Just Keep Swimming.
As a software engineer, I favored front-end development. The Product & Design teams would come up with requirements and I’d build what they wanted, but also offer up a few alternatives using prototypes. Some of them would flop, but some of them would get the green light. There’s also something to be said about how people could see the things I coded. I mean…
I’d literally walk through my college campus and see people using my app and say, “I built that!”
So it’s no wonder when I got into Product, I always felt inclined to fall on 2 sides of the triangle; the technical side, and the UX side.
But, I really could not get behind the business analytics side. I mean, I could maneuver through MixPanel and Google Analytics, I knew how to read Omniture, but really, I heavily relied on my marketing and BI teams to define and report tracking requirements. This worked out great because, honestly, I found no joy in these things — Computer Science put me through the ringer; the math I enjoyed as a child, I detested as a working adult ( because, you know, Calculus III has served me well :kermit: ).
This luxury of having teams pull numbers for me and tell me a story was available in all the companies I’ve worked for. Before ThisLife was acquired, my operating metrics were different. The apps we built were heavily design-first, so I really focused on customer experience. The only numbers I cared about was onboarding drop-off, number of photos & videos uploaded, customer acquisition count, and how much money we were making. Those were all 🔑, but if you want to understand your product and company’s worth, there’s a lot more to consider.
When I came to Walker & Company, I had more to care about. E-commerce had me looking at LTV and retention curves. Conversion funnels and abandon cart campaigns. Customer acquisition costs and cost of goods.
Cycles, Cons and Cohorts, oh my!
I was lucky honestly. Most of these were already defined and tracked; I just had to consume them. But as the company matured, our marketing arsenal had to as well. We were still small and nimble. Key hires were being vetted, but until we found the right marketing squad to take this on, who was going to lead some of this? Who would be closest to this process? ( you guessed it )
I found myself building MixPanel funnels and creating abandon cart emails. I was in Optimizely running multi-page and multivariate tests. I’m asking engineering to create insane queries. I’m meeting with stakeholders to understand the whats, whys and hows.
I’m stressfully putting together MailChimp campaigns, hoping I don’t flood thousands of people with an email that butchers the beautiful content the Creative and Brand teams put together.
I jumped into a swimming pool and didn’t know how to swim.
The engineering team saw me struggle a few times so they threw me a vest simply by asking, “How can we help?” The Brand and Creative teams threw me a rope in the form of reusable templates. The Customer Success team let me break the No Dive policy. The PM that works with me was always ready to jump in. And Tristan patiently mentored me knowing, in the past, my experience in the pool was nothing more than hand gliding around the sides.
That’s the beauty of a startup. In 2 years, I learned what I may have never learned in a lifetime of product gigs. I was forced to learn things I didn’t care to; but now, appreciative that I did.
In a startup, you’re thrown into challenges. You either sink or swim.
Or, in my case… doggy paddle.
To my lifeguards at Walker & Company. Thank you.