Advice From the World’s Top Product and Growth Leaders

The 2024 Product 50 class shares lessons learned, keys to success, and best practices for tomorrow's product and growth leaders.

Inside Amplitude
April 2, 2024
Image of Grace Lynch
Grace Lynch
Senior Communications Manager, Amplitude
Product 50 2024

As anyone in product knows, building engaging digital experiences is hard work. It requires developing a deep understanding of customer needs, leveraging the latest technologies, and creating cross-functional alignment. And, of course, hands-on experience is one of the best teachers.

When we announced this year’s class of Product 50—the best and the brightest in product and growth—we knew we had a wealth of knowledge before us. We’d never gatekeep good product-building advice, so we spoke with these leaders about the challenges they face today, the keys to building innovative products, and advice they’d give to folks starting their careers.

Whether you’re a seasoned product veteran or an aspiring leader, there’s some wisdom here for you.

What is the biggest challenge facing product teams?

It should come as no major surprise that when we asked about the challenges and opportunities facing product teams, a central theme emerged: artificial intelligence (AI). Here’s what these experts think about AI—and the industry disruption that the technology brings in its wake.

“One of the biggest challenges facing product teams is the disruption caused by generative AI. Customers are rapidly identifying new ways to leverage AI to accelerate their digital transformation and achieve their business goals. They expect AI to be infused into products and services in new and innovative ways. As such, many product teams are finding the strength of their product-market fit to have degraded. Coupled with the ongoing macroeconomic pressures, there can be increasing headwinds hindering growth or risking churn. To address this, product teams need to deeply partner with their customers, evolve their strategy, and bring new innovation to market quickly to ensure they stay abreast of their customer needs.”Chris Lauren, Senior Vice President of Product, Domino Data Lab

“There is a real buzz around AI these days, and it's certainly a disruptive force that will push industries forward. However, product teams still need to focus on guiding principles. These include focusing on the customer problem, not the solution, understanding pain points (that customers are willing to pay for), and the benefits of build versus buy versus partner . . . While AI is important, it's ultimately an ingredient, and the focus must be on solving problems for the customer in the best possible way.”Siddharth Dhar, Vice President, Product Management, Innowatts

Of course, at Amplitude, we firmly believe that good AI is not possible without good data. Claudia Natasia, co-founder of the newly launched Riley AI, a startup aimed at helping teams make better product strategies with adaptive AI, shares the sentiment.

“[Teams must] stay ahead of the game through being data-driven in a multidimensional manner. The product strategies that are most successful are always able to quickly identify arbitrage opportunities through looking at disparate sources of data and correctly translating them to actionable investments.”Claudia Natasia, Co-Founder, Riley AI

And with any new technology comes the tendency to fall weak to shiny object syndrome, but Securonix’s Augusto Barros shares why there’s something else to prioritize: the customer.

“Product teams must keep their eye on the ball and avoid the temptation to focus on new, shiny objects. New technologies can, and certainly will, benefit many products, but the goal is to solve the customer problem. Any new technology or trend should be considered only when it helps achieve that goal. Otherwise, it's innovation for the sake of innovation, which will often generate expensive, complicated, and, worst of all, ineffective products.”—Augusto Barros, Vice President of Product Marketing, Securonix

Learn more about this year’s Product 50 class.

What’s the key to building successful, innovative products?

We know there’s no simple recipe for building a successful product that customers obsess over. But there are definitely strategies and tactics that help build those habit-forming experiences we all hope to create. We asked these leaders to share one piece of advice for those seeking to build better products, and here’s what they had to say.

“Understanding the problem is the key. If there is no understanding of the problem that plagues your customers, then you will be building a solution with no use.”Sarah Laiwala, Senior Director of Product Management, Salesforce

“The key to building successful, innovative products is to maintain a laser focus on delivering something that only you can do best. This means you need to have a clearly defined persona for which you’re making the product. Trying to cater to too wide of an audience or building a product that is too general will never allow you to be the best, so you always need to be in that mindset.”Ahmed Siddiqui, CPO of Branch and author of The Anatomy of the Swipe

“The key to building successful, innovative products lies in a comprehensive understanding of the intricacies of the problems you intend to address, coupled with a deliberate avoidance of prematurely settling on solutions. Genuine innovation often necessitates thinking outside conventional boundaries. This entails transcending immediate desires or expectations and embracing a deeper comprehension of underlying needs. By dedicating time to thoroughly grasp the essence of a problem, engaging in open communication with our audience, and carefully assessing the potential value, we position ourselves to craft products that succeed and push the boundaries of innovation.”Shawnda Williams, Senior Manager, Product Design Membership & Digital Commerce, REI

When thinking about product innovation, Wellthy’s chief product officer, Nabeel Meghji, has an eye on the future.

“Game-changing product innovation has to anticipate where the market is heading, like a hockey team anticipates where the puck moves during a game. At Wellthy, we're focused on building products and technology that make a meaningful difference in the lives of families caring for loved ones. That requires understanding the demographic shifts of an aging population that needs care, the increasing pressures on the sandwich generation caring for young kids while absorbing care for aging parents and relatives, and the growing burden on unpaid caregivers. Recognizing the implications of these trends allows for developing innovative solutions that address emerging market needs and ultimately drive the type of disruption that makes a meaningful and long-lasting impact in people's lives.”—Nabeel Meghji, Chief Product Officer, Wellthy

What advice would you give to folks starting their journey in product and growth?

We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask these leaders what advice they’d give to anyone looking to start or grow their career in product. They didn’t disappoint!

“Embarking on your product development or growth journey is an exciting step. [You need to] form deep connections in three key avenues. Let’s call it the 3C’s: customers, cross-functional partners, and community.

Connecting with your users and customers allows you to tailor your product or service to meet their expectations better and solve their needs effectively. Seek out opportunities to sit in a sales pitch or shadow a customer service call, these are simple and effective ways to hear directly from customers.

Collaboration with cross-functional stakeholders or partners is the secret sauce for growth practitioners—it helps us align on business priorities, tap into everyone’s unique skills and resources, and remove the organizational silos. Initiate regular check-ins with peers from product, marketing, sales, and operations teams and expand the circle thoughtfully to include the broader organization and external partners.

Embrace the growth community as your support system! This is the best way to stay informed about the latest trends, best practices, and emerging product development and growth strategies.

Remember, every connection you make is a chance to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. Enjoy the journey!”Esra Guler, Global Lead, Growth Enablement at Google

“Building innovative products requires a group of individuals who are not afraid to question established norms and push boundaries. In our day-to-day, it can become so easy just to put out fires, respond to bugs, or wade through to-do lists. It's our job as product innovators and leaders to move our teams into a more strategic, risk-taking league. Both of those—the ability to read the market and foster a team willing to embrace big opportunities—emerge from a process of trial and error. Often, product innovation can feel like this secret recipe that only a select few can hone and create. But the foundational building blocks are there for us all, and getting them all to work in sync has the ability to unlock so much potential and create the type of experiences where product upends the way we think, work, behave, and live.”—Nabeel Meghji, Chief Product Officer, Wellthy

About the Author
Image of Grace Lynch
Grace Lynch
Senior Communications Manager, Amplitude
Grace Lynch is a senior communications manager at Amplitude, where she helps increase Amplitude brand awareness through PR and external communications.