Bending the universe in your favor | Claire Vo (LaunchDarkly, Color, Optimizely, ChatPRD)

Bending the universe in your favor | Claire Vo (LaunchDarkly, Color, Optimizely, ChatPRD)

Claire’s background (00:00:00)

  • Claire Vo is a long-time Chief Product Officer at Color, Optimizely, and currently LaunchDarkly.
  • She has also been a two-time founder, engineer, designer, and marketer.
  • Claire is the creator of Chat PRD, an AI PM-specific tool.
  • There is a trend of combining engineering, product, and design functions under one leader, often called the Chief Product and Technology Officer (CPTO).
  • This eliminates debates over what's best for each function and instead focuses on what's best for the organization as a whole.
  • Chat PRD is an AI-powered tool that helps product managers with various tasks, such as writing user stories, creating mockups, and generating code.
  • It is not likely to replace product managers in the near future, but it will change the skills required for the role.
  • Product managers need to stay ahead of the curve on AI and understand how it will impact their role.
  • They should focus on developing skills in areas such as data analysis, machine learning, and natural language processing.
  • It is important for product managers to feel agency over their careers and to take control of their own development.
  • They should set goals, seek out opportunities, and take risks in order to achieve their career aspirations.
  • Claire believes in the power of positive thinking and visualization to achieve one's goals.
  • She encourages product managers to set ambitious goals and to believe in their ability to achieve them.
  • Claire shares her advice for women in tech, particularly those aspiring to leadership positions.
  • She emphasizes the importance of being authentic, building a strong network, and advocating for oneself.
  • Claire discusses how she creates a fast pace within larger companies while also keeping the bar high.
  • She focuses on setting clear goals, empowering her team, and removing obstacles to productivity.
  • Claire provides career advice for both early-career product managers and senior leaders.
  • She emphasizes the importance of continuous learning, taking risks, and building a strong network.

How to achieve career progression (00:04:50)

  • Claire Vo's career progression from Associate Product Manager to Chief Product Officer (CPO) was driven by her curiosity, impatience, and eagerness to build.
  • To achieve career growth, it's crucial to clearly define your career goals and effectively communicate them to your superiors, making it easier for them to support your progression.
  • When opportunities arise, proactively present solutions and demonstrate your ability to take on leadership roles, bridging gaps between different departments.
  • Continuously understand your current and future role requirements, as this knowledge is essential for career advancement.
  • While communicating your goals is important, maintain a balance and avoid solely focusing on career growth during interactions with superiors.
  • High performers who consistently deliver results and showcase a strong work ethic tend to experience faster career growth.
  • Balancing ambition and assertiveness is crucial, but ultimately, your work and achievements should drive your career progression.

Avoiding promotion obsession (00:10:11)

  • Understand how promotions happen in your organization.
  • Focus on how a different position benefits the company rather than your career growth.
  • Think about why a role is necessary for the company and why you are the best person for it.
  • Focus on solving problems for your manager and the business rather than your career.
  • Look for opportunities to help your manager and the business move things forward.
  • Propose a promotion at a time when something could happen, such as when there is a gap in the organization.
  • Present how you can help the organization, which can lead to a promotion.

How Claire stepped into leadership roles (00:13:50)

  • Claire took on leadership roles because she saw problems that needed to be solved and was confident in her ability to help.
  • She moved from product to engineering and then to non-clinical operations at Color, demonstrating her versatility and ability to contribute in different areas.
  • Claire suggests that PMs should be open to exploring opportunities outside of their immediate scope of product to find growth opportunities.
  • Trying different roles can help PMs discover their interests and potential career paths.
  • In startups and growth-stage companies, organizations are fluid and can be reshaped around talented and motivated individuals.
  • Claire encourages thinking about career growth not only within the existing structure but also as an opportunity to redesign the organization around talented people.
  • She suggests considering the challenges faced by managers and proposing solutions that also align with personal career goals.
  • Claire acknowledges that successful individuals often end up taking on too much, which may not align with their long-term goals.
  • She emphasizes the importance of operating in one's zone of genius and leaning into strengths.
  • Claire advises against spending too much time on areas that require significant growth and instead focusing on developing strengths and leveling up.

Operating in your zone of genius (00:17:24)

  • Focus on your zone of genius, where you excel and find joy in your work, rather than trying to be proficient in everything.
  • Effective time management, including preserving "Builder time" for focused work, is essential for sustainability.
  • To identify your zone of genius, categorize activities into "love doing," "fine," and "hate doing" and prioritize the "love doing" activities.
  • Identify your unique and hard-to-replicate skills, and leverage them for exceptional career growth and personal fulfillment.
  • An energy audit can help you identify energizing and draining activities, allowing you to focus on the former.
  • Claire Vo emphasizes maintaining a positive mindset, setting long-term career goals, and using them as a guiding force in decision-making.
  • Vo discusses her experience in fostering a fast-paced and startup-focused environment within larger companies.
  • She stresses the importance of setting a high bar for quality and product excellence.
  • Vo suggests implementing helpful processes to facilitate efficient teamwork and maintain a high standard of work.

How to maintain a fast pace (00:23:03)

  • Know your internal pace and don't let it degrade to the pace of recurring meetings.
  • Set one-click faster pace expectations within the organization.
  • Have a personal SLA to avoid being a bottleneck for the organization.
  • Use the phrase "one-click faster" to communicate the expectation of a faster pace.
  • Ask leadership teams to look for opportunities to increase the pace.
  • Avoid relying on meeting cadence to determine action cadence.
  • Put the organization on real-time timelines instead of artificial cadences.
  • Define the talent bar by being specific about leadership principles.
  • Be explicit about expectations and communicate them clearly.
  • Hire people who are passionate about the company's mission and values.
  • Look for people who are self-motivated and can work independently.
  • Prioritize diversity and inclusion in hiring decisions.
  • Set high standards for product quality and user experience.
  • Be willing to make tough decisions to maintain high standards.
  • Encourage a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.
  • Empower employees to take risks and experiment.
  • Celebrate successes and learn from failures.

Setting a high bar for quality and talent (00:27:46)

  • Set specific and measurable career ladders, especially at senior levels.
  • Normalize feedback and make it clear when people are not meeting expectations.
  • Questioning ideas is not questioning innate talent.
  • Move quickly to address situations where someone is not a fit for the team.

Normalizing feedback (00:29:54)

  • Gave candid feedback to two leaders who were not working well together.
  • Told them they were not meeting leadership expectations and needed to change or they would not be part of the organization.
  • Both leaders made significant improvements and became effective managers.
  • Believes it is kinder to be direct and honest about performance issues rather than giving vague or indirect feedback.
  • Does not want to be defined or consistently asked about being a woman or a mom in a leadership role.
  • Has been reflecting on her experiences and advice for women in tech.

Being a woman in tech (00:33:09)

  • Women are underrepresented in leadership roles in technology, holding only 13% of founder positions, 2% of venture-capital-funded teams, and 30% of senior leadership positions.
  • Claire Vo, a former founder and CEO of Experiment Engine, emphasizes the challenges faced by women in the tech industry, particularly those in leadership positions.
  • Vo suggests that curiosity and empowerment have been key to her success and recommends these qualities to women aspiring to leadership roles.
  • She highlights the persistent issue of being questioned about her technical abilities despite her experience and encourages increasing the visibility of diverse voices and leaders in technology to break down stereotypes.
  • Vo emphasizes the economic significance of women's participation in the tech industry and calls for more investment and support for female founders and leaders.
  • She shares her experience of successfully negotiating the acquisition of her company by Optimizely, highlighting the importance of resourcefulness, determination, and negotiation tactics in achieving one's goals.
  • The discussion also mentions the emerging trend of combining engineering, product, and design functions under a single role, referred to as the CPO (Chief Product Officer) role.

The role of a CPTO (00:47:09)

  • The Chief Product and Technology Officer (CPTO) role requires a technical background and understanding of software development, operations, and organizational design.
  • The CPTO optimizes the entire organization, provides leverage to the CEO, and ensures accountability for R&D investment.
  • The decision to have a CPTO depends on the CEO's skills and bandwidth and the organization's operational effectiveness.
  • Working in a small startup offers the chance to develop a range of functional skills valuable for leadership roles.
  • Breaking down silos and promoting cross-functional collaboration creates a healthy work environment and fosters well-rounded leaders.
  • Chat PRD is an AI tool designed specifically for product managers, assisting them with various tasks related to product development and management.

Building ChatPRD (00:54:19)

  • Chat PRD is a standalone app that assists in creating product requirement documents (PRDs) and product specifications.
  • It uses OpenAI's APIs and provides a customized assistant for each user, learning from their content, role, and company.
  • Common use cases include generating PRDs from ideas, improving existing specs or documents, brainstorming ideas, and internal PM work.
  • Chat PRD offers customization options for templates and integrates chat format, document creation, and iteration.
  • Sharing examples of how people are using different GPTs at work can inspire others to experiment with them.
  • Prompt engineering is important and can greatly impact the results of a GPT.

Tips for building a GPT (00:59:39)

  • Look at GPT or chat GPT, the GPT store version, other PM tools, and your own product to build a better GPT.
  • Experiment with model tuning and instructions to improve the quality of the output.
  • There is currently no solution for monetization of GPTs.
  • The creator's original goal was to make enough money to buy a nice glass of wine a week, but it now makes enough to cover cases of wine.
  • The creator's goal is not to make it a venture-scale thing, but to cover some of their kids' education expenses.
  • The creator's main goal is to keep it fun and in their zone of genius and joy.
  • Some skills of a product manager will be greatly enhanced by AI, while others will be completely replaced.
  • It is important to understand which skills to invest in and which are less important in order to adapt to the changing landscape.

The impact of AI on product management (01:02:27)

  • AI will automate less important tasks, but it won't replace important skills and jobs.
  • Technology has improved society, making it wealthier, happier, and healthier, and the speaker is optimistic about its future impact.
  • Leaders need to be prepared for rapid changes in companies due to AI.
  • While AI may replace basic communication, influential and bold communication will be harder for it to replicate.
  • AI excels at strategy work that involves synthesizing information and creating plans.
  • Human qualities like boldness, foresight, charisma, and attracting others are difficult for AI to replicate.
  • PMs should shift their focus from their own ideas to building the right things quickly and effectively.
  • AI faces challenges in getting buy-in and aligning everyone due to its inability to engage in human-like conversations.
  • PMs are responsible for setting goals, proposing roadmaps, aligning teams, developing strategies and visions, communicating timelines, finding and removing blockers, getting buy-in from upper management, securing budget and resources, and providing feedback on product and design.

How AI is changing the product management role (01:08:08)

  • AI tools can assist product managers, but it's crucial to identify tasks best suited for AI and those that benefit from human intellect.
  • Innovation is rapidly evolving, presenting new possibilities weekly.
  • The ratio of product managers to engineers may change as both roles become more efficient, and automation may replace certain positions.
  • Leaders should embrace forward-thinking and experiment with new technologies to stay competitive in the fast-paced landscape.
  • Product managers should develop skills in building non-deterministic products, which are increasingly important.
  • Learning to build products with new technologies can lead to exciting career opportunities.
  • To enhance product management skills, critically analyze external product tear-downs, considering PRD writing, metrics, and product evaluation.
  • Experiment with no-code/low-code tools to gain hands-on product development experience without coding skills.
  • Engage in creative activities using tools like Mid Journey to learn and explore new technologies.
  • Chat PRD has received positive feedback from product managers, reporting significant time savings in document writing and the potential to reduce the need for additional hires in growing teams.

Efficiency gains with ChatPRD (01:14:36)

  • ChatPRD helps individual PMs increase their leverage across engineering or building teams.
  • It enables PMs to spend their time more effectively.
  • Inefficient hiring and building unsustainable costs into a company leads to failure.
  • Sustainability in organizations is the responsibility of a leader.
  • Startups often cannot afford to hire more PMs, but they can still achieve great things with their existing teams.
  • Claire Vo prefers the Contrarian Corner.
  • She recently released a podcast with Marty Cagan.

Contrarian corner: sales-led product organizations (01:16:39)

  • Believes sales-led product organizations can be great and build amazing businesses.
  • Disagrees that sales-led organizations don't care about user experience.
  • Thinks product teams' opposition to sales-led organizations may not be healthy for every organization.
  • Sales-led companies can be powerful and successful.
  • Product managers should not turn their noses up at sales-led companies.
  • Recommends the books "High Growth Handbook" and "Scaling People" for their practical advice on leadership and scaling.
  • Enjoys helping people find great-fit companies and is open to connecting with individuals seeking career advice.
  • Can be reached on LinkedIn, Twitter (@clairoalward), and TikTok (Chief Product Officer).

Lightning round (01:20:11)

  • Claire Vo recommends "Cersei" for fiction and "Strip Press" for leadership insights. She also enjoys the TV show "Mythic Quest."
  • During interviews, she asks candidates about their ideas for improving the business model.
  • Claire Vo's favorite product is her minivan, but she appreciates Waymo's excellent product and customer service design.
  • Her life motto, "fast speeds," emphasizes making decisions and taking action rather than overthinking and delaying progress.
  • For content creation on TikTok, she advises authenticity, consistency, and engaging with the community.
  • Consistency in content creation drives audience growth on platforms like TikTok.
  • Thinking of content creation as documentation, rather than creative generation, can help with a natural flow of content.
  • Helping each other during tough times in the tech industry is important.
  • It's essential to acknowledge the privilege and joy of having a job where you create products from scratch.
  • Having fun and appreciating what you have in your job is crucial.

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