Mindy Zhang keeps a massive board game collection under her desk. She’s only half-joking when she says that playing games actually helps in her work as a product manager.
Her collection started with Settlers of Catan, in which, “you’re trying to make decisions based on certainties and uncertainties, with limited resources.” As Mindy explains, “that’s one part of what you do as a product manager.”
Product managers are constantly balancing the demands of speed and quality. The best way to strike the right balance, Mindy says, is to be very careful about the scope of a project.
“There are always things you could consider adding,” Mindy says, “and there’s always more territory you could cover with a feature. You need to remember the core objectives and keep the scope tied very tightly to the objective, so that the team can ship something high quality on time.”
Besides Settlers of Catan, Mindy says Hanabi—a highly collaborative game—is another favorite among Dropbox gamers. Accordingly, much of Mindy’s work centers around encouraging collaboration and building consensus across disciplines.
As a product manager, she says, “you really have to love understanding many different perspectives, driving to consensus, and ultimately executing on something everyone on the team can be proud of.”
From Mindy’s perspective, the influence of multiple disciplines helps to shape the best possible experience for users. Collaborating across disciplines is one of the things she loves most about her work.
“I have the opportunity to work with design, marketing, engineering, user insights, strategic finance—different teams who work on different facets of our product but ultimately want to create the best possible experience for customers.”
Since her undergraduate studies in business at the University of Pennsylvania, Mindy’s been drawn to understanding the smallest unit of success for a business—a user’s relationship to a product—and figuring out how to make that better.
At Dropbox, she works closely with the user insights team to better understand the user experience—not just through data but through in-depth interviews and other types of research methodologies.
“Data is great for telling you the what,” she says. “But if you really want to understand the why, you need to talk to users.”
In her work on Dropbox Pro, Mindy partnered with the user insights team and visited users in their homes and workplaces, in order to deeply understand their experience with the product. Translating these insights into a plan is just the sort of thing Mindy loves about her role as a product manager.
She says, “If you can identify that kernel of success—which is a user or customer succeeding with your product and feeling really good about it—and then figure out how to design a product that ensures that success among many users, that’s when you’ve really nailed it.”
The Dropbox product team is growing. We’d love for you to join us.