Episode summary

Inside our first ever episode, Leah Tharin takes us through her career, the pitfalls to look out for when building products you want people to fall in love with, and how her approach to distributed work has redefined the way she builds motivated teams.

Who's our guest

We speak to Leah Tharin, a product guru and PLG evangelist. Throughout her 20 year career she's worked across every facet of the product world and now works as the Head of Product at Jua after a 3 year stint as a Product Lead for Small PDF. As well as her own podcast, Productea, she offers insights to her huge following on LinkedIn where her no-nonsense honest approach to remote work has established her reputation as one of the defining voices in product-led growth.

To stay up to date, you can follow Leah on LinkedIn, or check out her podcast here.

Transcript

MAX
Hello and welcome to the first ever episode of Build Further, a podcast about making remote work powered by Claap. My name is Max Gayler and I'm a content strategist and brand junkie. In today's episode, we have the distinct pleasure of speaking to Leah Tharin. She's a product guru who flies the flag for product led growth with over 20 years of experience in UX research and product management.

As well as building a platform for thought leadership through her incredible LinkedIn  profile, public speaking, and her own podcast, ProducTea, when we got to have our conversation, she was right on the cusp of moving from her job as a product lead at Small PDF and becoming the head of product at JUA , an AI-based weather forecasting tool that puts climate knowledge back into the public sphere.

We spoke about everything from process fatigue to myth busting one size fits all product methodologies. I really learned so much from this conversation, and I hope you do too.

LEAH
Yeah, it's a bit crazy. It is a bit crazy. So I'm gonna, I'm gonna, so since I'm the first guest with where you're doing this, I'm trying to set the bar somewhere, right?   so lemme just do this a little bit  unorthodox. So the official CV that I have, which I usually mention is , I've been 12 years in  UX research for 10 years in UX research, you know, like trying to understand user's motivations and stuff. And then I got frustrated about that I cannot change anything. Then I went into product for about 10 years now and  yeah, had some exits with companies. Everything is dandy, right? But, so, so, but the real CV is the more interesting one, right? So like, I actually started as an API developer on C++ , and I sucked at it and I was really bad.

And  crashed a couple of companies also on the way for myself. It was  enterprise and so forth. And actually finally figured myself out about four years ago  with not being very good up until that point. But I'm working in tech. I'm very passionate about product led growth, product led sales, and organizational scaling.

Someone actually called me a masochist for that, but...

MAX
Oh oh my gosh.

LEAH
I don't know. But like, I really enjoy building organizations, understanding why and what makes them effective and that kind of stuff. And yeah.  But I've only been successful for really a couple of years because I started to learn a lot.

So I don't know whether that makes sense for you, but in, in that sense, this is, this is who I am as a person and yeah.

MAX
That's perfect. You know that, that that's exactly what I think people want to hear, you know? And that's exactly what people are interested in. I feel like no one's career would ever be like, yeah, I got incrementally better with each job. You get worse and better and worse, and then suddenly it's overnight that these things happen, that it suddenly clicks. Right? I think a lot of people could...  maybe they don't have the same, quite wild as the story, but they, they probably have a similar, they probably feel the same, you know, they're only, just only recently just getting good at it. You'll probably say the same thing in a few years as well.

LEAH
Yeah. I think, I think that's true. It's just that the only thing that, where I think I'm really good at. Today. Unequivocally taking the stand of being good at is that I'm a really good learner. There's no one better in this world than me to know how I am learning.

And it's not very easy because I have a very short attention span, but I know what works for me. And you know, if you think about tech in about how, how, what it took to create a good product 10, 15 years ago, it was a completely different skillset than it is today. And  Just having the ability to learn. And for that, you need to have a couple of conditions. First of all, you need to tell yourself that you suck is the very first thing. And then you also need to realize that authority or like being senior does not mean that you pretend that you're good. It means actually that you're vulnerable and that you grow in front of people.

And I think this is a continuous process and everybody that just pretends that they have arrived somewhere that they are, you know, like the capacity of something and then it's just what it is. They're full of it, you know, in the end. So this is why I'm saying like the only skill that I'm proud of actually is that I'm learning and I always get up if I fail and I try to do it better.

It is, you know, I'm, I'm telling you, , this is such a peaceful existence. Because I don't have to say that I'm an expert in this and that, and it's just, you know, as a result, you also become better.

MAX
So I was gonna ask you about this later, but you, this is a, this now seems like the perfect opportunity to talk about it, because, I think that's quite a humble thing to say when, you know, you, you, you could be even, some people might consider you as an influencer, you know, on LinkedIn or, you know, as someone with, with, you know, with, you've got a following and you have an opinion. So , what's quite interesting is that you say, You know, people come to you to learn and you are the one who, who's yeah, who's

always learning.

LEAH
I think someone that was extremely important to me in my life told me once that her aspiration in life, and she's an incredibly successful entrepreneur, you know, like by all the standards that we classify people as being successful.

She told me that. I enjoy seeing other people grow. I'm, I love unlocking their potential. And it sounds very lofty when you're not in that position. It sounds very, you know, like, eh, somewhere out there in space, right? But now I feel like I have come to this point as well where I can actually help others grow while at the same time I'm still growing myself.

Right? I'm not saying like, oh, you know, I have arrived there and then it's kind of over.  I think unlocking people, and this is the amazing thing about this tech industry right now, if you do unlock people and unlock, I mean, they love coming to work. They want to work with you on a problem that we have commonly agreed on is worth solving.

Business success will follow automatically. It's very hard not to be successful if you have people around that you trust and that deliver really good value. , this is what makes this so amazing. It makes economic sense to be friendly to people and try to understand them and really elevate them above of what they think is actually possible.

Some people have still not gotten the message because they don't know how to elevate themselves over this, but for me, I worked with for 10, 15 years with leaders that just, you know, they derived authority from just pretending to be cold stones and to not really care too much about anything other than the business value and the stakeholders, but we're getting past that. Right. And I think in, in tech, it's actually a good place to be for this particular reason.

MAX
That's very exciting. And  it sounds like you've really found a sense of community and I mean, like you said, you've, you've  you went through some, you went through a fair few years of, you know, working as a developer and an architect and building your own company. So at what point in your career did you find that, okay, community building and com Being involved in the community might actually be the key to this?

LEAH
So this is very funny because it's only about five months ago where I started to write on LinkedIn and really attach what I do to my name.

Before that, I kind of did it for the companies, you know, I was more like branding internal courses, that kind of stuff. And one of the main reasons why I started to do this more and more and more, I, you know, I actually started kind of like three years ago, but I started to realize at some point there is a value also on LinkedIn, you know, like to really pursue followers and attach it to your name.

But the main thing that actually held me back is this incredibly powerful imposter syndrome where there is a specific barrier to push through, if you put yourself out there. I am very, very vulnerable on LinkedIn. I'm very vulnerable. I talk about all the failings that I have when I have a successful article. I also talk about how difficult it was for me to publish, that I'm scared of my peers judging me, my colleagues reading about it. People that I look up to, they're seeing this and thinking like, Leah, this is some absolute garbage that you just. These are real fears that I have, and sometimes I don't even sleep because of them. Right? I've been in the industry for 22 years, and I can tell you one thing.

Everyone that I know, absolutely everyone is winging it, and everyone has these moments occasionally, and we don't talk about it. And this is an absolutely wasted opportunity. So what I started to notice is, is that the more that I put myself out there, the more people are also coming back and saying, Hey, I feel exactly the same way and we have to talk about this.

So it has become somewhat acceptable now, which is good to be vulnerable.  and to understand this as a strength because just because I'm vulnerable, just because I say that I, that I fucked up does not mean that I'm a little mice in an investor meeting or in a board meeting. I'm not. Someone called me an animal yesterday, like for good reasons, but No, no, no, but I, I think she meant it in a, in a good way.

But it's just that, what I mean is that there is strength in vulnerability and also to be a role model in this regard because, If we create constantly this image of leaders that you need to be better, you need to be more skillful, you're starting to manage people, you're starting to control people. How, like why would people not develop an imposter syndrome just based on these expectations towards themselves?

It's bsolutely crazy. We have to stop this, right? I can perform better with my teams if I'm just standing there and I say, look, I'm one of them and I'm with you guys. I'm in the trenches, and if we fail, then it's gonna be on me. And that's totally okay as well. And I make mistakes rather than just saying like, Ooh, you know, I know everything better.

You're just executing for me. It just does not make any sense to me.

MAX
I would I would totally agree. And what I, it was something I was gonna ask you about as well, is what I find very interesting is a large part of kind of having these kind of followings and being a thought leader is, is getting content out there.

And I think what a lot of people kind of maybe even have a fatigue of is new approaches to product. Every, you know, every day someone's got a, a new kind of three step program that's gonna save you. Yeah. I saw your posty the day about exactly that.  And, and I would love to know like how you traverse that world, you know, and how do you kind of like take some things with a grain of salt and, and listen to other things.

LEAH
Yeah. So everybody who's a bit more experienced in the stuff that they read, , you know, be that marketing sales product doesn't really matter. When you are experienced about something, you immediately spot whether an advice is good or not. And usually things that are hard, which is almost everything nowadays because the easy things have already been done.

You cannot condense them into three tips and then you just go, right? So like there was a, there was a very specific thing like about product led growth, and I feel like I'm specializing in it in terms of, you know, I learn a lot about it. I can implement a lot about it. I fail a lot with it as well. So I start to notice what works and what doesn't work.

If you give tips about something that requires so many other conditions, you need to have an experimentation system. Your organization needs to be in order, you need to have a product that fits for product led growth. You're keeping all of this out and you. You maeke these three to five little tips of things. You're condensing a very complex problem to very practical advice that in the best case is giving someone the interest, Hey, maybe this is worth learning about, but I can absolutely guarantee you no one ever took anything useful from a little shortlist of advice from any of these, but that's also maybe not the point of them.

So for me, what I noticed is, is that, and this is also why it's so difficult to put content out, I suck at Twitter. I'm not good because on Twitter this is the kind of format did you do right? It's like, Hey, look, here's a couple of short tips and everything. And what makes actionable advice so difficult in something like this is that you only get good advice that works if you are doing it yourself.

So you need to have operational experience in what you are what you're talking about. If somebody is a coach or, and this is not against coaches, right? But like if somebody's a coach for the last 20 years and they have not worked operatively in some way on a product, either as a consultant or in an operative team as a product. You don't know what you're talking about, most likely because your advice is outdated and you, you can, you can formulate it nicely, you know, you can put it in any way, but there's a reason why these people cannot write really actionable stuff anymore because it's just so difficult to do product right.

And you need to fail in order to, like, I mean, would you, would you take advice to learn how to play the guitar from someone that read a book about it? No, you don't, you take it from musicians, at least to some degree. You don't need to learn from the best player in the world. That's also sometimes what people get wrong.

They think that only the best players are good enough teachers. That's also garbage. But you need to have some experience in order to know what the typical problems are when you are trying to implement it. And this is where my content goes, or I'm trying to do, right? I try to already account for the what ifs and if it doesn't work, and I think that really works for me really well because I also have no problem standing behind it if you just give like a three short list, three tip, short list of anything. I wouldn't know how to defend it, because usually what it does is these devolve into discussions about very theoretical things. What if we call product led growth into product led product or customer success led growth? These discussions are an absolute waste of time. I don't know. Yeah.

MAX
That's something I definitely try and kind of like be aware of when I'm, when I'm consuming content, especially on, on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn is, you know, How much of this is, you know, my, you know, cuz like you said, that imposter syndrome, everyone has it.

So I think a lot of people go there to find, okay, what's a quick fix? You know, what's like the fastest way I'm gonna stop feeling like this because I'm gonna have a new cheat code. What's the new cheat? What's the best way? To, to get better at this job.

And I think a lot of  a lot of that is built on Twitter. And I think what's important is you kind of do go beyond that as well, is you off, you offer yourself as an advisor as well. I mean, you've, we can talk about your actual work and your full-time jobs in a second, but mm-hmm.

How has your work as an advisor kind of helped you kind of go beyond that and then inform companies about how to build their product?

LEAH
So, consultancy is an absolute godsend for me. Or like, you know, being an advisor, I just call myself an advisor or consultant depending on the day. For a very specific reason.

First of all, what I wanted to do initially with advising other companies, you know, like usually pre-series B, something like this in that sense. So I'm not gonna advise companies that have a thousand employees. So they are still agile in the sense of, you know, they're adaptable and so forth. The thing that I really love about consulting and advisory and also advising other people, you know, like individual contributors and that kind of stuff. You gain a lot of practical experience in domains by listening to other people's problems that you would never get otherwise.

I know quite a lot about insurance now that I've never known before. You can go through my cv, you don't find any insurance in there, but I know quite a bit about it now because I have a couple of product managers from these areas that tell me about their problems. And it's not so much about getting the domain expertise, but I see how different environments are reacting to different frameworks.

And so let's say, let's, let me give you a practical example. Like I'm advising a company in. healthcare space. That's a specific that I can be, but like there is something that I advise in a healthcare space. They have still a matrix organization and it's very interesting to see really how big these problems are as they're growing now because they don't have cross-functional teams.

So some of these companies are in stages where I don't even work with anymore. Right. So like this is not product led growth or how do we enable our sales teams to be successful with product led sales. This is about why are the product managers sitting on one floor and the designers on another floor, and how can we make them collaborate?

And if you have this sort of experience and this exposure, I need to now solve these problems with the people that I coach. And this puts me almost into the position of A CPO, right? And I can actually see what happens and what doesn't work. And so like what works and what doesn't work? This in turn feeds back into what I do in my day job, and it helps me actually become better.

I encourage everyone to do this to some degree. You know, it's not always easy to start with. Because the ultimate gift that you get from this is not only an increase of skill, but you also start to notice where you have gaps. I remember distinctly situations where people have asked me about a very specific problem and I just had to say, I don't know.

I wish I would, but I'm gonna get back to you on it. And then I start to try to learn and understand the problem space better.

MAX
That's so interesting. You know, I, I think there's definitely a lot of truth in that idea of  you know, you really  you, you, you learn so much by teaching. I think that's what's so interesting.

You know, any, any, any friends I've ever had who have ever been. You know, personal trainers, you know, coaches even like, you know, like you say, like a musician, like I've got friends of piano teachers who say they've, they've, they've learned so much from that. And I think that's, that's so interesting and such a, I think there's a lot of kind of utility in that approach to not just product better, you know, in any kind of profession.  So what I would love to then jump into is like your, your, like you say your regular job. Yeah. And if we can go back as far as you want, but like, I'm very like interested in, I mean, you've jusst you're just coming off now, you're in like a transitional period going between this time you've had, what, three years at Smal PDF? Yeah. And now you're moving on to, is it, I'm pronouncing this right? Jua.ai.

LEAH
So this is very interesting because the, the former company Small PDF is a document management platform. It's about, If PDFs know you, we have probably a solution.

So you can pay us money for this, that it doesn't hurt that much. Right? . So that's the value proposition of Small pdf. And the interesting bit about Small PDF is that this is a wildly successful company. I have joined three years ago when we were about 20 people, and then at some point now the company is somewhere around 150, 160.

So hyper-growth, right in the crazy times of Covid. Then the crash correction. You know, like we had everything, there was a lot of drama involved on the product side. Inside everything. If you grow this fast, there's just so much going on, and I have learned so much in these three years just from being, observing, but also being empowered to do something. You know, like with the product organization, seeing how a restructuring actually works, a reorganization, your processes constantly break. As soon as you fixed one process, the other one breaks because suddenly you don't have any more. Two product teams, you have 12 or 13.

And this has been a very interesting learning piece for me because I also started to learn there that my notion that I had from before from product leadership, was completely broken. I thought, as I already said, like there my, I mean, imagination of leaders was always a very broken one. You know, like, ah, you know, it's these professional, non approachable types and they just manage people a little bit, right?

But what I started to pick up also with Small PDF was this interesting organizational scaling product, like growth in a hypergrowth business. I mean, dozens of millions of monthly active users. Huge scale, right? Biggest scale that I've ever worked with. And we're sitting in the middle as teams and everything that we do is potentially creating millions or destroying it. You know, like, I mean, temporarily in the sense. Yeah, because you know, you're not, you're not releasing bad experiments. But the point is, This gave me so much confidence and also with, you know, putting myself out there and also writing about very specific concepts about how you build an organization and scale it.

That through the advisory and through myself, putting myself out there, at some point I was approached by an old work colleague Andreas from Jua, which is a very strong purpose-driven company, and it is about creating a twin of the climate through machine learning in order to create better weather forecasts.

And that sounds like a very dry description, but what it essentially means is weather affects us all and it creates so many problems on an economic level, but also on a personal level up to the point where you have serious consequences of extreme weather events and so forth that I was looking at this and I said, Hey, this is a seed company. Looking at the business case, it looks very interesting. I'm taking this bet and I feel like I'm good. I can do this. I can actually do this because what they wanna do and what I wanna do is exactly the same thing. I want to explore a market with product led growth. I wanna disrupt on the big scale. And I want to bring something to an insane number so I can also finally say, Hey, I've been the VP of product of this extremely successful company that had an exit. Now you can invite me to your podcast.

MAX
Yeah, exactly that.

LEAH
So, no, but you get what I mean, right? It is a purposeful thing that has potential for huge impact.

MAX§

Exactly that. Especially now that you've experienced the buzz of a hyper-growth startup, I guess, you know, I guess maybe it's now kind of addictive. You want it again, you wanna see if you can do it again.

LEAH
Yeah. It's like with your parents, you know, they raise you and you think like, if I have kids, I'm gonna do it better and then I will also make mistakes. I will hopefully build something beautiful as well with the teams. And then at some point there will be another Leah in that team that is like, Hey Leah, you did a good job but I think I can do it better. And if I manage to do that, that would be amazing.

MAX
Ah, that, that's a very, very nice KPI that I'm sure you can, you can you can speak to them about in your first day.

LEAH
I hope so.

MAX
Going back a little, going back to the Small PDF, what I'm very interested in is what, you were there for three years, were you?

LEAH
Yeah.

MAX
How much of that time were you working remotely?

LEAH
So we started to go remote about in the height of Covid. So like, let's say, I don't know, I think originally about three years ago, we had a completely different working model. It was like one day per week. No wait, it was one day per month you could work remote. And then the entire acceleration came with, you know covid, we can work more remotely and so forth. So now it's a... I think, I'm not sure. I think it's about five days per month you have to be with the team in the location. So either Zurich, wherever you were hired, Barcelona  or Belgrade.

And  yeah, that's pretty much it. But the rest is really like remote first, and then that's, that's just just how it works. And with JUA, the way that we are doing is, is also, it's completely remote first, right? So we meet maybe quarterly for a meetup. Where we can, you know, get together and not lose personal touch.

But at the moment it's very remote. Everything. Yeah.

MAX
Okay, great. And if we look at the product team in both companies, you know, what did Small PDF, what was, what was the size of that team when you got there, and what was it when you left? And then what team are you moving into?

LEAH
Do you mean now the individual teams or like the size of the company.

MAX
Let's do the individual, kind of like if, if there is a number on just the product team.

LEAH
So a typical product team in the way that it was structured at Small PDF was usually between six to ten people really, depending on how complex the problems that they're dealing with. So you have a product manager, you have an EM, which is the engineering manager.

Then you have two to three engineers, usually full stack, front end, backend, that kind of stuff. And the designer. And then sometimes also you insource UX researchers, data, you know, data analysts, that kind of stuff. But you try not to go too crazy in terms of the size.  So Small PDF is a relatively established company already, right?

So like we found product market fit, it's in scaling mode, that kind of stuff. So you have a more formalized structure of the team and the total number of employees, if that's what we, what you were looking for. Yeah, I think is around 140 ish, 150 people like right now.  In three locations. I don't know the location split.

But roughly right. Whereas with JUA, now I'm starting like at the very ground again. So we have about, I think 20 people just in general. Lots of it is engineering. I need to build up the product organization and then at some point also figure out, okay. When do we actually start to bet on growth? You know, like growth teams or growth functions.

So yeah, there's no established team size there, but it's gonna be probably smaller. I favor smaller teams over big ones.

MAX
That's what I'm kind of very interested in as well. When, when that covid boom happened and Small PDF, you know, started growing so much  how did you kind of, one, how did, how did your product team one deal with suddenly being remote and you're communicating asynchronously and, and remotely and then also dealing with, you know, a product that is now in such, you know, like you said you had millions of users.

Like  how, how was that period and how did you kind of like put processes in place that protected people?

LEAH
So I think. There's two factors to this. The first one is, I can tell you what we didn't do well, I think at least in my, at least in my experience, I think what we should have done different, but I think everybody in the industry did this wrong.

The very first time when we started to push for remote, you had a lot of posts on LinkedIn of, you know, either you were four or against like, Ooh, you guys are idiots. Why are you working? Why are you guys, they're idiots for doing this, right? . . One of the problems I think that we had is, is that this was new to almost everyone in the industry.

I don't know that many companies who were fully remote, but they were kind of, they were kind of special. Because you also need to understand if you are working fully remote, that does not mean necessarily that the companies that you work with work fully remote. So even for those things have changed, right?

Because of with whom you interact, your service providers, if you are licensing SDKs and that kind of stuff. The thing that we did wrong, in my opinion is, we tried to use processes that were made for co-located teams and just pretended, well, let's just keep those. And now everybody's remote and it's kind of difficult to work with.

So now if you think about it, I'll give you a very good example. So let's say you have the product manager still. I was leading the Product Management Guild for like two years at the company that we had, and you have 10 PMs that are sitting in there now. Before remote work, you had maybe eight people in the room and two people.

So what do you do? You draw mostly on the whiteboard that is in the room. Maybe someone is also doing it at the same time on Mural. So the guys that are remote can also do something or they, something is on camera. Eh, cannot really read this. Can you zoom in? Can you send the pictures afterwards? That kind of stuff.

And then you start to slowly shift with, okay, you have six people in the room but everybody's on a Mural board. Now, this also doesn't work because you have now six people sitting next to each other. One of them has the microphone open, creates a lot of echo and that kind of stuff, so, mm-hmm. , it's these, we have to still find ourselves with these processes, I believe.

But there is a lot of things that you can do, and I think one of them is that people always moan about like, oh, meetings are useless. Ah, you have to do everything asynchronous, and then you have to do it this way and that way. I think that's all bogus because we have to also, as leaders, you have to find out how someone works in their preferred way.

There are engineers that love to have the face-to-face contact with me. There are some engineers that love to have the asynchronous contact with me, and then you sort of need to figure out how it works for the team. And this is up to the individual leader to find a way to do this. I'm not, I'm not on either side.

Like I'm someone that goes to the office like 80% of the time. If I can, I really go there. I love working there with people and I also encourage people to be there, but I'm definitely not forcing them. If you're someone that needs to have a physical separation and you could come to the office, I don't care.

Stay home if this is how you wanna work. Do that, but let's find a way that works in this way a little bit better. And then also have processes that are on a demand basis and not like, oh, we have a standup at this time, and then we're gonna have 10 other here, and then here's the retro. No, when there's a big problem, you get together, everyone in the team, and then we discuss about it.

It's just what, I don't have a definite answer for you. I'm just telling you that if you take all the processes and you expect them to work the same in the remote world. We still haven't found a good solution for this problem. I really don't know.

MAX
I a hundred percent agree, and I think that's like a big philosophy that like definitely a Claap that we're trying to obviously push is. You know, I think a lot of people try and put the battle into like, Hey, what's the only answer? Is it synchronous or asynchronous? You know, should we only have meetings or should we not have any meetings? And I think what empowers people when you're building a team remotely is giving them options. And like you said, understanding how people work.

And I think the, the, I dunno, maybe, maybe, I dunno how much you'd agree with this, but I feel like the, I feel like you would, as the, the steps the business can take is, rather than taking a hard stance, is to just empower people with options.

LEAH
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, you know, it goes from being able to bring your dogs to the office, you know, like also being more flexible on the co-located side.

And, and, and I remember a very specific story from when I was still working in corporate sales environments. I felt like that when I had to go to the doctor or to the dentist, I had to almost apologize. Next Wednesday I'm gonna go for one hour to the doctor, right? And my manager asked me, so when are you going to compensate this?

I don't wanna have these discussions. I think they're stupid, they're counterproductive. And if you think your employee's value is about the hours of work that they put in, then you're on the wrong ship anyways. So, you know, take it for wisely well, but it is up to you as a leader.

MAX
Yeah. I feel like the input versus output argument is, you know, I feel like a you know, I, I feel exactly the same. I think that would be something that people look for when they are looking for, you know, their next product team to enter their next team or whatever their profession may be, is. Okay. Do I, do I have the flexibility? You know, it's a conversation we have internally all the time. You know, what's the best thing we, what's the thing we love about being remote? And, you know, as much as, yeah, the, the office is, is there, you know, actual physically being together is irreplaceable. What, what are, what are the, the, you know, what, what is on the other side of the fence that, that kind of keeps you happy at work now because what keeps you at a job has changed.

LEAH
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Not much to add. That's exactly what it is.

MAX
Okay, perfect. Great. You know, that, that's, that's, that's, I think that's a, it's a really interesting conversation to be had in general, but okay.  We are, we are, we are good on time here, but  what I would love to just have one final little talk with you about is kind of like the, the, a little bit about the next steps for you and the future.I mean, you've already talked a little bit about Jua, but we can talk about a bit more about it. But like, where do you think  kind of the trends there's lots of trends in product. Are there any trends happening right now in product or the way things are, you know, product teams are working that you really believe in, or you think maybe in five years people will still be doing this.

LEAH
Yeah, for sure. So the very first one that is coming is we need to get above what growth means. That's the first one. So, you know, growth in terms of being responsible for the entire journey of the customer instead of separating teams into you know, acquisition, and then some teams are doing retention and some teams are doing something else.

What that means specifically is that I believe in a future model that is very hard to build on an organizational level, but for the customer, it means that whenever you have a problem, Currently what we do is we treat you like you're in a specific channel. So let's say you come to a website, you're doing something, and then if something goes wrong on the website, we expect the product team responsible for the website to kind of solve this.

I believe that channel independent responses. So let's say you visit the cancellation page of any service three times in the last 24 hours because you had a couple of service failures and mistakes and so forth. If you manage to build up a system that kind of decides we need an intervention there, someone needs to call and check with this customer whether something is wrong because you're now also an account that is valuable enough for us.

Then we have broken the channels. This is not a product problem anymore. This isn't a sales problem anymore, or customer success, if you want to call it that, and this is where we are gonna go. And marketing has to stop just doing stop on the top of the funnel. They should be enabled with engineers to do their experiments as well from, we're gonna generate leads and then something is happening at the very, very bottom of the product.

And let's be able to measure this. So what that means in a sense is, is that  we care less about where the things happen and where the answers are. So we can leverage everything. We can leverage marketing, customer success, sales and product at the same time. But this is what the future is going to be. And what makes this so difficult is, is that we are demanding more and more and more from people.

A designer is not anymore a designer, they're also a user researcher. They might have to have some design skills also to do something offline. ,They might even design an entire process of like, what happens if something like this happens that I just  you know, like  that I said, like someone goes on a cancellation page too many times and so forth and so forth.

So, I, I strongly believe in this trend and PLG is not gonna go away. So you will see me as well still advising in four to five years on this particular topic. And. . That's the reason why it's difficult, but it is worth it.

MAX
That's so I feel like I, the idea of ownership is incredibly important, especially for creatives.

I feel like that's maybe a block in a few. I've, I've, I've witnessed that. I've witnessed. An argument about ownership, you know, who's ticking what box. But, you know, especially on a creative side, you know, for people like designers, you know, the, the full stack designer is, is actually like happening now.

They have to exist because you, you gotta, you have to be involved at all ends for ownership to really happen.

LEAH
Yeah. And it goes further than this. It's not just the designers, it happens to everyone. And I think product managers, I expect from them to write good business cases. And that is something that most of my product managers that I know from my network probably have never done because nobody ever asked them to do this.

So, you know, we are expecting more from people and that usually leads to further splits of responsibilities. That's always been in the industry. You know, like I called myself 15 years ago, a webmaster, don't, don't hate on me, it's just what it is. You know, like a web designer or webmaster, whatever. This does not exist anymore.

MAX
I know what you mean I feel like when, when you join a company like your, your title isn't, isn't really relevant. You know, I, I think this whole conversation, we haven't even talked about any of your titles until now really. You know, we haven't talked about your, your, your actual.

LEAH
Yeah. Maybe if you, if you wanna have a final word on this because I have an opinion on titles.

MAX
Okay, great. Go for it.

LEAH
There is a sickness in this industry and it's not what you think I'm gonna say now. I think never talked about this publicly, but I think the only way that is socially acceptable for us to talk about yourself, that you are cool or good at something, you know, like, so for instance, if I come around and I say, you know, Max, I'm really good at PLG, then it's gonna be icky, right?

This is like, ah, you know, like she's a bit arrogant. That's not really good. The only thing that we accept people hyping themselves up is by mentioning your title, and if it was while you were at a very successful company. Well, I was the CTPDO at Uber back then. That's kind of, you know, like, it's kind of a humble brag, right?

And what this does is, and this is also, I mean, you know, like you get invited to more podcasts if you are at a really good, successful company. We kind of over-index on this because I've met a lot of talented people that did exactly the right things in their jobs, but their companies never had an IPO and they never really got sold.

And the problem is these people are never being invited. So if you do not have a managerial title yet, if you've not been at the same time, also a very successful company, the likely it is is that you will be overlooked in some ways or another. Because it's not yet acceptable to say about yourself in some weird way that you're really good at something because we are only talking about the impact that a company had.

And then you kind of infer, oh, Leah was back then there, so she must be good. But sometimes people just suck and the companies are still like successful in this regard. I don't have a solution for it, but that's what I think about titles. So titles are always being taken with a grain of salt. They tell you what you do at a company, but. Take it with a grain of salt.

MAX
I like that approach a lot. I like that approach a lot. And I, and I'm hoping with this next step in Jua, you can kind of almost be that, you know, the, the, something contrary to that thought and be like, you know, I'm gonna go into a company that isn't big, but I'm gonna be the person that kind of makes it big. And then, you know, I then hopefully that'll rather inspire people to go work for a big company and be a PM for a year at a massive company. Go take a chance on a smaller company and build it yourself.

LEAH
Yeah, and maybe I fail. I don't know that the statistics are never on your side if you're, if you join this early, but maybe I make it despite, maybe not, I don't know.

But what I know is, is that I will learn a lot and that I will make sure that I'm not the reason that it fails. And that's all you can hope for. You know, like there's a lot of talented people who did the right thing. At the wrong time, maybe. I don't know. But yeah, I hope we hear more about them now, but I dunno how to find them as well.

LEAH
LinkedIn. I have an implanted phone on my arm, so like whenever. Yeah, it's my watch.  No LinkedIn, if you wanna get in touch with me just write me on LinkedIn, have some empathy. There's a lot of people contacting me at the moment, but like I, I try to make time for everyone at least a little bit. And yeah, that's just what it is. If you have something about product led growth, I might be interested anyways.

MAX
Thanks so much to Leah for being our first ever guest on Build Further, and a big thanks to you for listening. If you want to hear more from Leah and everything she's doing at Jua, you can follow her on LinkedIn or listen to her podcast ProducTea.

To learn more about Claap, you can visit our website at claap.io and dive into the world of asynchronous work. Thanks for listening, and we'll see you soon.


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See all episodes

Cutting through the noise and busting product myths

With 
Leah Tharin
, 
Head of Product
 @
Jua.ai
Release date:

January 25, 2023

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