn trust from my teams. (I highly recommend this book if you have not yet read it).

Building trust:

  1. Understand what parts of the job each member finds most interesting and rewarding.
  2. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of my team members.
  3. Communicate about each team member's short and long term goals.
  4. Stay on top of the areas that each member finds most comfortable and challenging.

Recognition:

  1. Provide positive feedback to validate the value and impact of their great work.
  2. Motivate effort and behavior even if it does not directly tie to business results.
  3. Provide the recognition that is tailored to the preferences of each individual’s personality.
  4. Help them to shine and gain visibility by showcasing goal and impact achievement at team and org level.

Growth opportunities:

  1. Create on-the-job opportunities for them.
  2. Treat challenges as opportunities for them to grow.
  3. Provide on the spot constructive feedback with detailed suggestions.
  4. Set up a step-by-step plan based on each team member’s goal and interests and check-in and align regularly.
Adrianne Wang Martinson
Head of Product, China Platform, Airbnb | Formerly Microsoft, Salesforce, Box, AdobeMay 11

My China Platform team owns the China Airbnb product for community services/customer support, trust, compliance and application infrastructure, including ML and mobile. I have 1-2 product managers overseeing each product area. I also have dedicated engineering, data science, design, content and operation teams, if it applies, to work closely with the product manager for each area. I prefer to have each product manager own a well defined product area to not only have true ownership but also to continue growing their product expertise in the area. For any newly identified areas that need product management leadership, we either select existing people based on the skill sets and interest or hire from outside my org.

Adrianne Wang Martinson
Head of Product, China Platform, Airbnb | Formerly Microsoft, Salesforce, Box, AdobeMay 11

One challenge I encountered as the product lead for a platform team was to identify the product management needs for some of the relatively technical product areas, such as Machine Learning and APIs. I had to justify these needs as many leaders and stakeholders felt that an eng manager or technical program manager were more suitable given their technical knowledge and depth. Realizing the fact that many platform areas are abstract and complicated to understand compared to some user facing features, I saw it was a great opportunity to bring awareness of the impact of platform product management. I redefined the vision, goals, customers and opportunities of the entire platform, and identified the challenges that engineering, operations and sales had been facing and how we can leverage product management to solve the challenges. In particular, the value product management brought to the platform team were to:

  1. Understand the big picture.
  2. Identify both user needs and internal teams’ needs.
  3. Effectively manage different types of stakeholders.
  4. Create short and long roadmaps that contribute to the big picture.

With the exercise I did, I was able to get additional headcount for my team on the areas I had identified, resulting in a 75% operational cost reduction with launching a ML platform in 6 months.

Credentials & Highlights
Head of Product, China Platform at Airbnb
Formerly Microsoft, Salesforce, Box, Adobe
Product Management AMA Contributor
Studied at MBA, BS in CS
Lives In San Francisco, CA