2020 my retrospective
It's been a terrible year for many. For me, it was isolating and introspective. I met 30+ folks and we exchanged perspectives on product and PM career. We adopted cats. My reading list & more.
tl;dr - personal retrospective, thoughts on 1st cohort of feedback sessions, things I read and found useful.
What a year!
2020 - a year that will live in infamy for generations. In the US, everything that could go wrong, did. I was one of the fortunate ones who still had a job that paid well (#) and nothing really worsened in my life outside of social parts.
Prateeksha and I adopted Chikki and Oreo - two kittens from two different neighborhood stray litters. They’ve brought emotional highs and lows in an otherwise lonely and isolated existence.
I thoroughly enjoyed the discussions and meeting 30+ participants as part of the first cohort of my open feedback sessions. Some thoughts and analysis on that later.
A surprising side-effect of “no commute” meant that I got some additional reading time. Starting in March, I stopped listening to podcasts, but have started to find time for it recently. In line with the industry.
Things are looking up though. A few vaccines are showing promise. Winter will be spent hunkered down, but I’m hoping that by Summer, we can get our act together as a global society and survive this pandemic.
Feedback session - Cohort 1
In 2019, I joined the Gmail team as PM responsible for attention management. After ramping up quickly and driving the vision for a team of 30+ folks, I realized that I was only able to do that because of years of idea sharing, failing, and coaching from others. I decided, earlier in the year, to dedicate time to giving back to the PM community, but COVID presented a unique geographic and mobility challenge.
This was an amazing opportunity to leverage video. In addition to it becoming widely accepted, it also opens up sessions to multiple countries. I wrote up a passionate pitch, set up a Calendly page (highly recommended for automating appointments if you don’t have an enterprise Google calendar account), and announced it to my social circle.
# sign ups = 33 | # who attended = 30 | Gender split = 4:6 (women to men)
Participation by country = India (60%), USA (~20%), Canada, UK, Singapore and Australia make up the rest.
Post-session feedback results
Completion rate: 43%
CSAT: 4.4 / 5 - I’m not sure how to make sense of this? Happy that most found it useful. I’ll also eat at a restaurant with 4.4 stars :)
NPS: 74 - proud of the number, but not the # of actual referrals I got :( You can start by sharing this newsletter with anyone you think might benefit from it.
I met some amazing entrepreneurs, aspiring and, early career PMs. I actively engaged with 3 startups and I was looking at 2 new ones. Thanks to all the attendees for participating and sharing your ideas and ambitions with me. I’m going to give this a rest, introspect a bit more and set up a second cohort when I have some more time. If you’d like to meet with me for any reason, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ll do a separate post on the learnings from the feedback sessions and patterns I noticed there.
What I’m reading
Anything that Lenny Rachitsky is writing these days or getting others to write. I was remarking to a mentor of mine that I often read posts about SaaS growth and immediately recollect what I’d done for my startup without knowing what was the “industry term” for it. Here are some great reads for SaaS enthusiasts.
Customer acquisition playbook for consumer startups. Wonderful article that lists the 3 most structured ways of acquiring customers online. https://firstround.com/review/drive-growth-by-picking-the-right-lane-a-customer-acquisition-playbook-for-consumer-startups/
The most important bottom-up SaaS metrics to track (and how to best visualize them) – Issue 48 of Lenny’s newsletter - https://www.lennyrachitsky.com/p/the-most-important-bottom-up-saas-69d?s=09
How the biggest consumer apps got their first 1000 customers - you’ll find first-hand accounts of how essentially every major consumer app acquired their earliest users, including lessons from Tinder, Uber, Superhuman, TikTok, Product Hunt, Netflix, and many more https://www.lennyrachitsky.com/p/how-the-biggest-consumer-apps-got
More acquisition themed articles. Found this post from many years ago about customer acquisition cost and the importance of it. https://25iq.com/2016/12/09/why-is-customer-acquisition-cost-cac-like-a-belly-button/
Some nice models around product and business from Sarah Tavel https://sarahtavel.medium.com/frameworks-12c220e775eb
A recurring theme these last two quarters were about the role of regulation in tech. Few of the major trends included the China app ban, TikToK acquisition by Oracle, Apple’s App store rent-seeking suit among others. There were some really great pieces written about these topics. Here are some that I found useful.
Market definitions and tech monopolies by Ben Evans - essential to any anti-trust case is defining what is a market and what constitutes leverage on that market. https://www.ben-evans.com/benedictevans/2020/10/31/market-definitions-and-tech-monopolies?s=09
The most balanced article I’ve read on the subject comes from Ben Thompson in his article - A Framework for Regulating Competition on the Internet I love this approach because it clearly lists what’s the unfair advantage most new companies hold and how to think about them in the long term.
I particularly liked how comprehensive this Verge article was about TikTok’s success and eventual acquisition - https://www.theverge.com/interface/2020/7/9/21317350/tiktok-ban-india-united-states-china-hong-kong-ftc-regulation-content-policy
Interview with Daniel Ek - The Observer Effect. “Daniel does things very differently from other business leaders and was generous to go deep with us on his leadership style, time management, decision making, Spotify's impact on the world and much, much more”
“A woman’s work is never done” - Today, Explained by Vox. I’m a big fan of Vox media and the content they produce. This is an amazing podcast detailing the socio-economic impact of the pandemic on women. It explores Childcare and the politics behind it.
Books I’m reading/read
Promised Land by Barack Obama
Educated by Tara Westover
On writing by Stephen King
How to win friends and influence people - read this out of FOMO since everyone I know has read this.
Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez.
Make Noise - a creator’s guide to podcasting by Eric Nuzum.
Some fun Twitter threads with lots of links and information
10 honest takes on Software engineering the job and the industry -
For those looking to level up in the holidays, here’s a great list of some of the best online courses taken by folks on Twitter
A very informative thread and discussion for bottoms up SaaS startups
Shreyas Doshi’s twitter threads are legendary. Here’s one about product prioritization.
A thread on observations about the behavior of Next Billion Users (NBU) and how they use products and services we buildA thread on observations about the behavior of Next Billion Users (NBU) and how they use products and services we build: 1/n
That’s all for now! Take a break if you can afford to in December, enjoy the holiday season and see you in 2021.
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