Great Expectations

6 lessons from building Uber’s Product Marketing team 
while becoming a mom

The call came at the least opportune moment. I was four months pregnant with my first child, working at Google. My job was comfortable. And most importantly, I had recently moved to the San Francisco office (a.k.a the Promised Land). But the caller was one of my most respected, trusted former colleagues and his proposition was a unique one: join him at Uber to build a Product Marketing team.

At first I told him I didn’t want the added complexity of starting two new jobs — Uber and motherhood — at the same time. He responded by saying he understood, and that I could join later… and report to whoever he hired to lead the team. I realized then that seizing this opportunity was one of the most important things I could do for my career. One month later, I waddled in for my first day with 14 weeks (before my maternity) to define a mission and build a team.

As I sit here writing this post, I am about to go on maternity leave for the second time. Reliving this experience has caused me to reflect on my two and half years at Uber and what I’ve learned.While seizing the opportunity was the first step, there are a few other lessons that have been critical to building a high performing team at Uber.

  1. Find the Right People

Hire talent. Have a slate of interviews lined up for week one. Reach out to the best people in your network and start pitching them on your vision for the team. I invested in hiring talent from day one, and because of that I was able to build a group of strong, brave Product Marketing Managers (PMM) who have become the foundation of our team.

But hiring decisions can’t be unilateral. At Uber, PMMs are embedded on product teams, so Product Managers (PMs) need to feel full confidence in them. As such, PMs were key decision makers in our hiring. It’s not just about finding talent. If the role you’re hiring for is intensely cross-functional, you need buy-in.

2. Eat Your Veggies (I mean… Embrace Process)

Establish a set foundational processes and tools. I started with the basics — a brief template, a project tracker, a team standup — then determined how to adapt what worked elsewhere to the unique conditions at Uber.

The work of individuals is a reflection of your team’s aptitude as a whole. So as your team grows, processes that establish quality control will also become critical as the function scales. For example, as our team grew, we instituted twice weekly bullpens to review all work and ensure it reflected the best of our collective talent. An added benefit of process is sanity (a resource in short supply as a busy mom); not having to reinvent the wheel every week is a critical survival tactic.

3. Build Relationships

Develop a sense of community and team identity. As I was defining the function of Product Marketing, I held informal meetings that formed the foundation of our community. At these meetings, we always introduced ourselves by identifying professional “super powers,” which helped us look to one another as resources. These meetings also encouraged interaction with other teams, who we would bring in as guest speakers. Over time, as the team has formalized, we’ve expanded these meeting, adding new rituals along the way.

Develop a sense of community with your cross-functional partners, too. Through our work building relationships with our stakeholders, we developed a network of strong champions on other teams, including Product Management, Design, and Data Science. Ultimately the positive word of mouth — coupled with strong results — helped our function grow. Over time, I got approached by teams without PMMs interested in understanding the function, many of whom I ultimately worked with to add Product Marketing role.

4. Be Your Own Advocate

Have a playbook that reflects your vision for the function and present it with conviction, alongside evidence of your impact to-date. I took this advice myself. One of the most defining moments for PMM at Uber came when, in the midst of a restructuring, we had to justify the function to leadership. By stepping up and proposing a vision, I got the needed buy-in for PMM to be regarded as an legitimate function within the organization, and earned an opportunity to expand my scope and leadership.

But as empowering as it is to write your own functional manifesto, you can’t define a function in a vacuum. You need to establish how you work with adjacent teams and what the clear value proposition of your team will be. Since that initial defining moment, the team has been in constant conversation — and sometimes negotiation — with other teams to define our operating model and establish clear roles and responsibilities.

5. Prove your Impact

You must be impact-driven. This is especially true for Product Marketing since our headcount comes from program teams that have to choose how to allocate scarce resources. Our team mantra is: own the narrative, own the results. Our role on the program team is to scale the impact of what is built, and we are rigorous about defining and relentlessly pursuing adoption.

One of my proudest days as a PMM was when a PM told her Director she was willing to trade an incremental Engineering headcount in exchange for a PMM. Her logic was simple: rather than just building features that might sit on a shelf, the team needed to derive business impact from what it built by investing in user adoption.

6. Own the Narrative, Own the Results

Share your wins with the company in a compelling way. Given that storytelling is a core part of a Product Marketer’s craft, every time a PMM takes the stage at Product All-Hands, Marketing Summit, or a Company All-Hands, we treat it as an opportunity to help the company understand the value of our function and to showcase our skills. Whether through our user-facing work, internal case studies, or company-wide sizzle reels, we capture attention — sometimes even imagination — and drive home why Product Marketing is a must-have for Uber. Today, that story is starting to resonate deeply across the organization.

My own story, likewise, continues to evolve. Reflecting on the journey, I realize it’s ironic that I worried about stepping into motherhood and this job at the same time. In the end, being a mother has made me better at what I do. It has not only made me more efficient and thoughtful about how I spend my time, it has also made me a better manager, unlocking deeper empathy and igniting within me a deep desire to nurture and grow those around me — from my daughter, to my team, to myself.

About the Author: Laura Jones leads Consumer Product Marketing at Uber. Her team is responsible for launching and driving adoption of new products and features. Previously, she led brand and marketing communications for Google Express. While at Google Laura also developed and patented the Showcase app, which let users shop directly from live streaming video. She received her MBA from Stanford in 2009 with a focus on user-centered design at the and her undergraduate degree in Economics from Dartmouth.