This week on Product Love, I talked to Tido Carriero, chief product development officer at Segment, a provider of customer data infrastructure. Tido started his career at Facebook as one of the earliest engineers working on Facebook Ads. He then spent some time at Dropbox, where he took on both engineering and product work and championed Dropbox for Business. Then he joined Segment as VP of engineering, eventually expanding his role to oversee product and design as well.
During his time at Dropbox, they built a ton of in-house tools, including live chat (before the days of Drift and Intercom), an email tool, a data warehouse stack, and a lot more. The marketing team sometimes wanted their own tools, but Tido had to always say no. As a result, he started to feel that less technical teams couldn’t do their best work because some tools were too sophisticated. This drew him to Segment, as their product empowered all business teams — not just the highly technical ones.
On this week’s episode, we talked about finding product-market fit for the second (and third!) time, and the art of unifying multiple teams.
Two approaches to product-market fit
While Tido wasn’t at Segment the first time the company found product-market fit, he was for the second and third times. Their first experience with product-market fit led the company to adopt a more customer-centric culture. Teams did customer research to validate their ideas and looked for early anecdotal data to support hypotheses before building anything. The number of Slack channels they had dedicated to the customer made it abundantly clear that this was a big part of their culture.
For the launch of their Personas product, Segment moved to a more vision-led strategy. The team gathered data on user personas to move toward their vision for this specific product, which turned out to be very difficult. They didn’t exactly get the most iterative feedback on it. Plus, it felt very risky because they hadn’t clearly done all the homework, and didn’t have users ready to immediately adopt it. Nevertheless, the launch was still successful — and it taught them about the challenges of being vision-led.
When Segment launched their third product, Protocols, they returned to their customer-led strategy. They asked their customers about their biggest problems and started on a co-development process. Then they pursued a few prospects and customers, started building deep relationships with them, and came up with prototypes. It turned out to be a more scalable approach.
Unifying the teams
Tido’s role encompasses managing three large teams: product, design, and engineering. So how does he avoid the finger-pointing and conflict? By encouraging accountability within the teams. Tido says that when folks are in it together, tension fades away. The “blame game” vanishes and they’re more amped to solve each other’s problems.
The other piece is having team members learn about each other’s craft. Tido actually has an engineer who is passionate about design. He even sits in the design reviews and cracks jokes about wanting to be a designer. On Tido’s team, a product manager once invited an engineer along on customer calls. The engineer ended up building what the customer requested because he had so much empathy for the customer’s problem. Tido encourages this “cross-pollination” because it creates a strong culture of empathy.
Want to learn more about Segment’s Personas and Protocols? Or hear how Tido helped scale the company from 50 employees to over 500? Check out the episode above.