Office Hours: I was Head of Product Design at Product Hunt for the last 8 years. I’m Julie Chabin. AMA!Featured

Hi everyone!

I'm Julie Chabin, and up until very recently, I was the Head of Product Design at Product Hunt.

Before Product Hunt, I was a Senior Product Designer for a San Francisco design studio, helping early-stage startups raise funds and find their first users. Earlier in my career, I led the product design at Deezer, during which we grew from 6,000 to over a million subscribers.

Nowadays, I assist founders with their launch and product strategy and mentor designers. I also write for solo and founding designers, sharing my experience and thoughts about what it's like to wear many hats in a small team.

After 17 years of working non-stop, I have recently decided to take a few months off to work out, read, care for my family, and enjoy the beautiful beaches and walks around Montpellier, France, where I live.

Ask me anything about product design, strategy, launching products, leading remote teams, being a founding designer, or working with fully distributed and multicultural teams.

Thanks so much for joining us @syswarren!Elphas – please ask @syswarren your questions before Friday, August 25th. @syswarren may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hello Julie Chabin!! how rich your story must be with knowledge! congratulations!!! I love design, I'm getting into this area now and I'm in love because you learn a lot. I would like to hear from you about your early years in this career, what was your biggest difficulty? what form do you think is most effective in testing new products? Have you managed to test products remotely too? I hope you'll always be here with us because I'm sure we'll learn a lot!! I wish you the best of holidays!!
Thank you for doing this AMA, Julie! I’ve been a follower for quite some time and happy to see you here:)Can you share more about your transition from IC to head of design to now helping with product strategy? What skills have been invaluable as you made each move? What advice would you give to someone interested in making similar moves?I am thinking about how a designer can move into a strategic role, so your AMA comes at a very good time. 😊Thank you!
Hi Shelly! Thank you for your question. It was interesting because it helped me reflect on how I landed where I am now. My transition started with mentorship. As a senior product designer, I was invited to mentor other designers through an association. At first, I didn’t know what I’d be able to offer. I didn’t see myself as a teacher and thought I’d quickly run out of patience. But I was wrong! I learned from this experience that although I was a designer mentoring other designers, they rarely needed my help on design matters. It was often related to communication, collaboration, and building confidence. With this experience, I started mentoring junior designers at my workplace and was promoted to lead the team. As a designer manager, I only took care of my team and hiring. The transition from designer manager to head of product design wasn't as easy. Management and mentoring were still part of the job but not the majority of it. As a head of product design, I had to know what the entire company (not just the design team) was doing to ensure we created a safe and consistent product. It also meant identifying problems and opportunities and using design to communicate what the future of the product could look like. It's a lot of communication, strategy, and sometimes politics as well. Design is an excellent tool for communication. It is easier to convince people to go in a direction when you can show them what the destination could look like.So, my advice to someone wanting to make a similar transition would be to become a mentor to improve their communication and collaboration skills and build their confidence. And to wait for the right company before moving to become head of product design: you should be there for the long term and believe in what the company is building. Changing leadership too often destabilizes teams and, sadly, kills good companies.
Thank you for this open forum @syswarren. My question is, what key skills are important to build on in order to make a move into product management from another industry?
Coucou Julie! It's so nice to meet you! Thank you for joining us. I grew up in Paris and spent some summers in Montpellier. J'adore cette region!I am curious how did you first got into product design? Was this something you fell into and when did you have that breakthrough that it was what you wanted to do?
Coucou Iynna! Glad to meet someone who knows Montpellier! To answer your question, I've always wanted to work "on the Internet" as soon as I got a computer at home as a teenager. I started making and selling websites when I was 13/14 and decided it'd be my job.I knew how to code, so I studied design: interactive design, multimedia, visual communication, graphic design, and motion design because there were no schools or courses for product design at the time. I was a "web designer" in my first job, and I had never heard about the "product designer" job title. I'm not sure it even existed at the time. At work, I primarily developed new features for an online video player. I shared what I did publicly. Showed progress, talked about experiments, and two years into my career, someone from Facebook shared my portfolio online and called me a "product designer"… As a result, I was contacted by several companies wanting to hire me as a product designer. So, I guess I fell into it by accident, and someone just put the proper label on my job.
Similar question to @shellyoh What techniques do you use to think of strategic vision and how do you present it gain buy-in? I recently moved from Product Manager to Senior Product Manager and think I have mastered the tactical, but want to sharpened skills related to strategy and long term North Stars. Thank you in advance!
What is a piece of advice you can give recent new grads looking to land their first full-time role? Also, is there anything you see in entry-level/junior UX designers that you would recommend they stop doing?
Hi Julie! So excited to hear from you here. I am a first marketer at an early stage SaaS cross-collaboration startup for creatives + marketers. I relate to all the hats you've worn; I'm currently wearing MANY hats myself — UX copy, product marketing, onboarding materials, email marketing, acquisition and retention of our first users (to name a few). I really loved your newsletter about how good UI can't fix bad copy.From your time at Product Hunt, do you see any themes in the "stickiest" SaaS products that people grow to love? Any tips for acquiring (and delighting!) those first 100 users and unlock their passion for the product? thanks in advance for sharing your time and expertise with this community!
Hi there! Wow, you do wear many hats. I hope you are having fun and it's not too much work on your plate. Happy to hear you liked my newsletter. To answer your question, from my experience, the most successful SaaS products I’ve seen embraced genuine user engagement and continuous problem-solving. If I were to start a SaaS company tomorrow, here is the strategy I’d follow to get my first 100 users (and have them stick for the long run):  1. I’d choose a problem that resonates with me. A problem I understand because I’ve experienced it. Something I really want to be fixed. Most founders I’ve seen succeed show passion for what they are doing and don't give up easily. 2. I’d constantly research and talk to people. These days, problems evolve fast, and when you’re building a solution, it’s easy to lose sight of the real problem users need help with. Research and discussion would help me stay aligned with users’ needs. 3. I’d be as transparent as possible. Most successful makers share all the time: milestones, setbacks, learnings, and progress. It helps build trust with potential users and build presence. 4. I’d remember that launches are the start of a conversation, not the end of a project. Most successful products use their launches to engage with potential users, get feedback, and help inform a new roadmap.5. I’d show appreciation. Recognize and thank the people for their insights, feedback, and encouragement. It fosters a sense of community.Let me know what you think and thank you for your comment.
Thank you @syswarren for this opportunity. Can you talk about how you transitioned into product strategy from product design?
Hi Glory! Thank you for your question!It was a very natural evolution, primarily due to my work environment. I mostly worked at early-stage startups, where responsibilities were often unclear, and the teams didn't have product leads. As the only product designer, I collaborated closely with the founders on the overall product direction. As the companies grew, founders gained more and more responsibilities, slowly preventing them from doing product work. I ended up doing more product strategy.For me, a product designer does product. When I hire product designers, I test them on their product sense. Not just on their design skills. Moreover, I've always believed everyone at a startup, engineers, designers, community management… can have a role in shaping a product. I only decided to enroll in a product strategy course because I lost confidence in my skills and experience after being told designers don't do "product." While the course reinforced my experiences more than teaching me new concepts, it helped me validate my skills. In hindsight, I know I did it because I was insecure, and I still believe everyone can participate in product strategy, no matter their job title.TL;DR: My transition was a natural outcome of working at early-stage startups, and I later completed my training with courses and certificates. Early-stage startups are great environments to learn new skills.
Hi Julie! Excited for this AMA! I was wondering in searching for founding designer communities, what are some of the communities you’d recommend?
Ooh I like Product Hunt. It has a tendency to follow the trends of the time hardcore (Compare metaverse offerings from this year to last year), so it's a good way to see where to cash in quickly on.What is a positive change you saw implemented at Product Hunt?
Hi Morgan! Trends: smart way to use Product Hunt 📈Just to make sure I answer your question correctly: do you want to know about changes in general as a company or in product/tech? If it’s about the company in itself, I think the most positive change I saw in the most recent years was the “Wellness Monday” Even though we have unlimited PTO, every first Monday of the month is a holiday for the entire company. That’s 12 3-day weekends per year, and I am thankful for those.Other than that, we tried so many different frameworks, tools, and principles, but from experience, good things only happen when there is strong leadership that believes in what they are doing. No framework or tools can replace that.
Hi Julie, thank you for sharing!What advice would you give a mid level product designer who wants to grow their skills? And do you have any suggestions for finding mentorship outside of your organization?
Hi Gina! For me, tackling a side project is the best way to grow your skills as a mid-level product designer. Especially if no ongoing projects at work allow you to develop your skills. With a side project, you own the thing entirely: if you never do prototypes at work, create one; if you want to learn more about branding, create a brand for the project. A side project can be a great experience, and it also can be helpful in job interviews, so it's a win-win.As for mentorship, you can check Hexagon UX, or don't be shy and contact a designer you look up to and ask if you can talk to them. They often say yes. I know I do! Thank you for your question!