5 Minutes With Lisa Wong, Director of Product & Initiative Planning at eBay

Lisa Wong has been practicing her Product Management craft at eBay for close to 9 years, having started as the Product Manager of eBay Motors in 2006.

We spent some time with Lisa getting to know her thoughts about Product Management before her speaking engagement at Vivid Sydney The Essential Steps to Creating Great Products & Services on the 6th of June 2014. She is one of 4 speakers sharing her insights and stories.

Lisa Wong Headhot SQ

What are some of the best Product Management highlights during your career?

The best product management highlight in my career was when I allowed myself the courage to take on the very role I was hired for, to be an expert in my product domain area, to reinterpret what the business actually needed, to rethink their solutions and to offer my professional point of view, rather than just implement precisely what was prescribed to me. No one was or is preventing me from adding value as a product manager except myself. So in an ask for forgiveness not permission moment, in the early days of my career, without being asked, I redeveloped a solution that was given to me, answered the immediate brief but threw in a few components in the product that demonstrated that I could foresee the next two steps of what they could be asking for in the future and implemented the full lot without any impact to time nor resources (except maybe my own).

I remember that morning when I presented the full solution over the phone to my global colleagues. There was a hush after I presented. And out of the awkward silence, or what I thought was awkward, my boss’ boss responded really positively. He was truly appreciative that I stepped up beyond expectation to deliver a much better outcome. He even sent me a gift. It was enough encouragement for me to cast away personal doubt in my own abilities as a product manager and take up the opportunity to critically assess the problem and solution to recommend, in my professional product opinion, what could be a better result. I haven’t looked back since.

What are the key steps that your team takes to take an idea to launch?

Visioning, planning then keeping the energy up through execution.

Even when working with a global product organisation, the difference of having and not having a vision of the end state is a risk to the quality of the outcome. Planning can seem like a drag but it’s a vital discipline where if a product manager has a vision, the plan of attack pours out like a flood anyway. And finally the energy to keep team motivated and focused on a common goal ensures momentum and happy hard working people who want to win together!

How do you convince your stakeholders to agree to making a difficult product decision?

Firstly I want to strongly emphasize that product decisions should be made by product managers. Stakeholders are informed or consulted with and then only brought into the decision making process when there are potential business impacts affecting their areas. In this case, the product manager needs to have all the right information and thinking at hand to be able to fairly and objectively offer a strong rationale for their product approach, a compelling business case and the pros/cons of all options to make a recommendation for a shared outcome. If it is indeed the case where there needs to be a joint decision, the product manager needs to be able to let go and share the decision and the outcome.

I spend an inordinate amount of time aligning with stakeholders even when there is no decision to be made. People are complex and for some reason or another could stall progress, kick up a fuss or create churn. I highly recommend taking the time to align, manage and keep a check on your stakeholders to protect the outcomes you’re trying to achieve.

How does eBay build products to have multinational relevance ?

Being a global company, there is preference to keep the core UI as similar as possible across all geographies, after all the eBay site is the mainstay of our globally branded customer experience. Having said that, there a lot of opportunities to build complementary and adjunct local experiences within the eBay framework. This is where the country product manager is able to exercise some entrepreneurialism to arrive to ideas and concepts that hopefully drive more business or find a much needed solution to a problem for our local market. And there is no lack of inspiration – from global shopping trends, stories from our customers, observing real life to build analogies to even something as obscure as art and food! The magic of the product manager, anywhere in the world, is the ability to build a rationale for these ideas and then resourcefully make it come to life.