Q&A with Expert Product Managers: Ethan Hollinshead from Strava
Welcome to the fifth installation of our product management interview series, where successful product folks across various verticals share where the PM industry is going, how to overcome challenges, and general advice. If you missed our last interview with Andrew Wang from GAP, we recommend giving it a read, as well!
As mobile engagement continues to increase, companies across all industries have shifted product strategy to push their mobile experience toward the top. The product management world has gone mobile, and PMs have had to adjust to strategic changes big and small.
Today, we’re excited to bring you thoughts from Ethan Hollinshead, Senior Product Manager at Strava. Here’s what Ethan had to say!
Q: How did you get into product management?
I got into Product Management about three years ago, shortly after I joined Strava. At that time, it was a smaller company, and I was working as the Product Marketer focused on Premium, our subscription product. We had a small task force of people who worked part time on Premium. A few engineering projects came up, and those gave me my first taste of Product Management. After that, I was hooked!
Q: How do you think mobile product managers’ roles in the organization are changing?
At least at Strava, they are becoming more strategic and independent.
Traditionally, a management team would create the strategy and projects would be passed to the product managers to implement. Teams were even reformed for each project, it was very inefficient. Now, the teams all have a clear KPI that they are in charge of, and the team defines the strategy with the input from around the organization. This is much more scalable and efficient.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face as a mobile PM? How do you overcome them?
The biggest challenge is resource alignment.
Team sizes are always changing and frequently lopsided. Some weeks you have plenty of design bandwidth and no iOS, others you have no design and all iOS. Having a deep backlog of well prioritized projects is key to operating an efficient team.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to give to other mobile PMs?
Go deep on that backlog, including in areas you are resource weak at the moment. If you don’t have much extra bandwidth in one area, it is too easy to have that part of your backlog go stale.
If you let this happen, you aren’t as likely to realize that there are big wins in that area or to speak up strongly when you have the opportunity to request more staffing in that area. Or you might all of a sudden get access to those resources and then be caught flat footed, unable to prepare the high impact projects in time.
Q: What are you looking ahead to in 2018?
I’m working with a great team at Strava that has largely remained together for the last few years. We’ve also grown a bit recently and the team is really hitting its stride. We’ve got an ambitious roadmap for 2018 and I’m excited to work with this team on implementing it.
Q: What’s your favorite way to stay up to date on all things product management?
Slack. We have a very active PM channel, and those who are more connected to the blog world than I am do a phenomenal job sharing the content that they find.
Q: With no resource constraints, if you could work on any app, what would it be?
It would be 2018’s hottest, never heard of, hasn’t hit the app store yet startup. I’ve never had the experience of taking an app from zero to many users and would love to be a part of that.
Q: I feel [fill in the blank] without my smartphone.
At my best.
Q: Android or iOS?
Generally Android, but I’m spending some time with an iPhone 8 to see what that world is like.
Q: What does customer love mean to you?
It means passionate responses to product changes and strong word of mouth.
If you make a massive change and nobody says anything, they probably don’t care too much about your product. On the other hand, if something trivial changes and is met with public praise or condemnation, your customers love you. Sometimes that love can be tough and critical.
A huge thank you to Ethan for taking the time to share his thoughts. Stay tuned for the next interview soon, and check out our first four interviews from these expert PMs: