I work at Klaviyo (eCommerce marketing platform) as a Senior Product Manager.
What I do - I scope and manage feature development for the SMS marketing vertical, primarily focused on conversational messaging and integrations.
How big is it?
Klaviyo as a whole has ~1,000 employees. My primary team consists of 6 engineers, 1 designer, 1 data analyst. I additionally lead 2 other projects involving AI (2 data scientists, 2 engineers) & Integrations (4 engineers).
Where are your teammates located?
Mainly in Boston, Massachusetts.
What does your team do? What are you responsible for?
My SMS team is primarily responsible for a two-way texting interface between agent and customer. We utilize AI to assist agents in providing suggested or automated responses and integrate with various helpdesk & "text 2 buy" vendors.
My role is to create the vision and build functionality for a two-way text messaging platform that allows our clients to grow their businesses through real time conversations with their customers.
Collaboration is key. Finding an effective way to have each individual member contribute makes a team. There is a lot of autonomy between team check-ins so setting goals and trusting that your team members are handling their workload is important. Also, separating a department into smaller teams, so that group members can focus their skillset on a particular area and build a strong working relationship with one another.
I tend to find a lot of value that has come out from employees transitioning into remote work. Due to the nature of being virtual, most communication is written and tends to be more concise and can be referenced later. Context from a meeting is often lost, discussion points can be missed while note taking and responses are typically not as well thought out in real time.
I encourage my team to write out questions or showcase work in the team Slack channel so everybody can be informed / benefit from the discussion.
Setting attainable goals at the beginning of the week with the team and measuring how they were achieved at the end of the week has helped our team stay focused and work towards a bigger picture.
To track progress, we meet daily for a quick stand-up and post an update of what we did yesterday and what we plan on doing today. At the end of the week, we typically will have a team member provide a demo of progress they made or showcase something they learned over the week.
A common practice is to mention themes that we should either Start, Stop or Continue to continuously improve. We believe each win should be celebrated and typically awarded with an expensed meal or gift card for completing projects. “Shout Outs” are publicly announced for people that have gone above and beyond.
Brainstorming and whiteboarding is the one thing that I truly think cannot be replaced.
I think the biggest challenge is building a personal relationship with your colleagues. Because most meetings are virtual and have multiple people, it is common that the team will just start diving into the planned agenda. I’ve found, there is often a lack of general conversation that you would normally get when you run into each other in the hall or elevator.
To combat this, I schedule regular 1-on-1 cadences and reserve time just to talk face to face. Even if the meeting is virtual, I am not distracted doing “other things” and get to focus on the individual’s reactions to have a better gauge by viewing their body language.
Additionally I set aside “watercooler” time each day where I open a live chat room where anybody from my team can pop-in and collaborate or just simply chit-chat which has been very effective in building relationships with co-workers.
Also, being able to successfully conduct a meeting and keep people engaged is a challenge for anybody. It is important to make sure everybody is participating. I tend to ask a lot of questions to make sure everybody has a clear understanding or allow them to voice their opinion, which will help contribute to the team's success.
Finally, brainstorming and whiteboarding is the one thing that I truly think cannot be replaced. Be sure to set aside at least once a quarter to either meet in person or have a longer duration meeting in which you throw a bunch of ideas on the wall and dedicate time to discuss and evaluate each individual idea.
We share photos from vacations, meet quarterly, have virtual team lunches.
In the past, we would rent an Airbnb house, BBQ, and do an escape room or scavenger hunt.
We have shared Trivia or interesting facts of the week then try to relate that back to work. Additionally I participate in Fantasy Football / March Madness bracket / The Bachelor type competitions. Our department has a book club that they discuss weekly.
One icebreaker game that stood out to me during onboarding was we spent 5 mins listing out all the things we had in common and then a separate 5 mins listing out things we didn’t have in common. At the end of time, we saw that our group who have never met each other clearly had a lot more in common than differences.
So my takeaway was to speak more openly about my personal life rather than being reserved. People tend to try to find something relatable from their experiences and will spark entirely new conversation or relationships.
Slack - chat applications are almost as old as the dinosaurs by now, but their plugins and functionality like gifs makes it super easy to communicate with co-workers. Everybody loves a good meme.
Donut - This is a slack plugin, but it will automatically schedule meetings with several co-workers at a time just to chat. It’s a great tool to get to meet a large team and keep friendly conversations going.
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