Culture Change Starts With Talent
When I started at SoulCycle, product management was like the Wild Wild West. Things were moving very quickly. We partnered with agencies; we were standing up platforms that did not integrate. As a result, the product management team moved quickly to get things up and running. Furthermore, there was little-to-no process for enforcing anything.
To get where we are now, we focused on three areas: Talent, Data and Process. Starting with talent, we needed to hire people that had a different mindset. When we started, the product management team was focused on execution. People were throwing projects at us, and essentially the product and engineering team was solely an execution team.
They didn’t ask questions. Likewise, they didn’t figure out the best way to build it. The original thought process was “how quickly can we stand something up” or “how quickly can we get a feature out there?”
When potential candidates are here, I ask them a simple question. “I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. What questions do you have? Tell me what you need to know to execute on this.”
Some candidates delivered me the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich you can imagine. For example – crunchy or smooth peanut butter, bread cut in half, white or wheat, etc. They did an amazing job delivering exactly what I asked. However, that’s not what I wanted.
Conversely, others started asking the right questions:
- What are you trying to do?
- What type of audience is coming?
- Do we need drinks?
- Is this a repeatable process?
This is the approach we needed. Someone who would ask “why?” when a product person would pitch a new “1+1 feature” for consideration. Oftentimes, we are given solutions to problems without ever understanding the problem. , we have the right approach to solve problems with new solutions.
About the speaker
Jason Rodriguez is the VP of Product & Engineering at SoulCycle and is responsible for leading their digital efforts across platforms and studios domestically & internationally. Prior to joining SoulCycle, Jason Rodriguez held various positions from Founder, CTO, and VP of Engineering for startups like Noodle Education, Schoology, and larger organizations like Condé Nast. Jason had a career in software development for 10+ years before taking on product and engineering management roles, after graduating from Polytechnic University with a degree in Computer Science.
About the host
Andrea is the VP of Product and Engineering at One Kings Lane, a digital-first resource for making your home an expression of your personal style. She has spent over fifteen years in Product and Tech, and has led teams at startups and Fortune 500 companies, including Rent the Runway, Zappos, Time Warner, and Verizon. Andrea is passionate about solving hard (seemingly impossible) challenges, developing simple yet delightful products, building teams of entrepreneurial critical thinkers, and creating strategic outcomes with impact. She is a hands-on leader with a player/coach style, diving into the details with her team to partner, advise, and guide them to success.