Office Hours: I’m a Director of Product Management at Amplitude. I’m Abbie Kouzmanoff. AMA!Featured

Hi Elphas!

I’m Abbie Kouzmanoff, and I’m a Director of Product Management at Amplitude.

I joined Amplitude as a Product Manager and grew into my current role over the past four years as the company scaled, first growing as an IC before transitioning into people management. I’ve seen the product team scale from just a couple PMs to a larger, multi-product organization and experienced the company transitioning from public to private in my time at Amplitude.

Before Amplitude, I was a Growth Product Manager at Dropbox focused on driving revenue for the self-serve business. At Dropbox, I worked on growth marketing, payments, free trial conversion, and activation.

I majored in psychology and linguistics in my undergrad, which I credit to inadvertently helping me find my passion for experimentation and user psychology.

During my downtime, you can find me at the movies, listening to true crime podcasts and Taylor Swift, or exploring around the Bay Area.

Ask me anything about product, being a manager, my favorite Taylor era, pivoting from growth to core product, growing your career internally, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @abbiekouz!Elphas – please ask @abbiekouz your questions before Friday, August 18th. @abbiekouz may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Thank you Abbie for taking the time to answer questions on our Office Hours segment this week! Grateful for you :) We recently had a super fun OH with Dianna Yau who also comes from a on tech background and has had an equally incredible career as a PM. This brings me to ask you do you think non tech PM (eg background in liberal arts/humanities/research) make better PMs and if so why? What are your best first time manager tips? :) And lastly, perhaps the most important question, which city did you go for the Era's tour and what's your favourite song? :)I'll tell you mines: love story and i knew you were trouble :)
Hi @iynna, thanks for asking and glad to be here!First, I think PMs with non-technical backgrounds definitely make great PMs! I believe in the idea that people have different spikes/strengths and that it's best to build diverse teams that are made up of people with different strengths. I also think a technical background can range in relevance depending on the PM role - some teams require more technical expertise than others. I think skills that often come w/liberal arts backgrounds that are critical for PMs include writing/communication/storytelling, ability to debate an idea, openness to different perspectives, critical/analytical thinking, love of learning. I have a few tips for first time managers!- One is to familiarize yourself with the idea of situational leadership, which is relevant for all leaders, not just managers. You want to understand the difference between telling/directing and coaching/guiding. Certain situations call for different approaches, but if you spend too much time on the "directing/telling" area, you're probably not giving your team enough room to grow and find their own answers (here's one article on this: Related, but I was once told not to own more than 20% of a 1:1 agenda or to speak more than 20% of the time -- it's your report's time. No rule is hard or fast, but it's a good thing to check yourself on!- Spend time better understanding your report's motivations and "why" so you can help them achieve that v. only focus on getting to the next level. Build trust by also sharing your own- Set a habit of regular feedback, and also ask for feedback on how you are doing as a manager. I've been able to adjust my style for different members on my team based on how they wanted me to show up (it's different for each person)I went to the tour in Santa Clara! It was absolutely amazing, especially the Red era :) My favorite song changes, but I'd have to say either Should've Said No or Death by a Thousand Cuts!
Thanks so much for doing this @abbiekouz My question to you is about working cross-functionally. What are some qualities in product analysts that have really come in handy and allowed you/your team to be successful and what have the PMs on your team done to enable that?
Thanks for the question!There's a few things that come to mind:- Ensure the analyst has a strong understanding of the product strategy, product, user, and team goals. Don't start by piling on a list of questions for an analyst, but take time to bring them up to speed. That leads to the analyst frequently coming up with better questions to answer than the PM would have.- Don't look at quant in isolation of qual. Great analysts will recommend qual research when it makes more sense and use that research to uplevel their work. PMs can help by conducting that research and by setting up joint mtgs btw analysts, research, and PM to leverage everyone's expertise on how to get the learnings you want.- Asking the "why" behind a question and what you will do with that info. Too often we ask a ton of questions without stepping back to understand what the outcome will be once we have the answer. PMs can ask themselves that question before meeting with an analyst or recommend it be part of an analyst request intake form if that type of process exists.- Connect product data to business impact. Great product analysts will question why certain behavior matters to the business, and PMs can help enable this by ensuring their product strategy also does.- They drive self-service where possible. They set up frameworks, office hours, templates, trainings, etc. to offload simpler questions. PMs can enable this by spending the time to uplevel their own capabilities -- Product leadership can push for these resources.- PMs should treat analytics as a partner in forming strategy, the same way design and engineering are, including them in kickoffs, design reviews, user calls, etc. when possibleLet me know if this doesn't answer your question!
Hi @abbiekouz, thanks for hosting! What are your best tips for growing your career within the same company?
Hi @abbiekouz, I have a Data Science background and struggle to answer product case study questions during interviews even though there are tons of prep materials. How does someone with a technical background develop a product sense and be able to think through product questions more naturally?
Hi @nadya01! Thanks for the question!Case studies are tough and honestly often pretty unnatural, so I get it. I would suggest:- Look outside material specifically aimed at prepping for case studies and try reading books that talk about product. Good examples are "The Build Trap", "Inspired", or "Build" (Tony Fadell). This might help you connect more with how product builders think.- Practice live with people to improve your delivery.- One question that sometimes is asked is a series of questions about an app on your phone that you like. Try thinking about a range of products you either really like or hate -- without trying to use any product-specific terms, why is that? What does your own intuition tell you?Good luck with interviews!
Hi @abbiekouz, thanks for sharing your experience with us! When hiring a Product Manager, what specific qualities are you searching for that set them apart from other candidates?
Thanks for the question, @ewelina! Here are a few things I look for:- Storytelling - this is critical for motivating a team and communicating strategy effectively. We typically assess this by asking PM candidates to walk through a product bet they've shipped in a presentation panel. Can they effectively paint the picture from user problem and persona through to results and learnings?- Learnings-focused - they have really thoughtful learnings to share from each of their past projects. Someone who can consistently apply learnings to the product, process, and themself. If there's nothing they would have done differently or nothing about a release that changed or influenced the upcoming roadmap, that can be a flag.- Collaboration - do they see engineering and design as partners who uplevel their work and have examples of this?- Ability to stakeholder manage and incorporate/navigate a wide range of often opposing opinions- Analytical - they don't rely solely on analysts to measure and understand quant impact, and they have examples of how the products they worked on moved quantitative metrics (ensure they aren't just working in a feature factory)-They think big, but are able to break down larger goals and visions into smaller iterations. They learn along the way v. suddenly dropping a large feature release- Don't underestimate the importance of a solid "why X company" answer
Thank you!
Wow amazing experience and skills! Any chance you can offer insight into what stands out on your resume? I have not beem able to land a new job and recently got feedback my resume does not read like a PM's resume. I have updated it so many times for each job post I have applied to and feel stuck!
Hi Abbie! What are your current favorite true crime podcasts? I'm always looking for new recommendations.
Hi Abbie!I’m Alex. Nice to meet you, we appreciate the time you are spending to answer some of our questions and give us some insights. I am an ex-Accenture Quality Assurance Engineering Manager with close to 10 years of experience. I find that my strengths align better with Product Management and at the moment I'm brainstorming ways I can start my own product to practice product thinking. In case you are curious my Clifton's strengths are : empathy, adaptability, developer, relator and harmony. I think what attracts me to product management is all the skills that need to be applied, the impact that it has on customers, the collaborations with the different teams and practicing innovation and thinking outside the box.You possess a very impressive experience, I would love to know your thoughts:1. What are some of the challenges you face as a product manager and how do you approach them?2. Could you tell us about any wins and losses from your experience that have helped shape you in your role?3. What makes a stellar PM candidate? ( key areas you look at)4. Have you ever build your own personal product and what was it? If you haven't, what would you love to build?Thank you and take care!
Thank you @abbiekouz! I'm a product manager and co-founder in health tech looking for my next opportunity. What's your advice for standing out as a stellar PM during this process? My second question what techniques do you use to lead other PMs?
Hi Abbie! Thanks for joining us for Office Hours :) I'm so curious about your background in psychology and linguistics and how you found your path into product management. Was it an obvious path for you? What signals did you read into throughout your career to get to where you are?
Hi Josefina! I was lucky enough to start my career in a rotational program at Dropbox, where I was able to try a few different roles (sales ops, growth marketing, and then growth product). I liked each role for different reasons, but I distinctly remember a moment during my growth marketing rotation where we were brainstorming different user populations we could target for various upsells based on their behavior and how we would design the experiments. In the meeting, I remember feeling a "click" -- almost like a lightbulb moment. During my undergrad, I had done psych research and used stats to look at how various experiences would have a significant effect on subsequent behavior (in my case, was focused on how violent video games impacted players' views!). I suddenly realized I could do something similar in tech, but have the results back in days/weeks v. months/years and tie what I did directly to immediate impact. I was always someone who loved getting back results on exams or projects, and it felt like getting quant learnings back on an experiment and being able to measure my exact impact really fit with my results-driven personality.What I've found is looking for those "spark" moments where you really connect to something in the work you're doing has helped guide me to a role I love. I've been given advice to reflect back on moments in your career where you felt like you were really at a peak and to evaluate why that was. For me, I've discovered my values are learning, recognition, and fun. Knowing that has really helped guide me toward projects and roles that are personally and professionally fulfilling.
Hi Abbie, thanks so much for being here! It srsly could not have come at a better time.For context, I'm a product designer and I just joined our growth team at UpGuard (B2B SaaS). I'm also currently the interim PM atm. The team was formed 3 months ago and is still v much in its infancy stage. We have a very strong sales and customer success team, however we are hoping to improve our overall customer experience through applying PLG/PLS.We are in the middle of hiring our first Senior Product Manger for our growth team and I'm super stoked to find the right person who:🔥 Enjoys bringing method to the madness. They have the ability to set a vision, define a strategy and set ambitious goals that get their teams fired up.📊 Loves data + iterative experimentation. They have a history of delivering measurable results for both users and the business.🧠 Thinks big and small to build a portfolio of experiments and larger features. They're comfortable with trying out new ideas as you are optimising existing flows.---My question for you is: what traits/past experience do you look out for when assessing a stellar product manager? Especially someone who would have to create new "playbooks" for a newly created team.Here is the JD for reference: Thanks so much again!!!
Hi @JennyBounmivilay! Thanks for the question!First of all - love how you summarized what you're looking for and also thought the job posting was really clear. Amplitude is actually going through this same process of putting more firepower behind our PLG/PLS motion when we've historically been more focused on enterprise sales, so a lot of it felt highly familiar :).Here's a few ideas on traits/experience I would look for/have looked for in the past:- I would look for people who've been the first Growth PM, PM, or other similar function at another company. If they haven't done it before, I would dig in to make sure they understand what that will look like in the interview. I imagine given there's a strong sales/CS function, there will be debates and potential conflict around making the change. It might be important to ensure they can handle navigating these conversations and are excited about that challenge.- This might be obvious, but don't understate the importance of a solid "why UpGuard" answer.- Someone who is great at storytelling -- this is critical for motivating a team and communicating strategy effectively. We typically assess this by asking PM candidates to walk through a product bet they've shipped in a presentation panel. For this role, if they're developing new playbooks and processes, communication to get people behind them will be key.- "Thinks big and small to build a portfolio of experiments and larger features." really resonates with me. I look for people who strive for a 10x vision but get there through iterations. Especially for Growth, can they break down a bigger goal into smaller pieces?- My guess is there will be a lot of trial/error in figuring out how to best measure success since this is a new error. One q I love to ask to get at aptitude of managing a metric and measuring success is: "Tell me a time when you had to evolve/change the metric you were tracking. Why?"Good luck w your hiring! The role sounds exciting!
How can a Data Scientist become a PM? I've ran into so many rejections but I know that my skill set, ability and talent is capable. What are some good interviewing resource guides or other ways to convey your worth to hiring teams? Thank you!
Hi @abbiekouz! Thanks for doing this AMA. I’ve been a PM for many years but have done a poor job of keeping a personal record of my product wins and artifacts. I had a manager early in my career who said it’s all company IP and forbid me from saving copies of anything and I (naively/wrongly) took that advice too far and only have recollections about tenure-long business impact which I feel lacks the specificity for interviews these days.(1) Do you keep a personal record or portfolio of your work products and accomplishments as a PM? And if you do, do you have a recommended process (tools, cadence, template, etc)? Should I be making a personal copy of everything I “produce” at work?(2) In the absence of these detailed hard records, how do you recommend reflecting on a 15+ year product career and speaking to accomplishments in interviews? What is most important for Senior candidates to demonstrate, especially when probed for very specific details?Thanks!