Jordan Lamborn - Product Manager @Slice, ex-Expedia

I am a product manager at Slice, a company that is committed to helping local businesses thrive against the big guys. I am a strategic thinker. I am an idea guy. I like to say that I can have an opinion or an idea on anything, but that doesn't mean they are all good ideas so beware. I try not to take myself too seriously and I love to write. In fact, one of the things that drew me into product management was the community of product managers and leaders who openly share their knowledge and regular learnings and failures online through channels like Medium.

What does your typical day look like?

When I'm not jumping straight into a meeting bright and early, I will first check slack for messages from folks I work with. Those are other product people, engineers, other partners, or anyone on my team. I will check in on our analytics tool to look at metrics. Once I get my bearings for the new day, I will do some project management. That involves, checking in on work in progress, fleshing out cards in our Kanban tool, etc... As I get through all of the more urgent, tactical needs of the day, I will go to my happy place - that is, thinking big and strategically. I am continually looking for opportunities (discovery), investigating questions by pulling data with SQL queries or working on the team and product strategy. Our current strategy and roadmap are always being maintained.

Why did you choose to become a product manager? How do you see things differently than the rest?

I started out as a general online marketer, doing small gigs or working for small businesses. I joined Expedia as an SEO Specialist and this team sat in a marketing org at the company. I was surrounded by marketing and knew the other marketing teams well. Very early on at Expedia, I became interested in Product Management, though I did not know what Product Management was at the time. It took several years to piece this all together. Also, during this time (2014 and onwards), I would learn later, Product Management was changing.

I watched a lot of smart marketers and product people navigate problems with relentless experimentation, hypothesizing, and learnings from data-based insights. This hypothesizing was fascinating to me and I embraced this early on. On the other hand, I watched a lot of marketers work in the opposite way.

I saw a lot of decisions being made based on very limited data, impulsive reactions, and focus on moving lines up and to the right instead of actually learning why and how situations are working the way they do. This contrast helped me decide I wanted to move into the product. I wanted to solve problems. I wanted to build solutions but in a thoughtful way, where I could be confident that I was doing the right things.

What's the one thing that you absolutely love about your job?

I love developing and owning a strategy. I enjoy learning from others around me and doing this planning in partnership with these people that are smarter than me. Of course, there is always a balance of strategy and execution, but strategic thinking is my favorite!

What are some of the cool things that you are working on currently?

In one area, we are building a product at a foundational level and we are excited as we see this growth verses our competitors, but most importantly excited about what this growth means for our customers (local businesses).

Another exciting part is actually managing a team of people. This is really fun. I enjoy investing in people and helping them develop.

Slice is operating in a very cool space. Since the pandemic, local businesses have had to figure out the digital world to survive. But they are generally at a technological disadvantage versus the bigger players. These big guys are eating up market share and bragging about it in their earnings calls. Meanwhile, the "mom and pop" shops are struggling. This is a really exciting place to work because we have a relevant, important mission and we are positioned to make a difference for "real people".

Do you follow any product/prioritization frameworks when making decisions? If yes, what are some of the top frameworks that you recommend, and why?

First, Martin Erikkson's Decision Stack shaped my views on product strategy. I highly recommend googling this and watching some Mind The Product recordings on this.

I really like the Now, Next, Later framework for structuring a high-level roadmap and even for communicating priorities. It can be modified for different needs. For example, Short-term, Next, Later.... Now, Next, Later, Consider...

Prioritization frameworks - I have actually written several articles on prioritization, but I do not endorse anyone's prioritization method. I have literally studied all of them and I have an evolving article at Product Coalition with 140+ prioritization-related frameworks - the most complete prioritization resource on the internet. I do not like RICE and I have also written about that.

The best prioritization technique, I believe, will be one that is very specific to your product vision and current strategy ("current", that is, the prioritization framework should constantly change with the strategy).

I will say this - there are 4 things that should be accounted for in any prioritization effort (whether it is a score, a matrix, or your own mental model). These are the Customer value, Strategic alignment, Business value, Confidence level in these values. There are many many other great criteria to consider, but I find that 2-3 of these 4 are often missing from the most popular frameworks.

What’s the one tool you couldn’t do your job without, and which very people know about?

I can't think of any one tool that I could not do my job without! Today, there is always an alternative, even if it isn't my personal favorite.

What's something that you learned/realized recently in your work journey that you wish you knew earlier?

I wish I would have learned and appreciated more about User Experience design. I'd recommend diving into various heuristics in the UX and interaction design space.

What's the one mistake you've done and will advise others not to repeat?

Missing stakeholders and accidentally leaving some people out of the loop who would be impacted by work you are doing.

What are some of your biggest inspirations that help you get up and do your best work?

Our CEO, Ilir Sela, and teams working closely with our B2B partners often share stories or letters they get from these local restaurant owners and their gratitude for the work we are doing. This has built an inspired work culture for sure.

What would you recommend to people who want to start their careers in your space?

Start being a product manager where you are. Even if it is not your title, you can develop product sense and start thinking like a product manager anywhere. Now, fair warning, as you develop this, if you are in a bad team that does not respect these ways of thinking and operating, it could be painful. I have found though, that pushing these limits usually turns out ok.

As for the food tech space that Slice is in, or web product management, the skills are mostly the standard ones. Learn about experimentation, how to analyze data, and think critically.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

I tell everyone to join Medium.

It is the best $5 you'll spend. There is so much content there from product managers. It is a valuable resource. Contribute there also to feedback into the community.

If you make this decision by reading this recommendation, using this link gives me a little kickback

Join Medium with my referral link - Jordan Lamborn
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