This interview with Jonathan Golden, Airbnb’s very first product manager and now Director of Product, is sprawling and worth reading in full. It’s a fascinating look at the company’s philosophy on product and teams.
I was particularly interested in the description of three types of PMs: Pioneers (focused on taking risks and building new things), Settlers (focused on growth and scaling), and Town Planners (focused on infrastructure and platform management). What’s important is the point that companies need all three types, no matter their size:
Even in an established company, all three types of product managers are critical. “The product team needs each of these PMs to be nimble and responsive. Otherwise the business won’t endure for the long term,” says Golden. “We allocate product resources across three main categories: core initiatives that focus on the existing product, new initiatives that explore possible areas of growth for the business, and platform initiatives that focus on building fundamental technological infrastructure.” Pioneers and settlers don’t become obsolete just because you’re at scale.
This is the type of framework that brings up lots of (good!) questions for all of us to answer. Which of the three types of product managers are you? Is it possible to be combination of them? Which might you or your company be lacking in?