Yue-Jing Lee

Product Management Between Coasts: Adapting to NYC and Silicon Valley Philosophies

Product Manager responsibilities can vary depending on the company size, industry, and location. On 10/16, our NYC chapter launch focused on exploring the unique qualities that define Product Management in Silicon Valley and New York.  Despite heavy rain and the accompanying subway delays, we had a good showing with highly engaged attendees for our discussion on Contrasting PM Disciplines Between Coasts with a distinguished panel of successful women in product who were selected for their experience in operating across both coasts.  The panelists were:
●     Charlie Javice, Founder & CEO of FRANK., who had raised $15.5 million Series A round from venture capital firms across coasts and internationally;
●    Erica Windisch, Founder & CTO of IO|pipe, who has worked internationally building and selling products to technology teams across coasts;
●     Veronica Pinchin, Director of Product Management at Sidewalk Labs, who has extensive product management experience working for technology companies on both coasts.
The panel was moderated by Crystal Huang, who is a Principal
at New Enterprise Associates.
The topic generated lively discussions about FRANK., IO|pipe, and Sidewalk Labs’ philosophy with regards to product management in addition to discussion about the different aspects of product development,
contrasting the approach to culture, hiring, and style between the East Coast and West Coast.  Here are some of the key takeaways:

Philosophy on Product and Its Role in the Company
●     East Coast – technology is a business enabler for accomplishing their mission and vision.  Companies such as FRANK (Fintech) and
Sidewalk Labs (Urban Planning) are great examples where technology supports their business model, but is not the fundamental business driver. To accomplish their mission, they create products that enable them to better provide those services.
●     West Coast – there are more businesses where the product is the business. Facebook and Google are examples of companies where the product is the business.
This can lead to different philosophies on product manager responsibilities and sometimes a conflict between business and product strategy. In companies where technology is the core business, these two strategies are one in the same. In New York, there tend to be more General Manager hires who lead business strategy while Product Managers are responsible
for creating the technology to fulfill this vision.
Focus on Revenue Generation
●      Venture capital firms based on the East Coast emphasize having a fast cycle to revenue generation and profitability and can skew towards being more risk-averse.
●      On the West Coast, VC’s prioritize company vision and engagement metrics over path to profitability.
New York is a growing investment hub for venture capital and as more West Coast firms expand out east, we’ll continue to observe if this mindset begins to shift
Philosophy on Product Management Hires
●     Associate Product Management programs abound in
Silicon Valley, which results in many PMs who entered Product Management early in their careers
●      Alternatively, the East Coast features more professionals who transition into Product Management after gaining experience in banking, consulting and other industries. This can present a challenge for tech companies looking to hire for junior roles.
●     These backgrounds lead to PMs who heavily utilize frameworks and have a metrics-driven approach
With the diversity in experience in East Coast Product Management, tech-enabled businesses can skew towards looking for PMs with domain expertise. That being said, there is an incredible startup ecosystem in
NYC and also tech titans such as Google, Adobe and Amazon that are eager to hire product generalists.
Business / Product Team Culture
●     There is more cultural diversity in the make-up of the company/product team based in New York City (47% of tech employees[1] are from another country!).  It is not uncommon to have people from Germany, France, India, China, Israel, etc. working on the same team. 
●     It’s been well documented that diversity increases
innovation and drives financial performance[2]. With geographical diversity, East Coast companies incorporate a variety of perspectives and can address global opportunities that further expand their market reach.
Based on our observations of differences in product management philosophies and the East Coast’s emphasis on profitability, aspiring product managers on the East Coast should leverage their domain knowledge as unique skill set when making the transition into product management. There are fewer opportunities to be trained as an Associate
Product Manager in New York, and we encourage those interested in transitioning to find a community that you can learn and grow with, such as AWIP, and to seek out sponsors who can guide you to achieve key milestones.
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