What is your name, age, location?
Jamay Liu, 31, New York City
What's your background?
I was the first employee of a travel startup and a digital strategist advising large brands. I’m now a product manager at Paperless Post, where I lead two product teams. In my free time, I support my husband’s entrepreneurial projects, which currently include UpWord Notes and Unsplurge. I have a Computer Science degree from Brown and an MBA in Entrepreneurship & Innovation from MIT Sloan.
What inspired you to become a product manager?
I graduated college and moved to New York City with no clear idea of what I wanted to do, but idealistic hopes for a “perfect” job that would combine many interests.
Eventually Craigslist led me to Tony Cheng, who had the idea that authentic travel videos would be the next big thing in online travel. I joined him and his co-founder as the first employee of Tripfilms.com, and fell in love with creating products that people love. It was inspiring seeing an idea grow and come to life.
I went back to school to learn more about the business, strategy, and marketing side of things, which has helped me in my product management career since.
Please walk me through your day, what do you do at your company?
Product management is constantly interesting because it encompasses so many things: strategy, creativity, and ultimately, empowering teams to ship products that are valuable to users.
A typical day involves a healthy balance between roadmap planning and execution on projects that are in the works. I have meetings with executives, designers, and developers to make sure our long-term roadmap is feasible and meets business goals. I also meet with my product teams to make sure everyone is unblocked and has clear priorities.
When I’m not in meetings, I am at my desk analyzing user data, writing specs and user stories to guide design and development, and thinking about process improvements.
Can you see yourself in ten years doing the same thing you do now?
It’s hard to imagine ten years out since tech moves so fast, but yes, I do think that I’ll still love imagining up new products to create, and making them happen.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Be confident. Trust your instincts and your abilities.
(If you have doubts, do the legwork to clear those doubts. And then be confident.)
What is the most important thing you’ve learned in the last year?
It may seem obvious, but deliberate communication is the key to solving “people problems.” If there is something bothering you -- whether it involves a manager, a peer, or a report -- speak up in an open and respectful way. Leaving things unsaid breeds frustration and distrust, while honest and thoughtful dialogue often yields creative solutions. I recommend “Crucial Conversations,” by Kerry Patterson.
And what are your plans for the future?
Continue learning and doing.
If you could do one thing differently, what would it be?
I wish I was better about taking time to reflect each day. Whenever I write in my journal, I process my experiences, thoughts, and emotions more fully. But when life is busy, routine reflection can be hard. Maybe there’s an app for that?
Any advice for your local/global Geekettes?
An interesting framework lists four criteria for evaluating career and entrepreneurial opportunities:
1. Are you good at it (skills)?
2. Do you love it (passion)?
3. Does it deliver value to others (meaning)?
4. Can it deliver value to yourself (income)?
My advice: if you can find something that meets two out of the first three criteria, odds are it’ll lead you to a career that fulfills all four.