Office Hours: I'm the CEO of Top.gg and previously led product at SoundCloud, Pinterest, Twitch, and LinkedIn. I'm Kristin Chen.Featured

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Thanks so much for joining us @kristinmchen!Elphas – please ask @kristinmchen your questions before Friday, August 13th. @kristinmchen may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
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Thank you for holding these office hours. I noticed that you are an angel investor. As a start-up founder, I will be pitching for funding in the next few weeks. What advice do you have when pitching to angels versus VCs? Any tips on what to do/ what not to do?
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I can share my perspective as an angel investor on what I look for. This is based on incredible advice that Aaron Patzer, the founder of Mint shared with me. When I evaluate startup ideas, I think through this question: "Does your startup idea solve a real problem, in a big market, in a way that tech gives you an unfair competitive advantage, and make money?" This is a breakdown of how I would evaluate the idea below: Does your start up idea .... 1. Solve a real problem...will this problem exist 10 years from now?2. in a big market...can you quantify the market?3. in a way that tech gives you an unfair competitive advantage...avoid if is it just a manual business or consulting -- it must be able to scale without relying on people and man power4. ... and make money?... you should be 80% confident it can make moneyI am not able to share any advice on pitching to angels vs. VCs because I am not a founder myself and have not pitched an idea to an VC before. I primarily angel invest through my network or referrals and typically don't respond to cold LinkedIn messages or calls unless the idea is a very clear match with my area of expertise and interests.
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Hi @kristinmchen, Thanks so much for holding these office hours. I was curious, how were you able to convince Twitch that your skills (analytical with insights and also soft skills) were translatable and that you could be successful in your first PM role, and how you were able to think of the PM role for your long term career journey/goals?Thank you again!Alena
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Thanks Alena for this great question. "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity" is a quote that I always keep in mind and quite applicable to the opportunity at Twitch. For Twitch, I felt very lucky that they happened to be looking for a product manager to build out their 0 to 1 insights product. I had deep experience in Insights and building insights products internally, but I had not been a product manager before. They were willing to take a risk on me as a first time product manager because I was able to show them my deep knowledge of Insights by highlighting my experiences at LinkedIn and highlight transferrable skills. I shared the internal insights products I built at LinkedIn, the impact they had, and my approach. In doing so, I emphasized transferrable skills such as research, cross-functional collaboration, analytics, working with technical stakeholders, communication, clean escalation etc. It was particularly important to show the impact that my internal products had. For example, XX% of LinkedIn Sales reps used Sales Navigator and I partnered with the Sales Nav product team to build them into Sales Navigator and clearly articular parallels between my approach and developing products at scale. I also shared my gaps and areas where I did not have experience. I let the hiring manager know that I did not have experience working with engineers or engineering managers before but I had spoken to 20+ engineers and engineering managers in my network and asked them about how they partnered with product managers successfully and what they saw as qualities of the best and worst pms. I also shared how I would collaborate with engineering to build strong relationships and earn their trust. I think addressing their concerns very transparently is what helped me land the role. In terms of my long term career journey and goals, I had always found product management interesting because I had dreams of building or running my own company. I thought this would be the perfect role to learn and simulate what that might be like at a smaller scale. This was a perfect first role for me to learn the ropes of product management and leverage my expertise in insights. It would have been much more difficult to switch to a B2C product or product area where I had no experience. Wishing you the best of luck in your product career and hope that some of these lessons were helpful!
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Hi @kristinmchen, thanks for dropping by! I'm interested in learning more about metaverse and what it can do to the world. Any reading/podcast/show you would recommend to check out?Also, what do you think the current trajectory of the metaverse is? More of 😈 or 😇 ?
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Matthew Ball's work is a great place to get started to learn about the metaverse. Here's a link to his full metaverse primer: https://twitter.com/ballmatthew/status/1415500219467304960?s=20I think the trajectory is going to be a mix of magic and mystery and I'm mostly excited to be along for the ride. So, a mix of 😇 😈 🤩 🤪 🤯 but with 🚀 ✨ 🪄🔮 🎮 🧪 👾 sprinkled in
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Hi @kristinmchen! Current Pinployee here :) You've made a lot of career moves with great success. Curious how you know when it's time to move on from one role/company to the next. I'm also super intrigued by the metaverse but it can intimidating for someone who is not a native gamer. I'd love to see more beginner communities in this space and adjacent topics like crypto/nft/defi. Do you have any recommendations for ones that may already exist?
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Hi Brittany! Always wonderful to hear from Pinployees 📌-- My main measure of deciding when it was time to move on was assessing if my growth opportunities internally matched what they were externally and assessing these three key areas below for my current role vs. new roles: 1. Growth opportunity for myself -- is this role getting me closer to my career goals? am I being challenged and growing in the way I want to be challenged/growing? Am I learning new skills that are aligned with what I want to develop? 2. My Manager -- is my manager coaching me and mentoring me but also acting as a sponsor? 3. Faith in leadership / executive team and company culture -- Do you respect and believe in the executive and leadership team? Are you excited about the mission and direction of the company? Are you happy with the company culture? If you are not in an executive/leadership position, enacting culture change is very hard and you need a lot of things in your favor and reinforcement from these leaders at every turn to make it happen. If something is misaligned in the above areas, think about if you can solve that in your current role or if you need to find a new opportunity or company that matches what you are looking for. I realize this wasn't part of your question but wanted to emphasize that the last job I needed a resume for was Twitch -- Pinterest and SoundCloud found me via recruiters reaching out on LinkedIn and my current role was through my network. Don't forget to invest in your personal and professional brand at your current role and outside. Update your LinkedIn -- you never know who is looking at it! For your second question, Matthew Ball's work is a great place to get started to learn about the metaverse. Here's a link to his full metaverse primer: https://twitter.com/ballmatthew/status/1415500219467304960?s=20I think an easy way to start learning about and joining the metaverse is finding an online community in a topic that you personally love and are passionate about. There are bigger places in the metaverse like Discord, Twitch, Reddit, Crypto, Gaming communities, etc... You can also explore different topics you like and find creators that create content related to those topics and explore the metaverse that way too. It's not just about gaming and other parts are rapidly expanding. A new and very friendly and welcoming place I'd love to recommend is my friend Jenny Qian's company Newness https://newness.com/ which is a live-streaming platform for the beauty community. You could even explore starting your own community in one of the spaces like Discord focused on a non-gaming topic!
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Thank you @kristinmchen! Appreciate you taking the time to breakdown your thought process on career movement and such a good reminder at how important networking is. Looking forward to reading Matthew's work and exploring Newness.See you out there!
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Hi @kristinmchen thanks for holding office hours. My question is about building a community and content being a driver for a community anchored Iva physical space. What are 3-5 things to get right when building content? If hiring for that talent, what should I be looking for?
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I don't have a much experience building for communities anchored in a physical space -- my experience is more focused on online communities & content ecosystems. However, I can recommend this book How to Build a Community With Your People https://gettogether.world/ that has some really great material applicable to building any communities. Knowing your audience and community, listening to them, and growing with them as well as quality are the top things I think are in content creation that I imagine do apply to both physical and online spaces. If you're hiring for that talent, look for someone with strong empathy who listens, engages, and connects with their audience or community or customers and who is resilient and adaptive and most of all creative.
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Hi Kristin, Wonderful opportunity to learn from you using this alternative and empowering platform! What is the significance and impact of your first role after undergrad on your long-term goals to work in product management and tech? (choosing to consult over people operations or finance)Also, what drives you as you have navigated from various careers and companies over the years?Thank you.
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As you can probably see from my LinkedIn, my career path has taken several turns. I actually did not know what a product manager what until I worked at LinkedIn and never had any personal aspirations after graduating to work in tech. I knew after graduating that I wasn't sure what I wanted to do long term yet.... my own personal goal was to eventually lead or start my own company or business, I just did not have a clear idea of what area. That's why I thought consulting would be a great fit for me because I would have a variety of projects and clients and buy myself some time to figure out what I wanted to do. Every role after that I used as an opportunity to learn new skills and try out something to learn what I liked and didn't like until I found something I loved (product management). I don't think my first role after undergrad working at Mahindra & Mahindra in internal operations and strategy consulting in Mumbai, India determined my long term goals or had a particular impact on my current career in product management in tech. I do think that it taught me resilience and strong communication skills and expanded my perspective since it was the first time I lived and worked abroad. If you are switching between roles or paths, focus on your transferrable skills. I think that any skill can be learned - it depends on how much time and effort you are willing to put into learning that skill. Also, learning what you don't like or don't enjoy is just as important as learning what you do enjoy! What drives me personally is helping people and creating opportunity for people. I love creators -- I love online communities -- and I love building products that help them achieve their dreams and goals. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to work in these spaces at LinkedIn, Twitch, Pinterest, SoundCloud and now Top.gg. I also am passionate about education which is why I have served on the Board of Partners in School Innovation. It's a wonderful non-profit with the mission to transform teaching and learning in the lowest-performing public schools so that every student, regardless of background, thrives. https://www.partnersinschools.org/
Hi @kristinmchen, I had the following questions associated to product industry : 1. Are there any differences between the tech startups when compared to bigger tech organizations like Facebook, Amazon, etc in terms of operating towards product creation/development?2. I have experience working as an Analyst for a tech startup for 3 years now, what are the kind of product roles that I can easily transition into? (need some designation examples other than product manager)Thank you!
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1. Yes, product management at a startup is very different vs. a FANG type company. B2C product management, B2B product management and 0 to 1 product management are all very different from each other as well. Larger companies usually have a very specific style or approach to product management. One famous example of this is Amazon's "working backwards process". Product management at Facebook has a very specific approach and style vs. Google. If you interview at these larger companies, they'll typically share resources on what they are looking for in their interview process that gives you a specific sense of the style and approach. 0 to 1 product development is special in that your approach for a brand new product space would be quite different vs. making changes to a large and established product and require different skills sets. At larger companies you typically have more resources and support vs. a startup. At a larger company, you'll likely have an analytics team or suite of tools whereas at a startup you'd need to wear that hat and set up basic tracking. 2. Other product related or adjacent roles/titles that come to mind are "Product Analyst" are "Product Operations" or any roles within a Product Analytics org or Product Operations org. My Friend Chloe Shih (Product at Tiktok) has a great youtube video which features some of my advice and others on specifically transitioning into product that might be helpful to check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8o4jFPV2ras
@kristinmchen how old do you have to be to apply for something like an informal internship at top.gg? A role like Frontend Engineer
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Thanks for your question! Currently, Top.gg is not offering internships but we are actively hiring for several full-time roles. You can check out our career page here for the latest updates and apply to any roles where you feel your experience would be a strong fit for the position: https://jobs.lever.co/Medal?department=Top.gg
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in looking back, what mistakes and challenges in your product experience did you learn the most from?
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Here's a couple lessons I've learned that come to mind: 1. Don't only rely on quantitative data for decision making, data can tell you where a fire is but it won't necessarily tell you what's causing it or why. Combining data driven decision making with qualitative data, research, and product sense are key. 2. Work backwards from your customer problem and don't forget your long term vision. I've seen many pms or teams focus on micro % adjustments and miss the bigger picture. And, seen many teams fighting over small metrics adjustments while not keeping what's best for the user or company vision in mind. 3. Most disagreements stem from miscommunications. Set clear expectations for yourself, with your team, stakeholders and leadership and communicate changes. 4. Don't let the loudest users/customers or the ones who spend the most money drown out your smaller ones! This might be more of a challenge for B2B vs. B2C. Stick to your Minimum Lovable Product. Sometimes an MVP isn't truly an MLP. 5. Documentation, Documentation, Documentation -- especially if your team is remote, this will save time and promote better collaboration and lead to less thrash and confusion. 6. Balance product work with tech debt. Many PMs don't think it's their job to think about tech debt but I disagree. Work closely with your engineering manager or partners to ensure there is a healthy balance. I did also cover this topic with Roadmunk for their upcoming season 7 (not sure when it will be released) but here's a link to their podcast which covers several product topics and themes! https://roadmunk.com/product-to-product-podcast
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thanks for such an in depth answer! i appreciate the candidness as there are so many layers to being a product manager.
Hi Kristin! I’m transitioning to a full time product role. What do you wish you’d known when you first started in product. Thanks!!
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Congratulations on your first full time product role! There are SO many things I wish I had known before my first product role at Twitch but I'll list a couple that come to mind: 1. Your users come firstProduct Managers have many different styles but I think user empathy is key. Building for AND with your users and the community is key to building incredibly products -- this doesn't mean build exactly what they tell you to build but it does mean take the time to listen to them and deeply understand their pain points and the problems they are facing. Also, don't forget use your own product. You might be surprised at how many pms I've worked with that do not spend time using their own product. 2. Relationships matteras an IC product manager, no one reports to you but you'll need to work with many cross-functional partners to build and launch your products and features. Build strong relationships with your team, colleagues, and partners. And, don't forget to build these strong relationships with your users and customers. Oftentimes, they will become champions of your product and be great sources of feedback for when you are testing or brainstorming new ideas. I love this quote from Maya Angelou that is also one of my own personal values: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Treating everyone with respect and listening with empathy is key, no matter what someone's level or experience is you have something to learn from them. Also, no one ever likes being treated like a resource. Whenever I start a new role, I try to meet as many people as possible for coffee chats and learn about them personally and professionally. Specifically for my cross functional partners, I try to understand their own goals and challenges and learn their preferences on collaboration and communication. 3. Evangelize your product both internally and externallyThis is key to getting the word out about the amazing products you're building or problems you're solving but also key internally to get the resources or support you need. You can do this in simple ways such as posting news about your product releases/features on LinkedIn or Twitter or actively finding conferences or places where your users and customers are to speak about the product. For example, at Twitch I found out that there was a Gaming Analytics conference in San Francisco that many potential users of the product and related industry folks were attending -- I applied to speak at it so that I could get feedback on my product and start making connections. 4. Done is better than perfectRuthless prioritization and resilience go hand in hand if you want to be a successful product manager. You'll never have all the time and resources you need (no matter if you work at a small or big company). Invest in prioritizing your own time and your team's time. Don't be afraid to jump in and cover where your team needs help to unblock them. If there is something important that needs to be prioritized and you don't have the resources, don't be afraid to jump in and unblock your team. You'll constantly be learning new things. For example, at Twitch we didn't have any UXR (user experience research) support for the org I worked in. I did all of the user research for my team and sought guidance from the researchers and other researchers in my network to make sure I was headed in the right direction and could get myself and my team what we needed to build the best insights product possible (huge shoutout to Alice Rhee!). I also built out all the dashboards for our product because we didn't have any analytics support. At Pinterest, our Product Analyst quit and we didn't have any analyst support, I did all of the product analytics and metrics investigations for our team. 5. Take care of your own mental, physical, and emotional healthIf you don't take care of yourself, how can you take care of your team? I constantly remind myself that it's a marathon, not a sprint and keep long-term objectives in mind. I have a habit of overworking and burning out and felt immense pressure, especially in my first role switching into Product. The biggest advice I have in this area is figure out what self-care means to you and how to incorporate that into your routine. In terms of specific product resources, there are many books and workshops for product management but my #1 recommendation will always be Marty Cagan's books Inspired & Empowered (read Inspired first) and, his product workshops associated with them. These will give you powerful tools and knowledge that will help you in your transition to product management. My friend Peter Yang also wrote a great book called "Principles of Product Management: How to Land a PM Job and Launch Your Product Career" that I recommend as well. Links: https://www.amazon.com/INSPIRED-Create-Tech-Products-Customers-ebook/dp/B077NRB36N/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=inspired&qid=1628876550&s=digital-text&sr=1-1https://www.amazon.com/EMPOWERED-Ordinary-Extraordinary-Products-Silicon-ebook/dp/B08LPKRD5L/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2ROIPW0QN3M1L&dchild=1&keywords=empowered&qid=1628876560&s=digital-text&sprefix=empowered%2Cdigital-text%2C215&sr=1-1https://www.amazon.com/Principles-Product-Management-Launch-Career-ebook/dp/B083D667N2https://svpg.com/https://svpg.com/articles/https://svpg.com/workshops/
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@kristinmchen- Thank you so much for this response! I'm going to digest all of this over the weekend. The time you took to so thoughtfully respond is beyond appreciated!
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Hi Kristin! Do you do mentoring? What's the best way to approach Product Leaders like you as a mentee? Thanks :) Teresa
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If you're looking for a mentor, I recommend approaching someone that you have a relationship with or know through your network. If you're not already connected to the person, I recommend approaching them first to see if they are open for a 1 time chat vs. a mentorship commitment. Once you get to know them or have the initial chat, you can ask them if they would be open to mentoring you. When you do ask about mentorship, be specific about your goals and the time commitment you are looking for. What are you looking to learn? What does mentorship mean to you? How many times would you like to meet, how often, and for how long? Also give the person you are asking for an easy out and say -- if you're not able to take on a mentee at this time, do you know anyone in your network who might be a good match with the goals I am trying to achieve or areas I am working on? I also encourage doing your homework and research before meeting with the mentor. Avoid questions that you can research yourself and google or learn from your mentor's LinkedIn Profile. Instead, frame the questions around what you are looking to learn from their specific experience and how it might help you at work. Here's an example of a real question I have received in the past and how I would improve it: "Can you tell me what JIRA is?". My recommendation would be to research what JIRA is before the call and re-phrase the question to "Right now, I'm trying to figure out the best project management software for my team -- we're evaluating JIRA vs. Asana. Which project management software have you encountered in your experience and what has been a better fit for you at bigger companies vs. smaller companies? How have your teams responded when adjusting to a new tool? " Currently, I only mentor through First Round Capital's Fast Track Program and have been a mentor 4 times through their program (if you're eligible you can apply on their site here: https://fasttrack.firstround.com/). The main reason is I only mentor through this program is because I have to prioritize my time and I also want to offer a great mentoring experience to my mentee. I love that their program is structured program and set as a specific time commitment over a set time period. This allows me to offer my mentee a great experience that meets their expectations and balance that with my other time commitments in my current role as Top.gg CEO and also Board Member at Partners in School Innovation. First Round also does an incredible job of matching mentees to mentors based on their goals, experiences, expertise, and backgrounds. Now, I try to prioritize public and scalable opportunities so that I can provide advice and mentorship to more people such as this Elpha AMA, podcasts, or events on Clubhouse. If you'd like to join our "Perfectly Imperfect" Club here, it's a great space to have real conversations on a variety of topics navigating career path, work life integration etc. that I host with some other amazing Asian Women in Tech Kathy Lee, Rose Jia, and Sophia Xiao. https://www.joinclubhouse.com/club/perfectly-imperfect-clubWhen I was at SoundCloud, I needed to focus on growing and mentoring my own team but I also took on two mentees per 6 months period in the organization. In the past, I used to dedicate ~4 hours per month to 1:1 career or networking chats and help anyone who reached out to me on LinkedIn but I'm unfortunately no longer able to do this with my current responsibilities and commitments. I have seen some others on LinkedIn offer open office hours or 1:1 chats in return to a donation of any amount to a non-profit of their choice. I may consider doing a fundraiser like this in the future when my schedule permits. Hope that this advice is helpful and wishing you the best in finding a mentor that's a great fit with your career goals!
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Thank you so much for doing this!I'm curious how you are thinking about monetization models for a product like top.gg - I'm really interested in the space of discovery space for communities/newsletters etc. Outside of charging for featuring, ads and sponsors, would love to hear about any other models you've seen here!
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My two friends and ex-Twitch colleagues have some great material on this topic. You can check out Peter Yang's newsletter at https://creatoreconomy.so/ and Derek Yang's newsletter https://www.creatoreconomy.us/ that will give you a much more comprehensive response than what I would be able to type here :)