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Product Management

Product Team Mission

Consistently create products and experiences that customers love and value.

Additional color:

Product development

Structure

Our Product groups are assigned categories within a DevOps stage.

Categorization

Our product development hierarchy (sections, stages, groups and categories) are categorized by maturity, lifecycle and investment thesis.

Investment thesis

All product investments need to generate a version of ROI, which can be measured in one of two ways. The principle form of measurement is Incremental Annual Contract Value (IACV), which is the most important metric in the company. The formula for measuring a feature’s effect on IACV can be: AMAU ÷ AMAU total across all actions * ARR, where AMAU stands for Action Monthly Active Users and ARR stands for Annual Recurring Revenue. Where a feature is not generating IACV, we measure its Return on Investment (ROI) through its product usage, as measured by AMAU ÷ SMAU for that stage, where SMAU stands for Stage Monthly Active Users.

Example: I make a new feature, and that action is taken by 1 million users. Across all of GitLab, we have 100 million SMAU and we have 1 billion AMAU; 0.10% of our ARR can be attributed to the feature I made. If you have a lot of usage in a stage, it may generate revenue and we can consider impact to IACV. If we do not have a lot of usage in stage we want to be looking at the users using it as a percentage of users using the stage to drive interest in that stage. The example here is having a feature with a 18,000 AMAU on a 20,000 SMAU stage. If 90% of the stages users are using the feature, we clearly made it more attractive and it will help to grow SMAU over time.

Direction

Our product wide, section, stage and category direction pages can be found from our Direction page.

Product Team Principles

These are core principles we believe strongly in. The goal is to build a PM system that fosters and honors these principles, in a way that works for GitLab.

  1. Hiring is Job 1. A players attract A players. Given the strategic importance of the PM role, a strong PM creates enormous leverage. We should strive to raise the average competency for the team with each new hire.
  2. Care personally & challenge directly. Employees that feel safe plus managers that coach honestly is how people do their best work. We encourage timely and actionable feedback, as well as managers that take the time to get to know their people as humans with feeling and personal lives, not just resources.
  3. Always be learning. Continuously invest in skill development, and have a growth mindset as individuals and as a team.
    • Helpful resource: Peak
  4. You’re not the customer. Talk to them. It is tempting to assume that we understand our customers, but we are often wrong. We validate our assumptions through qualitative and quantitative customer input.
  5. Start with the problem, not the solution. It is tempting to dive right into solutioning, but we are often wrong about the underlying problem. A well formed problem statement is the key to a successful project.
  6. Prioritize ruthlessly. It is better to do a few things well than many things poorly. We should focus first on what we’re best at and what our customers need most, with a preference for simplicity. Customers will tell us when we’re missing something they need, but they’re unlikely to tell us when we’re overwhelming them with unwanted features.
  7. Assume you are wrong. Human intuition is often wrong. To fight this, have a hypothesis & try to invalidate it quickly.
  8. Iterate. Leverage a fast-paced build-measure-learn feedback loop to iterate your way to a good solution, rather than trying to plan it all out up front.
  9. Be data driven. Always have success metrics, track them, and try to move them in the right direction with our actions.

Product Management Career Development Framework

IC Title PM Sr. PM Principal PM  
Manager Title     Group Manager PM Director PM
Validation Track Skills Adept at qualitative customer interviewing. Familiar with prioritization frameworks like RICE to organize opportunity backlogs. Capable of deriving key insights and patterns from customer interviews, and using that input to clarify problem statements. Proficient at story mapping, to break epics down into smaller Minimum Viable Change (MVC) issues. Proficient at collaborating with Design on protoypes to bring potential solutions to life. Skilled at qualitative customer interviewing. Excellent at deriving key insights and patterns from customer interviews, and using that input to clarify problem statements. Skilled at story mapping, to break epics down into smaller MVC issues. Excellent at collaborating with Design on protoypes to bring potential solutions to life. Skilled at qualitative customer interviewing. Skilled at story mapping, to break epics down into smaller MVC issues. Capable of teaching product validation techniques to others. Ensures consistent execution of validation track skills across a large team.
Build Track Skills Adept at breaking epics and issues down into MVC's. Knowledgeable about GitLab's product and the relevant product domain(s). Knowledgeable about GitLab's architecture, API's, and tech stack. Capable of running a demo anytime. Able to make highly informed prioritization & tradeoff decisions with engineering. Able to discuss & evaluate technical architecture recommendations from eng. Responsible for the health of working relationships with peers in the Group. Familiar and comfortable with agile development methodologies. Excellent at breaking epics and issues down into MVC's. Deep familiarity with GitLab's product and the relevant product domain(s). Deep understanding of GitLab's architecture and tech stack. Able to elevate performance of the Group through excellent PM outputs. Expert at breaking epics and issues down into MVC's. Expert in the relevant product domain(s) and capable of teaching others about the domain. Responsible for the health of working relationships with fellow Engineering Managers. Ensures consistent execution of build track skills across a large team. Responsible for the health of working relationships with fellow Engineering Directors.
Business Skills Understands and communicates the business value of epics and issues. Sets success metrics for epics and issues, and tracks metrics post-launch to guide investment in iterative improvements. Spends up to 20% of time researching & defining category vision & strategy. Able to ensure activities are consistent with GitLab's go-to-market and business model. Can balance build, buy and partner options for solving customer problems. Can identify new market opportunities & author business cases, as well as forecast the approximate benefits of new features. Spends up to 30% of time researching & defining category vision & strategy. Expert at business case creation. Capable of managing business results across a range of product domains. Works cross-stage and cross-functionally to ensure an excellent end-to-end customer experience. Excellent at understanding and managing the business impact across a wide range of product domains. Capable of making key pricing & packaging recommendations.
Communication Skills Capable written and verbal communicator internally and externally. Drives clarity in area. Trusted resource for customer calls and meetings. Builds rapport with stakeholders to align around priorities. Self aware and understands how their interactions impact others. Takes action to improve behavior based on impact to others. Capable of representing GitLab externally at trade shows, customer events, conferences, etc. Solid presentation skills at all levels of the company. Appropriately influences & persuade others to a course of action. Recognized as a thought leader internally and externally. Excellent presentation skills at all levels of the company. Escalates issues cleanly to appropriate levels of authority when decisions or progress are blocked. Visible leader across teams. Establishes compelling team purpose that is aligned to the overall organizational vision. Inspires broader team to achieve results. Identifies disconnects to vision and takes appropriate action.
People Management Skills N/A N/A Aligns team with larger Stage vision and goals. Translates and aligns strategy in a meaningful way for team, building a shared understanding of team goals and targets. Uses situational leadership techniques to provide appropriate level of guidance and latitude to team members. Proactively identifies and fills talent gaps. Adept at caring personally for team members and providing candid real-time feedback. Aligns team with larger Section vision and goals. Provides appropriate level of guidance and latitude to managers and individuals. Experienced at hiring and at managing out underperformance. Excellent at caring personally for team members and providing candid real-time feedback.
Typical Reporting Structure Reports to a Director or Group Manager Reports to a Director or Group Manager Reports to a Director or VP Reports to VP
Typical Experience Two to four years of relevant experience or equivalent combination of experience and education. Four to six years of relevant experience or equivalent combination of experience and education. Eight to ten years of experience with at least one year of people management responsibility. Ten to twelve years of experience with at least four years of people management responsibility.

Interviewing Product Management Candidates

A unique and important step in the interview process for Product Management candidates is our Deep Dive Interview. The goal of this interview is to understand the candidate's ability to communicate a long term vision as well as a short term MVC, both verbally during the interview itself, and written via two follow up issues. Once the issues are ready for you to read, it is an opportunity to provide feedback and see how the candidate responds to that feedback.

You can find more information and instructions on the Deep Dive interview here. For information on our hiring process, head over to our hiring handbook pages. |

Product Leadership

The separate page Product Leadership covers how to be an effective leader in the product management organization.