Silo busters: How 5 Seattle product managers facilitate company-wide collaboration

by Quinten Dol
June 26, 2019

As the shepherds who guide a new software tool or feature from intangible ideas through design and iteration to the customer’s fingertips, successful product managers are the ultimate collaborators. The job requires the ability to work with engineering, design, sales, marketing — indeed, all facets of an organization — many of which can become relatively isolated from one another, and can have very different definitions for team success.

So, how do PMs grease those teamwork wheels and ensure a new piece of software or functionality ultimately serves its intended purpose? We spoke with product team members at five leading Seattle tech companies to find out.

 

yapta seattle tech startup product management team
photo via yapta

Yapta’s central business idea is pretty simple: monitor airfares after a trip has been booked, then help companies rebook if the price drops in the interim. Executing, however, requires some pretty complex technology on the back end — though with annual savings of up to four percent, the end product makes it all worthwhile.

Chief Product Officer Valerie Layman said her so-called “Yaptavillians” measure success based on the value they deliver, rather than the number of items they ship. 

 

How do you facilitate collaboration on your own team and cross-departmentally?

Our success at Yapta has been driven by being a product-led organization. Everyone in the company has to be aligned around our product vision, and that is only achievable through tight collaboration throughout the organization — product, engineering, sales, client services, marketing, finance, BusOps. Each of these teams has insights that drive the business forward, and it is incumbent on the product team to ensure inclusion across these teams. This is a concept we instill in all product team members from the moment they start in the company. 

We keep collaboration strong through regular cross-team touch-bases as well as using collaboration tools, like Zoom and Slack. These promote information sharing and spur ideas across the teams. We even have a private Slack channel set up for our Customer Advisory Board companies to engage with us and with each other more easily.

 

We hire individuals who are smart, collaborative, innovative and inquisitive thinkers and, most importantly, check their egos at the door.”

How do you keep your teams excited and engaged?

Overwhelmingly, Yapta employees are excited by true ownership in the products and solutions we deliver, and it’s our collaborative culture that keeps them engaged. We measure the success of our product delivery in terms of the value delivered rather than items shipped. When you can show a revenue increase of 10 percent across our existing 8,000-strong customer base by delivering a new feature, that’s significant and exciting — and the team owns that success. This value-based delivery is a core theme throughout our company culture. Recently, our DevOps engineering team delivered a platform that promotes team ownership of that value delivery. Each delivery team is now empowered to own the health and performance of the products and innovation they deliver.

At Yapta, we are also heavily invested in our culture. We hire individuals who are smart, collaborative, innovative and inquisitive thinkers and, most importantly, check their egos at the door. From my perspective, it’s truly amazing to watch each and every one of our people jump into any situation to drive the best decision or simply to help out a coworker. I continuously hear from Yaptavillians that, “while it’s the technology that keeps me interested in my work, it’s the people that keep me invested in Yapta.”

 

rover engineers seattle tech startup product management team
photo via rover

Belltown-based Rover is the iconic dog-lover’s tech company. The platform connects pet owners with dog walkers, sitters, groomers and doggy day cares, and recently expanded operations into Europe with the acquisition of British startup DogBuddy. 

Product Management Senior Director Jennifer Capasso said she sees considerable value in allowing teams to fail. 

 

How do you facilitate collaboration on your own team and cross-departmentally?

At Rover, we believe that when product teams are the owners of their outcomes, we see the best results. Teams come together and anchor around a strategic priority, and they set their own goals together with the OKR framework. With goals and learning objectives set, the teams then own the path to achieving them. As leaders, our job is to be there to support this process, from whiteboarding exercises to facilitating connections with people in the industry who may be facing a similar challenge. This ownership facilitates collaboration within the teams, as everyone is marching in the same direction.

Cross-department collaboration can be challenging, especially when companies are growing quickly and, therefore, having to regularly redefine their working agreements — or even their organizational structure. We leverage the OKR process and actively share goals within teams so everyone can know what everyone else is trying to achieve. We watch carefully for opportunities when multiple teams are solving similar problems and ensure they communicate. We implement roadmap reviews and tools but try to do it in a way that isn’t too “heavy” for teams. And we don't get it 100 percent right — but we try to learn from our misses.

 

I believe one of the most important parts of keeping teams motivated is to allow them to fail.”

How do you keep your teams excited and engaged?

I believe one of the most important parts of keeping teams motivated is to allow them to fail. Embracing failure allows teams to move quickly and learn. And it can’t just be an empty promise; you have to create a culture where the information about winning and losing investments is shared equally. The goal should be to focus on what you’ve learned, not just the immediate business impact. This keeps teams motivated to try new things, take the learnings, form hypotheses, runs tests and learn some more. 

It doesn’t hurt that everything we do is in service of caring for dogs and cats on a global basis. Not much brings people joy like their animals, and Rover’s mission is to bring that joy to everyone. There is no question that mission keeps us inspired and engaged.

 

pitchbook product management seattle tech team
photo via pitchbook

PitchBook makes its money by following other companies’ money — through its financial data tracking software. Businesses, journalists and investors use its databases and analytical tools to track public and private equity markets.

Director of Products Alex Legault said collaboration comes from a mix of tangible business practices and more ephemeral elements of company culture. 

 

How do you facilitate collaboration on your own team and cross-departmentally?

Collaboration is something we’ve continued to focus on as we’ve scaled. We encourage collaboration in two main ways: process and culture. First is through processes, such as our “office hours” series where any team across PitchBook can drop in to discuss in-flight projects and give feedback. We also present releases and project updates to the entire product organization every Monday, with the aim of prodding each other’s work, sparking constructive debate and spreading awareness of where folks might need to get involved.

The culture side can be harder to maintain, as it’s very informal, but it remains my favorite as it’s very effective. We have an open-floor plan seating arrangement to encourage our team to drop in on one another or ask for opinions. When hiring, we’re always looking to bring on new people to the team who will enjoy working with one another, so they will want to collaborate instead of simply being told to. Building this culture is deliberate and the sum of hundreds of little things that we encourage, but it adds up to a great collaborative atmosphere in the long run.

 

Once people understand our customers and the industry, we usually see the excitement start to build in our teams organically.”

How do you keep your teams excited and engaged?

We work in a truly fascinating industry. Investment professionals, their advisors and clients are constantly striving for an edge. For us, that means always pushing the envelope on how good our datasets can be, what new ones we can add and how we can make such complex analysis easy and insightful. With a big, demanding vision like this, there is plenty to get people excited. Once people understand our customers and the industry, we usually see the excitement start to build in our teams organically. We also have a big emphasis on details and execution. This means that when you’re reasoning about the bigger vision, you’re testing your ideas by creating paper mockups, prototyping algorithms or manually sourcing new data for evaluation. I find that actually getting into the details like this and moving ideas forward keeps everyone pretty engaged.

 

highspot seattle tech startup product management
photo via highspot

Highspot’s sales enablement software helps sales reps find and organize their content, provides training on various techniques and integrates with all their other favorite software tools. The company announced a $60 million funding round earlier this month and just snagged a snazzy new headquarters located on the shores of Puget Sound. 

VP of Product Jon White highlighted the importance of sharing customer successes and challenges with all teams, including those that don’t necessarily interact with clients every day.

 

How do you facilitate collaboration on your own team and cross-departmentally?

One of our guiding principles at Highspot is “collaboration across boundaries.” We believe the best work is accomplished when people with distinct perspectives and experiences come together to solve a problem. It’s not about hierarchy or role, but about bringing unique viewpoints to the table. This core principle comes to life in the example of how we approach building software based on collaboration between the triad of design, product and engineering. We’ve found that the best software is created with equal input from all three disciplines. Our cross-collaboration also extends beyond the product development team. We are fortunate to work with true experts in the sales and marketing space who happen to represent our user personas, and we routinely welcome them into the development process to provide insight that guides our design and strategy.  

 

It’s critical that we hold ourselves accountable for keeping our teams informed, energized and inspired.”

How do you keep your teams excited and engaged?

I believe that people are most engaged when they understand a team’s vision and the role their work plays in making that vision a reality. As product leaders, we often engage with customers and witness first-hand the impact our product has — but we have to remember that not everyone on our team gets to experience this. It is imperative that product managers bridge the gap by painting a clear vision, setting the context and empowering every teammate to understand how the team’s work is crucial to success. At Highspot, we do this in a number of ways, from holding weekly lunches where leaders share transparent updates, to running a program wherein customers come into the office to speak with our product, design and engineering teams. No matter the methods, it’s critical that we hold ourselves accountable for keeping our teams informed, energized and inspired.

 

realself seattle tech product management team
photo via realself

RealSelf’s online education resource, peer community and marketplace for the full spectrum of cosmetic treatments helps users learn about procedures and choose relevant doctors with confidence. In doing so, the Pioneer Square-based company helps users make sense of the United States’ $32 billion medical aesthetics market.

Product Manager Leigh Enselman said it’s key for her to make sure all relevant teams are aware of the work being done by their peers and the progress they’re making.

 

How do you facilitate collaboration on your own team and cross-departmentally?

I am a PM for one of the dev teams at RealSelf, and my team facilitates collaboration by having daily “stand-ups” to discuss what we are working on and if we need any help or feedback from other members. In our bi-weekly team meetings, we also keep a document to discuss what we just worked on and what is coming up. We take a few minutes in this meeting for everyone to write what we believe went well in the past two weeks, what didn’t, what we could improve on and to give kudos to anyone else on the team. Then we discuss as a group. We have found this gets everyone to participate and to have a discussion on what is working and not for the team.

I try to loop relevant members from other departments into early planning stages for projects I am working on. Once my team is working on these projects, I make sure to continually update the other department stakeholders on the current status of the project to make sure everyone is aware of what’s happening and to verify that everyone is still aware of the product requirements and plan for the project.

 

I make sure my team is aware of other projects that are happening on different teams and discuss projects that I am planning early-on.”

How do you keep your teams excited and engaged?

Similar to how we collaborate as a team, I make sure my team is aware of other projects that are happening on different teams and discuss projects that I am planning early-on. This ensures that the team is engaged in the project and helps make sure its requirements are clear. I also try and call out when someone has been going above-and-beyond in their work, and I always try to keep a positive and upbeat attitude to keep team morale high.

 

Jobs from companies in this blog120 open jobs
All Jobs
Finance
Data + Analytics
Design + UX
Dev + Engineer
HR
Internships
Marketing
Operations
Product
Project Mgmt
Sales
Content
Finance
new
Highspot
Seattle
Developer
new
Yapta
Seattle
Operations
new
PitchBook
Seattle
Developer
new
Rover
Seattle
Developer
new
Rover
Seattle
Developer
new
Rover
Seattle
Design + UX
new
PitchBook
Seattle
Data + Analytics
new
Highspot
Seattle
Data + Analytics
new
Rover
Seattle
Data + Analytics
new
Rover
Seattle
Design + UX
new
RealSelf
Seattle
Developer
new
RealSelf
Seattle
Data + Analytics
new
Highspot
Seattle
Sales
new
PitchBook
Seattle
Data + Analytics
new
PitchBook
Seattle
Marketing
new
PitchBook
Seattle
Project Mgmt
new
Highspot
Seattle
Marketing
new
Highspot
Seattle
Product
new
RealSelf
Seattle
Operations
new
Yapta
Seattle
Sales
new
RealSelf
Seattle
Sales
new
RealSelf
Seattle
Developer
new
Rover
Seattle
Developer
new
Rover
Seattle
Operations
new
Rover
Seattle
Developer
new
Highspot
Seattle
Finance
new
PitchBook
Seattle
Finance
new
PitchBook
Seattle
Marketing
new
RealSelf
Seattle
Product
new
RealSelf
Seattle
Marketing
new
Yapta
Seattle
Marketing
new
RealSelf
Seattle
Sales
new
Highspot
Seattle
Project Mgmt
new
PitchBook
Seattle
Marketing
new
RealSelf
Seattle
Data + Analytics
new
RealSelf
Seattle
Finance
new
Rover
Seattle
Data + Analytics
new
Rover
Seattle
Marketing
new
RealSelf
Seattle
Developer
new
Yapta
Seattle
Developer
new
Yapta
Seattle
Developer
new
Highspot
Seattle
Data + Analytics
new
RealSelf
Seattle
Data + Analytics
new
Highspot
Seattle
Design + UX
new
PitchBook
Seattle
Project Mgmt
new
Highspot
Seattle
Internships
new
Yapta
Seattle
Data + Analytics
new
Yapta
Seattle
Marketing
new
Rover
Seattle
Developer
new
Highspot
Seattle
Product
new
Highspot
Seattle
Marketing
new
Highspot
Seattle
Content
new
PitchBook
Seattle
Product
new
Highspot
Seattle
Data + Analytics
new
Rover
Seattle
Developer
new
Highspot
Seattle
Design + UX
new
Highspot
Seattle
Sales
new
PitchBook
Seattle
Marketing
new
Rover
Seattle
Developer
new
Rover
Seattle
Data + Analytics
new
RealSelf
Seattle
Marketing
new
Highspot
Seattle
Sales
new
PitchBook
Seattle
HR
new
Highspot
Seattle
Operations
new
Highspot
Seattle
Developer
new
Highspot
Seattle
Project Mgmt
new
Highspot
Seattle
Developer
new
Yapta
Seattle
Operations
new
Rover
Seattle
Product
new
RealSelf
Seattle
Product
new
PitchBook
Seattle
Sales
new
Rover
Seattle
Developer
new
Rover
Seattle
Marketing
new
Rover
Seattle
Product
new
Rover
Seattle
Developer
new
Highspot
Seattle
Developer
new
Highspot
Seattle
Developer
new
RealSelf
Seattle
Sales
new
RealSelf
Seattle
Developer
new
Yapta
Seattle
Operations
new
Rover
Seattle
Data + Analytics
new
Rover
Seattle
Operations
new
Rover
Seattle
Product
new
PitchBook
Seattle
Product
new
PitchBook
Seattle
Content
new
PitchBook
Seattle
Design + UX
new
Rover
Seattle
Developer
new
Rover
Seattle
Developer
new
Rover
Seattle
Developer
new
Rover
Seattle
Developer
new
Rover
Seattle
Developer
new
Highspot
Seattle
Developer
new
Highspot
Seattle
Developer
new
Highspot
Seattle
Sales
new
Highspot
Seattle
Operations
new
PitchBook
Seattle
HR
new
PitchBook
Seattle
Design + UX
new
Rover
Seattle
Finance
new
Rover
Seattle
Developer
new
Rover
Seattle
Product
new
Rover
Seattle
Developer
new
Rover
Seattle

Seattle startup guides

LOCAL GUIDE
Best Companies to Work for in Seattle
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Software Engineer Jobs in Seattle
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Data Science & Analyst Jobs in Seattle
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Sales Jobs in Seattle
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Marketing Jobs in Seattle
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Design Jobs in Seattle
LOCAL GUIDE
Your Guide to the Seattle Startup Community
LOCAL GUIDE
Top Seattle Startup Funding Rounds