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Thriving in chaos: From tech products to presidential campaigns (podcast)

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The startup environment is chaotic. Resources are limited and the hours are grueling. But it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences for an entrepreneur. They must get creative and think fast when it comes to building a team that will excel in this type of environment. The same is true in a presidential campaign.

Stephanie Hannon was the chief technology officer for the Hillary for America campaign and was tasked with building a team from scratch. In under 20 months, she built an 80 person engineering team which launched more than 100 products for fundraising, grassroots organizing, voter registration, voter activation and volunteer engagement.

In this episode of Greymatter, Greylock executive in residence (EIR) Stephanie Hannon and Greylock general partner John Lilly discuss their experience building and scaling some of today’s market-defining technology products. They share hiring advice for startups, best practices for building a diverse team, and lessons for product managers.

Stephanie and John both have a deep understanding of what it takes to build an enduring technology product. Prior to joining the Clinton presidential campaign, Stephanie spent a decade as director of product management for social impact and civic engagement at Google. She launched Google Maps in 25 countries, built Google Wave, and was product manager for Gmail in its first year of life.

As an investor, John has partnered with several transformative companies including Instagram, Dropbox, and Quip to name a few. Prior, he was CEO of Mozilla, the organization behind the open source Web browser Firefox, used by more than 450 million people worldwide.

Below are a few key takeaways from the discussion.

  • Recruit people with a tolerance for chaos: Startup environments can be grueling, and finding the right employee can be a challenge. It’s important to find people who work well under pressure and deal with stress. The interview process should assess a candidate’s grit and emotional intelligence. (…)
  • Diverse teams are more creative and productive: A diverse team is more creative and productive. Different viewpoints, communication styles, and approaches to design and coding results in better products. It takes focus and deliberate practices to recruit a diverse team and foster an inclusive work environment. (…)
  • Define the right metrics: It is important to define and monitor product metrics before product launch. Analyzing data for insights are a core part of a being great product manager. (…)
  • Always say “Yes” to exploration: The best product people are curious. Teams that are constantly getting out of their comfort zones and asking questions tend to be the highest performing. (…)

Elisa Schreiber is the marketing partner at Greylock Partners.

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