David is as much a user of his product as he is a manager of it. He was the first product hire at Amino, an app with a vast array of mobile communities for whatever you’re into. Less for the principle and more for the value of talking to users, David is on a 300-day check-in streak that he is determined not to break. “Using the app everyday helps me organically spot UX pain points that aren’t immediately apparent until you use a feature time and time again,” he says.
Meet David Berman, Product Manager at Amino Apps.
On any given day I might be working on mockups and designs, digging into our data via Amplitude, white boarding solutions with engineers, interviewing users, testing internal builds, conversing with marketing, and everything in between.
Location: Shanghai / New York
Current Company: Amino Apps
One word to describe how you product manage: Versatility
How did you get to where you are today?
Chance, curiosity, and hard work.
I’m what you might call a product of a globalized world. I was raised in France, lived in China, Japan, India, Thailand and of course, the US. Per force, my exposure to diverse cultures nurtured my sense of empathy and adaptability, two traits which I think serve me well as a PM. I did my undergrad at U Chicago and during my senior year started dabbling in tech. With my best friend, Martin Bussiere, who was studying at Cambridge at the time, we built our first app together: Collage Pro, which charted into the top 50 of the iOS app store. This was also my first experience working across continents and time zones, something I seem destined to do!
After graduating, I worked in finance for a couple of years in Asia before diving headfirst back into tech. I built a gaming app called Hammertime and co-founded a company called Zogo which was designed to intelligently and seamlessly pair tennis partners seeking players of like levels. I did a brief stint on the product team at TED where we built a couple of OTT apps, and finally landed at Amino as their first product hire in 2016.
How do you describe what you do to your non-tech friends?
I work in a tech startup in the social space. At Amino, I am nested where business, tech, and design meet. It sounds ambiguous because the job, by nature, is wide ranging and cross functional. ”I spend most of my time thinking, wireframing, collaborating, collecting and analysing data in the hopes of helping our company achieve its mission.”I spend most of my time thinking, wireframing, collaborating, collecting and analysing data in the hopes of helping our company achieve its mission: To build an amazing product that helps millions of people make profound and personal connections with people who share their passions.
What product/app can’t you live without?
Shameless plug with a deeper truth… Amino.
A big part of my job is to be an advocate for our users, and I’ve found there is no better way to achieve this than by talking to them! I’ve been fortunate to meet some amazing people on Amino who’s perspectives I value tremendously and I will often reach out to them to get their feedback on our upcoming or recently released features. Their point of view has always contributed to our team building a better product.
Using the app everyday helps me organically spot UX pain points that aren’t immediately apparent until you use a feature time and time again. Last but not least, I have 185 day check-in streak which I’ve invested too much in to lose!
What are some processes you actually love?
At the beginning of our design sprints we set up a meeting with our engineers to explain our flows and wireframes and solicit their feedback. Without fail, they come up with great suggestions and highlight edge cases for us to consider. I’ve learned so much from them, and for that, I am most grateful.
What metrics/KPIs are you measured on?
Retention is the ultimate KPI — Convincing people to download an app is extremely difficult, so is keeping them. If users aren’t sticking around after they’ve committed to trying it, that’s on product. ”Retention is the ultimate KPI.”Naturally, there are other KPIs around core engagement, which are good proxies for tracking how sticky our product is. I am also measured on the planning, execution, and outcomes of a product release, as well as on the synchronicity of our various teams.
When it comes to personal professional growth what are you most focused on right now?
We’ve recently hired two amazing product managers, Rainbow and Charlie. I’m focused on mentoring them so they can have the maximum positive impact on our product.
To elaborate on versatility, the one word to sum up how I PM… I have to wear a lot of hats, on 2 continents… On any given day I might be working on mockups and designs, digging into our data via Amplitude, white boarding solutions with engineers, interviewing users, testing internal builds, conversing with marketing, and everything in between. What’s more, Amino is unique in that our product & engineering teams are based in Shanghai (and we mostly speak Mandarin) whilst our marketing, community, and moderation teams work out of New York. In order to make sure all our teams are synced, I spend a fair bit of time in both offices.
What’s the best thing you’ve read to learn how to be better at your job?
Ben Horowitz & David Weiden’s “Good Product Manager / Bad Product Manager”.
What role do you think data has in product management?
I can’t stress enough how important the role of data is in understanding how users engage with your product and to validate / invalidate one’s underlying hypotheses. After each major product release, I set up a dashboard on Amplitude which tracks the high level metrics we sought to improve as well as more focused ones around engagement and conversion funnels. ”I can’t stress enough how important the role of data is in understanding how users engage with your product and to validate / invalidate one’s underlying hypotheses.”Whilst the dashboard is viewable by everyone in the company, I also make a short presentation which lays out the key deliverables and findings.
This is helpful for two reasons: First, visualizing the actual impact of everyone’s contribution motivates the team. Second, we come to understand where our intuitions were off and the results often reveal some helpful clues on where we need to improve.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received on how to be a PM?
“A PM should have the brain of an engineer, the heart of a designer, and the tongue of a diplomat”. I’d personally append two more: the stamina of a long distance runner and the focus of a marksman.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to learn how (insert name of awesome PM)_ manages products.
Jason Toff, Partner at Google Area 120