Venmo Product Lead on Building Your Product Career (Part 3)
When thinking about building my product career, I’ve always been drawn to new challenges that provide room to put your stamp on how things get done. Following Modest’s acquisition by PayPal/Braintree, we received opportunities to take advantage of new opportunities within the company’s portfolio. In looking at these opportunities, I realized that Venmo represented a lot of what drew me to Groupon and Modest in the first place.
For example, Venmo has one of the most diverse and wide-ranging user bases in the world. From a product perspective, I feel that getting the ability to build for a large user base enables creativity and maximizes your impact. In addition, Venmo began to focus on e-commerce in addition to payment fulfillment. Given my experience in this space, it seemed like the perfect fit. Most importantly, many aspects of Venmo’s product structure presented opportunities to take charge and define its future direction.
In my product career, I’ve found that the best work I produce comes from not being in a settled environment. Said differently, there’s always room to be creative in these environments. Furthermore, you don’t need to be in a startup to take advantage of these opportunities. Instead, it’s about seeking out new positions and projects that give you the freedom to try things out and take on new challenges.
Using Venmo as an example, one of the products that I’m most excited about is the Venmo Card.
From a user’s perspective, it’s a logical extension for the brand’s application as a go-to payment method. However, there’s always a bit of apprehension when you make a shift from your primary brand identity (payment processing) to include new features (true e-commerce). That said, the response continues to be positive and users clearly see the value proposition. As a product manager, it’s always enjoyable to see a new product take off in unexpected ways.
Along these lines, great products start with ease of use and immediate user relevance in daily lives. In other words, the product’s core features and usability don’t need to be explained. Simply put, there’s no craft or fluff to prop up why a product is useful. Ultimately, great products just stand on their own and their value is never in doubt.
As a product manager, the best way to bring these products to life is to have an appetite for problem-solving. Throughout your product career, it’s important to never say “that’s not my job” or run away from new challenges. Instead, you need to embrace the unknown in order to build credibility and trust within your team. Furthermore, you can enhance your credibility by developing communication skills. From holding a great conversation to being a great writer, I think that every product career can benefit by perfecting the art of connecting with others.
About the speaker
Ashley Phillips is the Director of Product at Venmo - leading the product team for one of the world's largest payment services. Prior to joining Venmo, Ashley led the product team at a startup called Modest - which was eventually acquired by PayPal. In addition, Ashley worked on the product team at Groupon - along with media production positions at ABC and Nickelodeon. Ashley holds a master's degree from Northwestern University and currently lives in Chicago.