This week on Product Love, I sat down with Dheerja Kaur, the Chief Product Officer of theSkimm. TheSkimm is a subscription-only newsletter aimed at female millennials. Originally a newsletter, they’ve now expanded their services into the video, audio, and mobile spaces.
Before theSkimm, Dheerja majored in industrial engineering with the goal of breaking into the finance industry, much like all her peers at the time. But instead, her love of sports led her away from finance and to ESPN. She walked into a campus interview without any idea what they were looking for, bombed the interview, but still got the job.
After a decade at ESPN, where she took various engineering stints before moving into a product role, she joined theSkimm.
On this week’s episode, we talk about building alignment and being an evangelist for your product.
Building Product Alignment
An indicator of a great product team is clear alignment with the product roadmap and long-term vision. Rather than having a single authority holding the product close to them and delegating tasks, each team member should by default be thinking about the product and how to improve it.
Dheerja’s goal within the product team at theSkimm is to make sure everyone has the right context. Every PM on her team has a general area that they own, and during each quarter, they work toward a specific objective within the product. Ultimately, her goal is to ensure that they’re confident enough to make their own decisions. Dheerja takes on the role of an advisor; she empowers her team members and guides them if they need context, accountability, and perspective.
Dheerja doesn’t hand out tasks on a week-to-week basis. Instead, she believes strategy isn’t about adhering to a cycle of delegation, but thoughtfully and carefully empowering your team to make and own their product decisions.
Evangelizing the Product
Dheerja details the steps she takes to align her own product team to a shared vision, but what about getting the entire company on board? At theSkimm, they often find it best when alignment comes from the top. Their leadership team determines the company vision, and that naturally starts to translate into what the roadmap will look like. Afterward, it’s easy to start evangelizing the product strategy within the company.
Dheerja suggests team spotlight presentations in which everyone is contributing to the product in some way. She also recommends creating a “squad model,” a cross-functional team focused on a single goal, just to ensure that everyone has a part in creating that vision.
Want to know why soft skills are important to Dheerja, and how to scale your product? Check out this week’s episode above. Remember to subscribe to us on iTunes and leave a review.