‘The Operators’: Slack PM Lorilyn McCue and Google Senior PM Jamal Eason on becoming a product manager and PM best practices

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Welcome to this transcribed edition of The Operators. TechCrunch is beginning to publish podcasts from industry experts, with transcriptions available for Extra Crunch members so you can read the conversation wherever you are.

The Operators highlights the experts building the products and companies that drive the tech industry. Speaking from experience at companies like Google, Brex, Slack, Docsend, Facebook, Edmodo, WeWork, Mint, etc., these experts share insider tips on how to break into fields like product management and enterprise sales. They also share best practices for entrepreneurs to hire and manage experts in fields outside their own.

This week’s edition features Lorilyn McCue, product manager at Slack, the fastest growing enterprise software company ever that recently skipped its IPO to do a direct listing (like Spotify), and Jamal Eason, a senior product manager at Google, a company recognized as a training ground for the best product managers. Lorilyn and Jamal share their experiences and explain what product management is and isn’t, how to get good at it, and how entrepreneurs should think about product management as a discipline.

Lorilyn and Jamal are also both West Point graduates and military veterans who have deployed overseas. They are experienced operators in not just Silicon Valley but also from their days serving in uniform.

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Neil Devani and Tim Hsia created The Operators after seeing and hearing too many heady, philosophical podcasts about the future of the world and the tech industry, and not enough attention on the practical day-to-day work that makes it all happen.

Tim is the CEO & Founder of Media Mobilize, a media company and ad network, and a Venture Partner at Digital Garage. Tim is an early-stage investor in Workflow (acquired by Apple), Lime, FabFitFun, Oh My Green, Morning Brew, Girls Night In, The Hustle, Bright Cellars, and others. Neil is an early-stage investor based in San Francisco with a focus on companies solving serious problems, including Andela, Clearbit, Recursion Pharmaceuticals, Vicarious Surgical, and Kudi.

If you’re interested in becoming a product manager, furthering your career in that field, or starting a company and don’t know when to hire your first PM, you can’t miss this episode.

The show:

The Operators, hosted by Neil Devani and Tim Hsia, highlights the experts building the products and companies that drive the tech industry. Speaking from experience at companies like Google, Brex, Slack, Docsend, Facebook, Edmodo, WeWork, Mint, etc., these experts share insider tips on how to break into fields like product management and enterprise sales. They also share best practices for entrepreneurs to hire and manage experts in fields outside their own.

In this episode:

In Episode 2, we’re talking about product management. Neil interviews Lorilyn McCue, PM at Slack, and Jamal Eason, a senior PM at Google.

Neil Devani: Hi and welcome to the second episode of The Operators where we learn about people building the companies of tomorrow. We publish every other Monday and you can find this online at operators.co.

I’m your host Neil Devani and we’re coming to you today from Digital Garage here in sunny San Francisco. Today’s episode is sponsored by Four Sigmatic. Four Sigmatic’s Lion’s Mane Mushroom Coffee has all the coffee’s focusing bark with none of the jittery bite. Lion’s Mane promotes productivity, focus, and creativity all while being a healthy alternative to that daily cup of coffee. Go to foursigmatic.com/operators-special to try out Four Sigmatic.

Joining me today we have Jamal Eason, a senior product manager at Google . Google is one of the top companies in the world when it comes to product management.

Also joining us is Lorilyn McCue, a product manager at Slack . Slack is one of the fastest growing enterprise software companies ever and just recently filed for its IPO. Lorilyn and Jamal, thank you for joining us. It’s a pleasure to have you both.

Just to start, it would be great if you could give us a little bit of your background, where you’re from, where you went to school, and how you got into becoming a PM.

Lorilyn McCue: Sure. I’m from Orlando, Florida originally. This story will sound very similar in a little bit because Jamal and I have similar backgrounds.

I went to West Point, the United States Military Academy for undergrad. I studied computer science there. I served for 10 years in the Army. I flew Apache helicopters for six years and I taught back at West Point for three years.

After that I really had no idea what to do. Jamal was actually helpful in that process. In that I said, “I was thinking about going to school using the GI Bill.” I was considering business school, and he helped me narrow it down to some schools that made sense.

I ended up going to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business on the West Coast. I guess a fun fact about that decision is I was thinking East Coast versus West Coast schools. And when he mentioned Stanford I said no, because there’s a lot of traffic California. And he said, “No, don’t worry, you can bike around campus.”

This was a very convincing explanation for me. That is why I am here today, is because Jamal knows me well enough to say, “No Lorilyn, you can bike.” (To Jamal) I did bike around campus by the way. It was great. Thank you.

And then I did an internship at Google in product management. The summer between my first and second year I really loved product management. I wanted to be at a little bit smaller of a company so I ended up going to Slack.

I’ve been there for about two and a half years now. I started off as a product manager on the new user experience team and recently changed to platform.

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Devani: Awesome, great!

Jamal Eason: Myself, I grew up in Los Angeles, California.

Devani: The land of traffic.

Eason: Yea, the land of traffic.

McCue: You probably didn’t bike there though.

Eason: No biking. Similar story, I also went to West Point for undergrad and studied computer science. Lorilyn and I shared multiple classes together there at West Point.

But instead I actually went to the Signal Corps, basically the branch of the military that does satellites and data communications.



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