Coffee with Lindsay Brothers

This week, we’re getting coffee with Lindsay Brothers. Lindsay is a product manager at Indeed. Prior to Indeed, Lindsay was a product manager at Badgeville.

How did you get into product management?

I wanted to be a lawyer. In college, I was in the PAD (Phi Alpha Delta) prelaw fraternity, I took the LSAT, and interned at two law firms.

Growing up, I loved Legally Blonde and Ally McBeal, and generally wanted to be something I saw on TV. I thought law was for me but after applying to a few law schools, I didn’t get in.

I graduated in 2010 — during the recession — when it was really hard to find a job. I ended up at Best Buy, and then taught English in Spain for 2 years. When I came back the economy was doing much better and I found a job at a small SaaS startup, in entry-level marketing.

It was at LiveHive that I got involved in product management. LiveHive was a small startup so I had the ability to think about requirements and the user experience. Then my boss — and mentor — left to join Badgeville. She encouraged me to apply for a product manager role there. I did and was there for over a year and a half as the only product manager. That meant I got to touch all parts of the multiple products we had, which was great, however, I didn’t have any other product managers to learn from. That’s when I started looking for a larger, more established company and found Indeed through the Women in Product Slack group (founded by Merci Victoria Grace).

“…product management is doing a multitude of things and having the willingness to do what needs to be done.”

What has been your biggest learning as a PM?

Moving from a startup to a larger company was a very valuable experience. In a startup, if you don’t do something no one else will — it’s very much on you to get things done. If they need documentation, you’re going to do technical writing. If they need someone to research competitors, you’re going to do that. You do whatever needs to get done.

That skill has been very valuable because product management is doing a multitude of things and having the willingness to do what needs to be done.

What has been your biggest challenge as a PM?

Developing a future vision was something that took me time to develop. When I became a PM, it was really easy to see what was right in front of me — we need to upgrade this database, work on this API, etc. The challenges in front of us were really clear, but to develop a longer-term vision required a better understanding of the market, a better understanding of our customers, a deeper understanding of where our customers — and their demands — were going. I feel like that is something that took time and knowledge for me to develop.

One catalyst for understanding that that was problem was when a large customer (at Badgeville) churned. That was a wake up call. This was a customer that had been with us for a while and they were no longer happy. That really impacted me. As I became more future-oriented in regards to the product, I realized the importance of not just talking to your current customers, but understanding who your potential customers are and talking to them.

“They’re not looking for a perfect answer — they’re asking for a story that covers a problem, the action you took, and the result.”

You’ve helped a lot of people in the WiP Slack group prepare for interviews. What advice do you share?

This is how I like to prepare for interviews…

  1. Research the company — look at their About page, their social media, and watch any videos you can find.
  2. Play with the product — sign up, get a free trial, do whatever you can to touch the product as much as possible.
  3. Compile feedback on the product — where do you think the product could go? What could be improved? What other markets could they look at?
  4. Look at interview feedback — use Glassdoor to find interview questions from the company (shared by past candidates), pull them into a Google Doc and write out your answers.
  5. Develop your stories — often times, the interviewer is asking you to tell a story — “Describe a time you failed,” “Describe a time you improved a product.” They’re not looking for a perfect answer — they’re asking for a story that covers a problem, the action you took, and the result. I practice telling those stories by writing them down, then grabbing coffee with a friend and having them ask me those questions. Many of those stories also work for multiple questions.

Another interview tip: I have a leather portfolio that I take with me, with copies of my resume for everyone that I’m meeting that day (plus a few extras), and a printed list of my references for the hiring manager (printed on resume paper). I also print my notes on the product and my stories (for my eyes only) to review when I have a break.

Pro tip: Staples have great portfolios (~$20), resume paper, and folders. I’ve always received such a positive response to the resume paper. We’ve become so used to everything being digital that when I come in with a nice piece of paper, it causes the interviewer to pause.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from interviews?

Cracking the PM interview” is great at taking you through the different questions you could be asked and how to answer them. The question that I always stumbled on was “Describe your favorite product.” I would get so excited and geek out about the product itself. I quickly learnt that that’s not what the interviewer is looking for — they’re looking for you to be methodical in describing exactly what it is that you like about the app or exactly what you think could be improved.

What do you consider the traits of a great PM?

  • Empathy — like everyone says
  • Analytical — being able to look at and understand the data about your product and customers.
  • Future-oriented — looking at where the market is going, what customers are going to want, where your product can be best placed in the market.
  • Experimental — making hypotheses, testing them, and drawing conclusions from the test.
  • Finally, curious, driven and self-motivated with a love of learning.

What books do you recommend to PMs?

I left coffee with Lindsay inspired — and honored — by how much thought Lindsay put into her answers. Lindsay is an active member of the WiP Slack group, where she provides thoughtful advice (like the above) on product management. If you’re a woman in product — I’d highly recommend joining our squad. Thanks for grabbing coffee, Lindsay!

If you enjoyed this interview, please share it with others that might too. Looking for more? Check out the ‘Coffee with’ publication.