fmr Etsy VP & Head of Etsy.com on Organizing Product Teams
Jay Bergesen is a product executive with consumer technology and marketplace leadership experience at all levels of scale. He has two decades of experience building internet products. He’s currently the Chief Product Officer at Artifact Uprising, a Denver-based technology and consumer product company that helps people honor the meaningful in their lives through printed photo gifts, books, and more. Jay previously served as SVP of Product at Ibotta, the largest consumer tech company headquartered in Denver; VP of Etsy.com and other senior product management positions during a six year, high-growth period at Etsy; and Head of Product Management at Bloomberg.com. Earlier in his career, Jay served as Staff Interaction Designer at Yahoo and came into product management after holding several design and engineering roles.
He recently joined Products That Count to host an informative webinar where he discussed iterating through approaches to organizing product teams at companies of varying scale and the patterns that have emerged and sustained over time.
During the webinar, Jay Bergesen discussed how organizing product teams can often be the last thing on your mind, but the approach you take often impacts the success of the individuals, the teams, and the company. You can watch the full presentation, including the Q&A, above. The highlights of the webinar are detailed below.
On the importance of organizing product teams
The only constant in product is change, so it’s important to have frameworks in place to plan for it.
“What has helped me create focus, adaptability, and resiliency, with product teams, with product development teams, when change is constant [are] some of the frameworks that we developed around how to organize teams to fit that.”
Groups help product teams stay organized
Etsy turned to groups and squads as it scaled.
“The core concept is around this notion of groups and squads and how you can find resiliency through your organizational structure that balances both durability, and adaptability.”
According to Bergesen, the Groups at Etsy kind of revealed themselves.
“When you kind of surveyed all these different teams, natural groupings existed in areas of investment. And so what started to emerge was identifying groups focused on areas of longer-term investment. For example, buyer experience within Etsy. Now, you can organize these groups by a variety of dimensions. And we did, it could be around customer types, it could be around areas of the product experience, it could be around areas of customer journey around KPIs. The big first shift was this notion of moving away from discrete, small, autonomous teams into identifying what are areas of longer-term investment for the company, and certainly, from a product development perspective.”
Why Squads are helpful for organizing product teams
While Groups help make more organizational sense of things, Squads give you more flexibility as you scale.
“Squads conveyed people to coming together around a common purpose or common goal and working to achieve something. Those squads may reform and reconstitute over time. So, there was a slightly more temporal nature. Not temporal in the sense that we reconstitute every week, but that squads could and they did exist for years or several months.
When you go back to that structure, it’s really the squads within the groups that represented current areas of investment. [This was] driving more focus and greater resiliency, because you’re balancing durability and adaptability and greater alignment. You have that shared sense of purpose.”
Things to Avoid During this Process
There are some pitfalls for great product managers to avoid to when organizing product teams.
- Splitting yourself
- Failing to right-size your ambitions and your team
- Organizing in a vacuum