Claire Vo is SVP Product Management at Optimizely. We caught up with Vo to ask her about culture, tools, KPIs and the daily routine.
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Please describe your job: What do you do?
Claire Vo: As the SVP of Product Management, I run all of Optimizely’s product strategy, our product development as well as our product design team. In a nutshell, it means I look after our product roadmap and manage a team dedicated to making our platform the best in the market. One of my main goals with our roadmap and product strategy is to drive deep customer empathy within the entire organisation.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Claire Vo: As in any leadership role, you need to be able to hire, develop, and motivate a great team of people. I’m lucky in that I have the most talented group of product managers I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.
Product teams are all about prioritisation, so being able to set clear and succinct strategic priorities for the team and find effective ways to communicate these across the organisation is important.
Data should be at the heart of all decision making, so deep data analysis skills are critical for evaluating opportunities and impact of product initiatives.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Claire Vo: Every morning, I walk my 2-year-old to daycare and listen to a podcast on the way to work.
Depending on the day, I start my mornings with team meetings or 1:1s with my leaders. This gives me good visibility into everyone’s priorities, potential blockers, and things to focus on that day.
Often before lunch, I’ll connect with the CXO group or a peer from another group, checking in on cross-functional initiatives our teams may be working on together.
I leave the afternoons for hands-on work–reviewing PRDs, interviewing candidates, and forming quarterly and annual plans. I try to at least give myself a solid hour or two with no meetings to get work done!
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
Claire Vo: The best thing about my role is that I get to work with some of the brightest product managers I’ve ever met and see them build things that have a true impact on some of the largest businesses in the world.
Experimentation is an essential practice for business management, especially when you are working in the digital world. The idea that everything in a company can be an experiment is incredibly empowering, reduces the fear of failure, and opens everyone up to be much more creative. However, there is so much opportunity and without the resources that multi-billion dollar companies have, there is lots of work ahead to realise our ultimate vision.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Claire Vo: Our goals are focused on our customers being successful with experimentation. We focus on getting companies to do more experimentation, in more parts of their code, across more teams in their organisation, because ultimately–we want customers to build a true culture of experimentation.
We use monthly activity numbers to measure these specific attributes to get a sense of the health of our customer.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Claire Vo: A lot of my work is around influencing and informing the company about our product strategy, which means I spend a lot of time making effective presentations in Google Slides.
We use Segment to do all of our analytics instrumentation, and use different tools downstream–from querying in the data warehouse to running experiments in Optimizely–to analyse and action that data.
How did you end up at Optimizely, and where might you go from here?
Claire Vo: As a third generation female entrepreneur, it didn’t take me long to quit my corporate role to start one of my own. After a few unsuccessful startup ideas, a far-flung move to Hong Kong, I launched Experiment Engine. I ran that company for three years before it was acquired by Optimizely. As part of the acquisition, I moved from Austin, Texas to San Francisco with my husband and now two year-old toddler.
In terms of what’s next: Optimizely still has a really exciting story to tell, and I love seeing experimentation being taken on as a business critical practice. I’m looking forward to building out our product vision and bringing some exciting new things to market.
After that, who knows? I love running big product teams, but being a founder again has its appeal. All I know is I like to keep busy!
Which customer experiences do you admire?
Claire Vo: I’ve been a customer of Rent the Runway, a subscription clothing company, for years. It’s been such a help since as an executive (and a mom!) you have lots of need for one-off clothing items–conferences, customer visits, networking events, and even holidays.
What I like about the experience is that it’s multi-touch and convenient. I can manage my account from my phone, including seeing what I currently have rented, what’s new in inventory, and getting help via chat. I can also swap and return in whatever way is most convenient. They have a store in San Francisco I can walk to from the office if I want to return and select something new in person, or if I want a wider array of options, I can use their easy, free 2-day shipping.
Finally, it’s clear they’ve thought of the little things: their return garment bags are thoughtfully designed, their emails are cute and personalised, I never have to worry about dry cleaning, and their stores play great music!
If you think about it, a monthly subscription for designer clothes for years is a huge investment (this is definitely a high LTV product!), and so I appreciate the thought and effort Rent the Runway puts into making me feel like I’m getting a really good deal across everything they do for me.
Do you have any advice for marketers struggling to create a customer-centric culture?
Claire Vo: Bring together the quantitative and qualitative in everyone’s job across the business.
For the quantitative, make sure: does everyone in the company have all (or even any) data to make the right decisions? Is it accessible? Do they have the skills to understand it? Whenever someone brings up an initiative, decision, or question ask: “What data do we have that can help guide us in the right direction?”
For the qualitative, there is just nothing better than spending time with customers in real life. Sometimes companies can get abstracted from their own customers, especially when they are measured as MUVs or conversion rates. These are real people, and getting to spend face-to-face time with them to really understand the impact of your product on their lives is critical. My product managers spend lots of time with our customers, and it makes us more customer-centric.
Consume your own product whenever you can. We call this “drink your own champagne”–experience your funnel first-hand from signing up, purchasing, onboarding (or unwrapping), using, and getting help with your product. See what’s annoying or delightful to your personally. Bring this into your product to make it better.