I joined the Product team at Cabify in June 2014 as a QA. You can read more about the hiring process and my personal experience in this article.
We were 8 people by the time: Sam Lown, Michael Koper, Imanol Pérez Iriarte, Mark Villacampa, David Zaba, Adam Williams, Richard Child and myself. A month later David Smyth joined us to help on the Product management side.
At this stage, early startup, the team was delivering features based on CEO/COO requests who were travelling around our 4 cities by the time: Madrid, Lima, Ciudad de Mexico and Santiago de Chile.
We were delivering features fast which is really good at the very beginning. However, priorities, fast growing market and our skill set meant we were not doing many of the things we now believe you should do when building a Product:
- We were not really listen to the users to really understand their pain points.
- We were not properly analysing the problems and formulating hypothesis.
- We were not prototyping and testing with users.
- We were not measuring any impact from the Product point of view after releasing to production.
- We were not iterating any feature to improve, just looking for the next cool thing to do.
Basically, we were not building and providing great experiences within our Product.
You may think that we were doing really bad by not doing all those tasks but, in reality, we were doing what we really knew to do: delivering features. Trying, with more or less luck, to add value for the users and make the business sustainable. We were a delivery team and we knew it.
When you have limited amount of money (our competitor had unlimited amount until very recently. The other has still unlimited cash) is better to focus in tasks you do right than trying to do several things that you don’t have skills for.
With focus on delivering, working really hard, and by having a great Ops team, we managed to build the first Spanish unicorn.
Of course, we really wanted to build an awesome Product. David Smyth had clear vision about the skill set we needed, Sam Lown envisioned the best ways to scale while I tried to improve all people related things and build the culture together with them.
To build a great Product, your team is the first thing you should care about, even before the users. You will be only able to build a great Product if your team believe in the mission and they feel part of. Never is enough to have the team in the best conditions to have impact. Some of the things we have done during these years that have worked well are:
- Flexibility, we don’t look for hours or fixed schedules but outcomes.
- Be patient. We all have life outside our job and sometimes people have problems. Understand them and help them is our responsibility as managers or team mates.
- Be fair, treat your people equally and pay them fair. Sometimes this is really difficult in a growing salary labour market but we take advantage in every salary review cycle to fix things.
- Hire with diversity in seniority: don’t be afraid to hire people better yourself but do not forget about more junior profiles. Some tasks can be challenging and awesome for a junior profile but absolutely trivial and tedious for a super senior, yet the tasks are the right ones.
- Give opportunities to people to transition into tech profiles. We are happy about how these people are performing and the diversity they are bringing to the team.
- Hire better managers than you. Provide them space to have impact. The team and I learn every day from them. This is one of the things with more impact in our team.
- Standardise the recruitment process. This helps to reduce errors when levelling and minimise unfair situations. Do 30–60–90 to confirm the levelling was fine or you need to make some adjustments.
Find the right skill set
- Look for great people for disciplines you don’t have yet. It’s better to wait for the right person to start a discipline than start with someone you are not confident enough.
- Empower new disciplines and make them have an impact inside the team and across whole organisation. It’s amazing to see people learning from a new disciplines how they add that value to their knowledge.
- Once, you have great people for a given discipline and the right managers, build a career path to set expectations and provide visibility about the plan to grow inside the company.
- Focus on helping the people to grow. A career path is nice but if you don’t spend time to help the people to grow, you won’t success.
- With a career path, it’s easy to set salary ranges for each level. Make levels and salary ranges public. The more transparency the better to reduce anxiety and unexpected misunderstandings.
- Make transfer between teams easy while keeping the balance. Set a clear process and timeline to happen. It’s key maintain great people in your team.
Embrace the change
- Review every process and challenge yourself often what else you can do.
Leverage on people specialists
- To build, achieve and maintain all the points above and many others, you should leverage on People/Talent roles otherwise it’s really tough and the results are not that good.
Of course, we have failed during these years. In such a fast growing and changing industry, it’s difficult to keep priorities estable and to spend enough time with the team solving day to day problems.
In a high demanding team, some frictions occur, stress happens and sometimes the communications is not the best. Due to all that, we have lost great people along the way. We have learned from that and we made lots of changes as the ones pointed before and many others. All the changes have helped to bring people who left the team back and to hire great new people. However, this is a never ending process, so we face new challenges and new people problems that are on the top of our minds.
Today, with all our disciplines (User Research, Design, Product Management, Product Marketing, Technical Program Management, Engineering, QA, and Data Analytics & Science) executing at a really high level we are trying to build a great Product that can compete in the mobility industry. Although, we are not working fully as a Product company yet we are committed to do so. Five years later, I can say that we do many things a Product company do/have:
- Listen to the users to really understand their pain points.
- Analyse the problems, bring data and formulate hypothesis.
- Prototype and test with users.
- Build experiences that solve users pains.
- Measure impact.
- Look for the next big bet.
- Autonomous teams impacting the KPIs.
Little by little our users in more than 100 cities and 12 countries across Latam and Iberia are getting better experiences and more value from our Product.
Our team is about 250 people, working from Madrid, Sao Paulo and remotely. We are still learning and improving. If you would like to help, we’d love to know more about you.