Unorthodox frameworks for growing your product, career, and impact | Bangaly Kaba (YT, IG, FB)

Unorthodox frameworks for growing your product, career, and impact | Bangaly Kaba (YT, IG, FB)

Bangaly’s background (00:00:00)

  • Bangaly Kaba, a former growth PM at Facebook, head of growth at Instagram, VP of product at Instacart, and current director of product management at YouTube, shares his frameworks for growing products, careers, and impact.
  • Kaba's framework consists of Vision, Skills, Incentives, Resources, and Action Plan.
  • He emphasizes understanding the problem before building a solution to avoid the anti-pattern of building without a clear purpose.
  • Kaba's blog post, "How to Choose Where to Work and What to Work On," highlights considering environmental and skill-related variables when making career decisions.
  • His "adjacent user" theory suggests targeting users one step removed from the core user base to drive growth.
  • Kaba provides valuable advice for coaching product managers and managers of managers, drawing from his experiences at Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.
  • Wizard is an AI-powered tool that helps product teams accelerate their product development lifecycle and speed up time to market.
  • Wizard's AI can turn screenshots into editable UI designs and generate new design concepts from text prompts.
  • Mercury is an online banking platform that simplifies financial operations for startups and entrepreneurs, offering bill pay and accounting capabilities.

Choosing where to work and what to work on (00:06:31)

  • Bangaly Kaba wrote a blog post titled "How to choose where to work and what to work on" which provides a framework for making career decisions.
  • The framework focuses on impact as the key output and considers two sets of variables: environment-related variables and skill-related variables.
  • By analyzing these variables, individuals can identify where they are hindered structurally and where their skills are lacking, allowing them to make informed decisions about their career path.

The impact factor (00:08:39)

  • Impact is the most important variable to optimize for in a career.
  • Compensation is a reflection of the impact an individual has, and leveling and scope are derivatives of impact.
  • Impact can take various forms, including creating clarity about product problems and opportunities, prioritizing effectively, and delivering results quickly and consistently.

Evaluating the environment (00:10:53)

  • The formula for impact is Impact = Environment x Time x Skills.
  • The environment consists of six variables: manager, resources, team, compensation, scope, and company culture. Each variable can be scored from 0 to 2, with 2 indicating the most positive impact on your ability to deliver impact.
  • If one or more of the variables is not at a high score, it presents an opportunity to improve your impact and career.
  • It's important to be honest in assessing the environment and identifying limiting factors.
  • Many people find themselves in situations where the scope of their work, their manager, or both are not a good fit for them.

The manager component (00:15:53)

  • Manager is the most important variable in the environment for product managers.
  • A great manager can help to increase scope, fix issues, and create a positive work culture.
  • Clearly articulate the challenges you're facing to your manager and how they impact your work.
  • Work with your manager to create a plan to alleviate some of these challenges.
  • Finding a new manager is always an option, but it's not always necessary.
  • Try to understand what your manager is optimizing for and how you fit into their plans.
  • If there's a gap in understanding, try to fill it by taking on additional responsibilities that are adjacent to your remit.
  • This can help to create more synergies with your manager and improve your working relationship.

The skills part of the equation (00:18:27)

  • To enhance professional skills, focus on developing communication, influence, leadership, strategic thinking, and execution abilities.
  • Effective communication is a powerful skill that can build trust and clarity, even for those with weaker execution skills.
  • Continuously learn and expand your knowledge by reading widely and seeking guidance from thought leaders and mentors.
  • Observe and learn from others' practices, experiences, and leadership styles to improve your own skills.
  • Practice active listening to understand and respond effectively to the needs and concerns of others.
  • Recap discussions, decisions, and action items to ensure clear and effective communication.
  • Acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of others to foster collaboration and inclusivity in communication.

Advice on finding a mentor (00:23:49)

  • Instead of directly asking someone to be your mentor, share your challenges and goals with people you trust and ask if they know someone who can help you.
  • This creates a "seed" of common purpose between you, the recommender, and the potential mentor, increasing the likelihood of a mutually beneficial connection.
  • Be specific about the skills or expertise you're looking for in a mentor, rather than assuming that someone can help you with everything.

The power of “understand work” (00:25:42)

  • Understand work is a framework that emphasizes research, data analysis, and prototyping to gain a deep understanding of a problem before execution.
  • It helps clarify root causes, identify the right use cases, and make informed decisions about product development.
  • This approach allows teams to execute on high-conviction ideas while simultaneously conducting research and learning, avoiding building products that don't meet user needs.
  • By combining insights from testing and understand work, teams can effectively plan the next sprint or roadmap.
  • This parallel path approach creates a velocity multiplier over time, leading to faster execution and higher win rates for shipped products.

Operationalizing understand work (00:31:17)

  • Prioritize understanding work over immediate execution to achieve more impactful results.
  • Shift the balance of work from 60% execution and 40% understanding to 80-85% execution and 15-20% understanding as the team gains a deeper understanding of the problem space.
  • Identify low to medium effort tasks with a high likelihood of impact based on available data, and prioritize them over tasks that require additional research or insights.
  • Conduct thorough understanding work before shipping new iterations of a product to identify gaps, problems, and opportunities for improvement.
  • Understand work involves activities such as analyzing data, conducting experiments, and testing hypotheses to gain insights and reduce risks before shipping new features.
  • Understand work should come from the teams themselves and every function can and should be doing it, such as refactoring code for engineers, instrumenting data for data scientists, or figuring out partnership strategies for product managers.
  • When planning a Sprint or roadmap, teams should identify key themes to work on and ask what else they need to understand to make it happen, including cross-functional partners in planning sessions to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the issues.

Balancing understand work (00:37:55)

  • To avoid creating too much understand work and not shipping anything, it's important to manage expectations and clarify that the goal is to ship products with more confidence and understanding.
  • Initially, focus on low-effort, high-impact execution projects.
  • Build a portfolio of work for each sprint, including low-effort, high-impact, medium-effort, high-impact, and understand work projects.
  • Understand work can involve conducting cheap tests to learn quickly and inform product decisions.
  • In January 2016, Instagram's onboarding flow had no logging, making it difficult to identify and fix issues.
  • The first step was to instrument the funnel to collect data and identify drop-off points.
  • While waiting for the instrumentation to be completed, the team ran tests on obviously broken elements to see what improvements could be made.
  • This involved collaboration between growth marketing, engineering, and data science teams to set up logging, pull together funnels, and create dashboards.

Managing complex change (00:41:25)

  • To effect change in a team, five components are necessary: vision, skills, incentives, resources, and an action plan.
  • Missing any one component leads to different negative outcomes:
    • Missing vision: confusion
    • Missing incentives: resistance
    • Missing action plan: false starts
  • It's easier to institute action plans than change vision and skills.
  • Building a deck of different skills and frameworks can help uplevel teams fast.
  • A shared language and repository of skills can be created by introducing mental models and concepts.
  • When joining a team, observe what's happening and identify challenges.
  • Determine where you can plug in and make improvements.
  • Focus on lower-hanging fruit like action plans before attempting to change vision and skills.
  • Use a deck of skills and frameworks to help uplevel teams fast.
  • Identify missing skills and build a shared language and repository of skills.

Effective management of product managers (00:45:26)

  • Bangaly Kaba's background in education and business influences his approach to product management and team building.
  • He emphasizes strong communication, a clear vision, and the ability to influence others, similar to skills required in education.
  • Kaba advocates for a coaching and enabling mindset to empower teams and achieve collective success.
  • He uses Bloom's taxonomy to assess teams' critical thinking levels and identify areas for skill development.
  • Product managers need the necessary skills and opportunities to apply their knowledge in various scenarios.
  • A common failure point is when individuals have a limited understanding of a concept and lack diverse problem-solving approaches.
  • Managers face challenges in synthesizing and evaluating information across multiple product teams, hindering their ability to make connections and prioritize effectively.
  • Product managers require skills similar to managing young children, including influence, communication, and the ability to inspire belief in their vision.

The role of product managers as coaches and team leaders (00:51:35)

  • Product management is a team sport, not everyone needs to be a star player.
  • It's important to value role players and ensure they have a seat at the table.
  • Product leaders should think about their leadership tree and who they have helped to grow and develop.
  • Coaching people up to greatness is part of a product manager's job.
  • Teaching others helps product managers learn and improve their own skills.
  • It's rewarding to see former team members succeed and go on to do bigger and better things.

Driving growth through flywheels and value proposition (00:54:52)

  • Bangaly Kaba emphasizes understanding the value proposition at all points of the experience, especially in multi-sided marketplaces like YouTube.
  • To gain fresh perspectives on product improvement, Kaba advocates "dogfooding" products in an adjacent user state, comparing the experiences of power users and new users.
  • Kaba highlights the importance of flywheels in creative monetization, focusing on the connections between content creation, discoverability, user satisfaction, and revenue generation.
  • Kaba's approach involves identifying and connecting the dots in a story that teams can comprehend, providing clarity and purpose in their work.
  • Flywheels help teams prioritize tasks, understand what they know and don't know about users and operations, and improve velocity and impact.
  • Kaba applied this flywheel-focused mindset at YouTube and Instacart, considering how daily life scenarios translate into the purchase experience and ensuring products align with users' actual needs and tasks.

Understanding adjacent users (01:03:14)

  • The adjacent user is a potential user who could benefit from a product but doesn't use it for some reason.
  • To achieve hyper-growth, companies need to identify and understand the needs of adjacent users.
  • The adjacent user framework involves considering the needs of potential users who are not currently buying the product and understanding what is missing from the product that prevents them from becoming adopters.
  • Companies can use user research to identify the needs and preferences of potential users and tailor the product to meet their needs, thereby increasing adoption.

The role of partnerships and SEO in Instagram’s early growth (01:08:41)

  • Bangaly Kaba, an expert in product growth, career development, and impact, emphasizes the importance of understanding the first "aha" moment in a product and building habits around it.
  • To achieve compounding growth, multiple acquisition channels that complement each other should be built.
  • Instagram's early growth was driven by celebrity partnerships, SEO, and paid media, with partnerships playing a crucial role even before the platform's core features took off.
  • Instagram's web presence was instrumental in its international growth and SEO, increasing its growth by 10% upon launch.
  • Unlike Instagram, TikTok's growth strategy focused on attracting users who were not successful on Instagram by offering them the opportunity to succeed on TikTok.
  • Market dynamics can change, so strategies that worked in the past may not be as effective in different contexts.

The secret behind Instagram’s growth (01:16:08)

  • Instagram's early approach of treating all follows equally favored celebrities but caused regular users to feel disconnected, leading to platform abandonment.
  • In 2017, the "connections pivot" prioritized showing regular users' posts to their friends, significantly improving retention and contributing to Instagram's rapid growth.
  • Instagram successfully reduced account churn by 10-12 million users annually by addressing the issue of hundreds of thousands of users forgetting their login details, particularly in South Asia and Southeast Asia.
  • Simplifying the logout process and providing login assistance increased monthly active users by 15-20 million.
  • Solving the account access problem revealed insights into increased content creation from second and third accounts, leading to the creation of a multiple accounts team to enhance account navigation.
  • Bangaly Kaba emphasizes the significance of unorthodox frameworks for personal and professional growth.
  • Kaba stresses the importance of making it easier for users to log back into platforms like Instagram, rather than solely focusing on simplifying the logout process.

Lessons from Facebook (01:25:37)

  • Facebook's people graph was broken in India, with users having fewer friends in common compared to the US.
  • There was a lot of friending and unfriending activity in India, which was not well understood.
  • Facebook conducted understand work in India, involving on-the-ground research to observe how people used the platform.
  • One key finding was that users found the profile page information irrelevant, such as name, school, and job title.
  • Instead, users relied on pictures to identify their friends, such as cars, animals, and other visual cues.
  • The most common names on Facebook in India were Indian names, with over 250,000 people using the name "Amit Kumar" each month.
  • The cultural context in India was significantly different from the Western-centric design of Facebook, requiring creative solutions to address these challenges.

Failure corner (01:29:15)

  • Bangaly Kaba shares his experience at Instacart as a failure in his career.
  • He had a vision of what the product could be, but it didn't align with the company's DNA, which was focused on operations.
  • The company needed someone more tactical and hands-on, while Bangaly wanted to focus on building systems and processes.
  • He felt like he wasn't delivering what the company wanted or being supported in the way he needed.
  • Lesson learned: spend more time understanding the work and the company before taking a job to ensure alignment.
  • Talk to people who have left the company to get a different perspective on the work environment.
  • No relevant information to summarize.

Lightning round (01:31:58)

  • Bangaly Kaba recommends the books "Range" by David Epstein, "Deep Work" by Cal Newport, and "Start at the End" by Matt Wallaert.
  • For senior hires, Kaba assesses self-awareness and contextual thinking by asking candidates to rank five job-relevant skills from strongest to weakest.
  • Kaba suggests using the travel app "Flighty" for its detailed flight information and gate updates, particularly useful in Europe.
  • During the first 90 days at a new job, Kaba advises sitting in team meetings to observe their operations.
  • Kaba emphasizes the importance of building relationships with team members by getting to know them personally, understanding their perspectives, and fostering trust and collaboration.
  • He believes that people and teams don't reach their goals but fall to the level of their systems, highlighting the significance of effective systems and processes for personal and professional growth.
  • Kaba's experience as a Dean at a boarding school in Switzerland taught him the value of building relationships and understanding people's stories, which has helped him appreciate diverse voices and perspectives in the tech industry.
  • He stresses the importance of inclusivity and valuing different voices to create world-class products that can scale globally.
  • Bangaly Kaba can be found on social media with the username "iambngaly" across all platforms.
  • Kaba encourages people to connect with him on social media to share their stories, learnings, market insights, or questions, as he enjoys hearing from others and providing advice.

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