Our Interview with AppDynamics VP Innovation Labs Linda Tong on the M1 Podcast
- Podcast /
- Product Leadership /
Mobile First Podcast Episode 53
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Key Insights from our Conversation
- Linda finds constantly challenging herself fun. This means finding new problems to solve, new ways to push herself in new directions and new technologies to explore. She is super curious and loves learning so what’s great about her profession is that she can do all of these in her role as VP of Innovation Labs. It has always been core to her that when she sees things, she would push herself to look at the pieces around her and think about how to reimagine, reorganize and restructure them and unlock new value.
- A big part of her responsibilities in AppDynamics are focused on thinking about the future of the company. She thinks about the unique spaces that AppDynamics is in and how do they start innovation within the organization to unlock new opportunities which are adjacent to their product line and the industry that AppDynamics would be a good fit for. She also heads their product experience team which thinks about how they can bring the best experience to their customer as they evolve through time.
- AppDynamics is an amazing tool which crosses the entire technology sack to give you insights on how your digital products are performing. It gives you visibility into the entire complex ecosystem of apps and ties the connection of that performance back to your business so you can be more insightful about how your digital products are doing. It makes you continue to make smart decisions around operating them.
- Linda’s team focuses on the customer experience side of product development. They partner closely with product management and engineering to understand the new products and features which they want to expose and for what customers. They help design and develop these and constantly iterate to continue to create value for their customers are they go forward.
- Their task is two-fold: thinking about their user and thinking about the right approach to product development. When you build products, it’s a massive hierarchy of product need so it’s all about understanding a problem and really defining that so you define a value that you want to unlock. Their team is focused on understanding what that problem is and they call it utility. This is their core and they focus their first round of product development surrounding this. Once they move up this hierarchy of need, they then ask how they would iterate after unlocking this utility so they can improve functionality. Once they nail down this to things, they move up to start unlocking the why so they can keep their customers engaged and build a longer relationship with them to get more value.
- A challenge in AppDynamics is that they are helping companies through their digital transformation so they should be able to run their agent or have visibility into thousands of different technology stacks to be able to give them insights into it. This can be super process complex but their output should be really simple to understand.
- Being acquired by Cisco, building collaboration and empathy is something which can prove to be a challenge so they came up with Think Factories. These includes identifying problems and cross functional teams, bringing them into a room, defining these problems and identifying solutions. This fosters camaraderie and builds relationships and ultimately transforms an organization. Coming up with these Think Factories entails getting buy in from every level – this is the key.
- Linda shares that measuring success is really difficult in terms of innovation because a lot of times, you get 95% fails and 5% success (if you are lucky). It’s all about failing fast, learning from every single experience and trying not to make the same mistakes more than once. Success has to be redefined in a different way.
Rapid Fire Questions
- What is your definition of innovation?
Innovation is thinking differently about how to solve problems.
- Would you put more emphasis on the idea or the execution? How would you weigh each of them and why?
It’s 98% execution and 2% idea. Most ideas are not original; it’s really the journey and the execution that allows you to innovate.
- What is your biggest learning lesson on your journey so far?
Throughout your career, you will always find moments that will terrify you. These are the moments you jump on as these are those which will make you learn, grow and shape who you become. Never turn away from these.
- What is your favorite business book?
- What is your favorite digital resource?
None – I am a whiteboard and pen kind of girl.
- What is your favorite app?