Making an impact through authenticity and curiosity | Ami Vora (CPO at Faire, ex-WhatsApp, FB, IG)

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Making an impact through authenticity and curiosity | Ami Vora (CPO at Faire, ex-WhatsApp, FB, IG)

Ami’s background (00:00:00)

  • CTO of Meta mentioned Ami's ability to have profound disagreements and respond with curiosity.
  • Sublimating ego and prioritizing outcomes over being right is important in the working world.
  • When creating metaphors or analogies, consider the desired user feeling to ensure consistency.
  • The hill climb metaphor illustrates the difference between local and global optimums, with the summit representing the ultimate goal.
  • Strategy is about making choices and trade-offs, not just coming up with ideas.
  • Good strategies are clear, concise, and actionable.
  • Strategies should be based on data and insights, not just gut feelings.
  • Strategies should be flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances.
  • When disagreeing with someone, focus on the issue at hand, not the person.
  • Be respectful and listen to the other person's point of view.
  • Try to understand why the other person disagrees with you.
  • Be willing to change your mind if the other person presents a strong argument.
  • Women in tech should not be afraid to speak up and share their ideas.
  • Women in tech should support each other and create a network of mentors and allies.
  • Women in tech should not be discouraged by setbacks and should persevere in their careers.
  • Metaphors and imagery can help to make complex ideas more understandable.
  • Metaphors and imagery can help to create a shared vision and inspire your team.
  • Metaphors and imagery can help to build trust and rapport with your team.
  • Goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).
  • Goals should be challenging but not impossible.
  • Goals should be aligned with your overall strategy.
  • Goals should be communicated to your team and tracked regularly.

The myth of perfection in success (00:02:00)

  • Ami Vora, the former employee at WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram, and current CPO at Faire, emphasizes the importance of authenticity and embracing imperfections in achieving success.
  • She encourages individuals to acknowledge their messy and imperfect nature and challenges the notion of "superwomen" who seem to have everything figured out.
  • Vora recommends finding a work environment that feels like home and working with people who feel like friends, rather than striving for a predetermined end state.
  • She suggests surrounding oneself with extraordinary peers for career growth and mentions the benefits of joining a private leadership program called "Sidebar" for unbiased opinions, diverse perspectives, and raw feedback.
  • Anvil is a document SDK that helps product teams get to market faster by providing an all-in-one solution for building document workflows.
  • Anvil's document SDK includes an AI-powered web form builder, the ability to route data to backend systems and PDFs, and a white-labeled e-signature feature.
  • Anvil is customizable, with a drag-and-drop builder for non-technical users and flexible APIs and easy-to-understand documentation for developers.

Emotionally connecting with the job (00:07:55)

  • Ami Vora emphasizes the importance of emotional connection when choosing a job rather than relying solely on logical analysis.
  • She suggests imagining what it would be like to do the job, including thinking about the commute, colleagues, and problems to be solved.
  • This emotional response is more indicative of success and job satisfaction than a calculated plan.
  • Feeling at home and trusting the people around her are key factors in Ami Vora's job selection process.
  • Ami Vora believes authenticity and curiosity are essential qualities for success.
  • Authenticity involves being true to oneself and one's values, even in challenging situations.
  • Curiosity drives the desire to learn and grow, leading to continuous improvement.
  • Both authenticity and curiosity contribute to building trust and strong relationships with colleagues.
  • Ami Vora encourages individuals to embrace their authentic selves and cultivate curiosity to thrive in their careers.

Embracing curiosity in moments of challenge (00:09:55)

  • Curiosity helps overcome challenges and leads to better outcomes.
  • Curiosity involves genuinely wanting to understand others' perspectives, even if they differ greatly from one's own.
  • Curiosity breaks down barriers between viewpoints and fosters collaboration.
  • The speaker initially struggled with curiosity as they valued being right and knowledgeable.
  • Curiosity requires setting aside ego and acknowledging that others may have valuable insights.
  • Curiosity allows for continuous learning and growth.
  • Approaching interactions with a curious mindset makes work and life more interesting.
  • The speaker initially prioritized being right, which hindered their ability to find the best solutions.
  • Curiosity involves recognizing that others may have valuable information and perspectives.
  • Curiosity leads to better outcomes and allows for continuous learning.
  • Curiosity involves genuinely wanting to understand others' perspectives, even if they differ greatly from one's own.

Thinking in feedback loops (00:13:16)

  • Curiosity about different perspectives leads to better outcomes and positive feedback.
  • Sublimating ego and focusing on the outcome is important for effective feedback.
  • Feedback loops can help improve outcomes and relationships.
  • Different interpretations of the same information can be fascinating and insightful.
  • Curiosity helps in understanding how people see the world.
  • People often have a visceral reaction to opposing views, but it's important to reframe this as an opportunity to learn.
  • Taking a pause before responding allows for a more thoughtful and productive response.

The “dinosaur brain” metaphor in product reviews (00:17:17)

  • The speaker uses the metaphor of a "dinosaur brain" to describe how executives can only hold a limited amount of information at a time.
  • Product reviewers should focus on making recommendations rather than presenting all the information, as executives are better at pattern matching and providing context.
  • Recognizing that executives and product reviewers have complementary skills can help improve communication and decision-making.
  • The speaker emphasizes the importance of managers and product reviewers having complementary roles.
  • Managers should provide context and information, while product reviewers should make recommendations based on their deep understanding of the product.
  • This division of responsibilities allows for more effective decision-making and collaboration.

Strategies for conducting effective product reviews (00:20:20)

  • Product reviews should focus on understanding trade-offs, target audience, timeline, and risk level, and should result in principles, not just answers.
  • Keep product reviews short, pointed, and informal, with a small cross-functional team.
  • Trust your team to present their work effectively, reducing stress for managers.
  • Record or broadcast decision-making principles to ensure everyone is aligned.
  • Product pitching is necessary, especially for significant changes, even in senior roles.
  • Early-career professionals should bring forth recommendations with conviction and build that conviction for themselves.
  • Metaphors and imagery can effectively convey ideas and make them easier to understand.

Using metaphors and imagery to communicate your vision (00:26:33)

  • Ami Vora uses metaphors and imagery to communicate her vision and rally her team.
  • The hill climb metaphor illustrates the difference between a local optimum and a global optimum.
  • When you reach a local optimum, you may see a higher mountain in the distance that represents a global optimum.
  • Climbing down into the valley and up the other side to reach the global optimum is risky and requires trade-offs.
  • The summit represents a better way of doing things, and the journey through the valley is worth it when you reach the top.
  • This metaphor helps set expectations that there will be challenges and slowdowns, but the ultimate goal is worth it.

The power of having a shared narrative (00:29:35)

  • Metaphors and analogies can be powerful tools for creating a shared narrative and understanding.
  • Building "emulators" for different leaders can provide fresh perspectives and approaches to problem-solving.
  • A shared narrative can carry significant weight and help guide decision-making and product development.
  • Creating a story that everyone agrees on can help people know what to do without needing to be told exactly what to do.
  • A shared narrative can help create a consistent and cohesive product or experience without the need for micromanagement.

WhatsApp: an example of metaphor in action (00:31:55)

  • The metaphor used for WhatsApp was face-to-face communication.
  • The goal was to make everyone feel connected, regardless of their location or device.
  • The app was designed to create intimate spaces that felt familiar and easy to use.
  • Small details like typing indicators and message disappearing features added to the feeling of being there.

Emulating people that inspire you (00:34:44)

  • Emulating people you admire can help you become more interesting and well-rounded.
  • It involves putting yourself in their shoes and thinking about how they would react to situations.
  • This can give you new perspectives and tools to solve problems.
  • The most frequently emulated person is Rob Goldman, who emphasizes the importance of looking at the dashboard.

WhatsApp video calling (00:36:19)

  • Ami Vora shares an example of using a metaphor to rally a team and get things done.
  • The metaphor used was "sitting around in your family room" when thinking about how to make video calling work.
  • The idea was to create a lightweight, joinable call that feels like the space exists even when you're not there.
  • This metaphor helped the team agree on the feeling they wanted to create and what to build.
  • Ami Vora's personal experience using WhatsApp video calling with her mom while they were traveling to Italy exemplified the desired feeling.

Why execution is greater than strategy (00:37:35)

  • Execution is more important than strategy because customers care about the product in their hands, not the strategy behind it.
  • With great execution, even a good enough strategy can lead to learning and improvement, while poor execution prevents learning and winning.
  • Execution involves the unglamorous work of bringing the strategy to life, such as looking at dashboards, rewriting specs, and fixing bugs.
  • Execution leads to customer outcomes and satisfaction.

Time allotment for strategy vs. execution (00:41:36)

  • Spend 20% of time on strategy and 80% on execution.
  • As you get more senior, spend more time on strategy but still focus on execution.
  • Constantly improve the system you are building.
  • Strategy should lead to changes in customer outcomes.
  • Prioritize products and allocate resources based on the strategy.
  • Strategy should result in doing things differently.

How to become a better strategic thinker (00:45:10)

  • Ami Vora often received feedback to think bigger and be more visionary.
  • She struggled with self-confidence and impostor syndrome when it came to declaring a strategy.
  • Vora found that talking to customers and building an "emulator" for them helped her feel confident in her opinions.
  • Working through different product iterations and asking for opinions from the leadership team also contributed to her strategic thinking.
  • Vora emphasizes the importance of being comfortable having an opinion about how the world will develop and being open to change based on customer feedback.

The intricacies of implementing feedback (00:47:59)

  • Received feedback that being likable was more important than being smart.
  • Tried to be more likable by shrinking herself and not being opinionated.
  • This approach worked for a while, but it became difficult to lead a team when she wasn't expressing her opinions.
  • Realized that she needed to find a way to be herself while still working with a broader range of people.
  • Discusses the tension between authenticity and likability in the workplace.
  • Argues that it is not necessary to be completely authentic in the workplace, but that it is important to be able to work with a variety of people and styles.
  • Suggests that people should develop new tools and skills to unlock different doors and become more powerful and expansive.

Being a female leader in tech (00:51:53)

  • Women in tech receive feedback that focuses on their style rather than the content of their role.
  • It's important to interpret and respond to feedback thoughtfully, not reacting immediately to all of it.
  • The advice to find a mentor or sponsor puts an unnecessary burden on women.
  • Women should recognize the generosity and support they receive from others, even if it doesn't come in the form of a traditional mentor.

Advice for young women in tech (00:55:13)

  • Don't try to be the next someone else, focus on being the best version of yourself.
  • Don't diminish your strengths or shrink yourself, continue to grow and expand your skills.

Setting goals and aligning incentives (00:56:07)

  • To avoid "toddler soccer," assign different objectives to teams that contribute to the overall customer impact, rather than focusing solely on output metrics like GMV.
  • Focus on input metrics that reflect customer engagement and lead to GMV, such as the number of visitors, conversions, and repeat customers.
  • Acknowledge and view disagreements as a sign of healthy tension and knowledge sharing, encouraging open communication and collaboration to resolve them.
  • Effective collaboration requires acknowledging good intentions and agreeing on the desired outcome, viewing disagreements as opportunities for rational discussions rather than personal attacks.
  • Have explicit and transparent discussions to avoid misunderstandings and hidden agendas.

Acknowledging hard truths (01:01:40)

  • As you get more senior, the problems you face become increasingly unsolvable.
  • The best decisions you can make are often the least bad options.
  • It's important to normalize and acknowledge these hard truths to avoid feeling like a failure.
  • The impact of being able to serve customers and be part of a team makes it worthwhile to be visibly terrible at everything.
  • Early ICPMS should understand that there are limited options and no decision will be optimal.
  • Authenticity is about being true to yourself and your values.
  • Curiosity is about being open to new ideas and experiences.
  • Both authenticity and curiosity are essential for making an impact in the world.
  • Authenticity helps you build trust and credibility with others.
  • Curiosity helps you learn and grow, and to come up with new and innovative ideas.
  • When you combine authenticity and curiosity, you create a powerful force for positive change.

Lessons from transitioning to Faire (01:05:46)

  • Ami Vora's decision to join Faire was driven by her belief in the people and the mission of the company.
  • She had personal connections to the wholesale and local retail industry, which Faire operates in.
  • Vora emphasizes the importance of patience and learning when transitioning to a new role, as it takes time to build up the necessary knowledge and network.
  • Joining Faire presented a steep learning curve for Vora as it involved a new business model, customer problems, and people.
  • Vora's successful transition to Faire and her ability to lead change in a new environment has helped her overcome her insecurity about only being successful within Meta.
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The importance of a good CPO/CEO relationship (01:08:40)

  • Having a great relationship with the CEO is crucial for a CPO's success.
  • Open communication and a growth mindset from both the CPO and CEO are essential.
  • Regularly sharing observations, ideas, and potential changes can build trust and credibility.
  • A supportive CEO who takes suggestions seriously fosters a positive working environment.

Vetting heads of product and maintaining customer focus (01:11:17)

  • Founders should spend time with potential CPOs to assess compatibility and trust.
  • Founders need to determine the level of seniority required for the role based on their needs and vision.
  • Sometimes, a founder's vision and knowledge may be sufficient, and they may only need someone to build the product rather than scale the team or build systems.
  • A complementary relationship between the founder and CPO is crucial for effective collaboration.

How Ami went from intern to leading major products at Meta (01:12:40)

  • Quit her last job in 2007 to be involved in the tech industry in Silicon Valley.
  • Traveled and lived a carefree lifestyle in New York before deciding to find a job.
  • Wanted to work at Facebook due to the positive impact of its products on people's lives.
  • Convinced an acquaintance at the company to introduce her to everyone in the office.
  • Despite not being qualified, she was offered a temporary position to review press releases.
  • Eventually got hired full-time and rose to leadership positions for major products like Facebook Ads and WhatsApp.
  • Authenticity is crucial for building trust and credibility with others.
  • Curiosity drives her to constantly learn and explore new things.
  • Believes that authenticity and curiosity are essential for personal and professional growth.
  • Encourages others to embrace their authentic selves and cultivate a curious mindset.

The one thing you should do to be successful in product (01:14:53)

  • The best way to be successful in product is to focus on the customer.
  • Prioritize talking to and advocating for customers, even when it means sacrificing short-term metrics.
  • Customer value and company value are usually aligned in the long term.
  • Metrics should be about long-term customer impact.

Lightning round (01:17:25)

  • Ami Vora recommends the book "Year of Yes" by Shonda Rhimes, which encourages embracing new experiences and self-expression.
  • For comfort, Ami enjoys rewatching familiar workplace comedies like "The Office" and "30 Rock."
  • Ami's recent discovery is a Fellow's electric kettle, enhancing her daily tea and coffee rituals.
  • Instead of a life motto, Ami follows the advice, "You can either have more energy or less ambition," guiding her approach to achieving impact and success.
  • Ami enjoys telling jokes and shares examples, demonstrating her sense of humor.
  • The podcast aims to showcase authenticity and the imperfections of successful individuals.
  • Ami Vora writes a blog called "The Parts of Growth" on Substack, discussing challenges in working for great companies.
  • To be helpful to Ami, people can practice kindness, be nice, and contribute positively to the world.

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