Our interview with ThredUP’s VP of Product, Julia Kaplan on the Mobile First Podcast (Ep. 15)
- Leadership /
- Mobile /
- Podcast /
Her core responsibilities as a VP of Product at ThredUP involves managing a small but dynamic team.
Julia Kaplan brings more than 20 years of leadership experience in product development, delivery and innovation. She is responsible for driving ThredUP product and user experience. She started her career as a software engineer in financial services and then moved on to work in technology for companies in healthcare, e-commerce, advertising, and media. Prior to joining thredUP, Julia held product leadership roles at @WalmartLabs, Kosmix, and Yahoo! Julia earned an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from University of California, Berkeley and an MBA from INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France.
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Here are the highlights of our conversation with our guest:
- Julia was born and raised in Eastern Europe and it took three months for her family to move to the US before collapse of Soviet Union in 1989. She shares how she did not speak a word of English when she arrived, how she worked to put herself through college, choosing Berkeley on price, how the educational system differs in the West and how, through it all, everything was still a rewarding experience.
- While she worked as a software engineer, Julia became interested in venture capitalism so she set her sights on entrepreneurial strategy and finance after school. Despite this, she ended up enrolling in product management, which she did not regret.
- Julia’s journey started with Visa followed by becoming a certified trainer for Microsoft where she taught people who wanted to learn web development when it was very new before. She then worked with Ford where she got exposed to product management. This is where she got the bug and decided to pursue her MBA. After business school, she came back to California to work for Visa as a contractor and in Yahoo where she took care of the platform side and eventually moved to the media side during the latter years. She joined Kosmix in 2010 where her team became WalmartLabs when it was acquired.
- Her core responsibilities as a VP of Product at ThredUP involves managing a small but dynamic team. Their tasks revolve around product culture and they maintain a very strong discipline around user research and user testing. They reiterate a lot and are pursuing the mobile first approach in line with their focus on amazing customer experience mainly through product findability.
- Julia gives us examples to show how her team uses research, user testing and iteration on one of their two-week engineering sprints. She shares take aways, challenges and unexpected surprises which can arise from this cycle.
- We learn about the key things that happened when they transitioned to mobile responsive and invested in mobile apps. Julia also shares why how ThredUP uses qualitative and quantitative data from user research and what KPIs they look at for the data to drive iterations.
Rapid Fire Questions
- What is your definition of innovation?
Innovation is thinking of things – may it be technology or process or something else – and applying this in a new way to create better customer experiences or better way to solve customer problems.
- Would you put more emphasis on the idea or the execution? How would you weigh each of them and why?
I agree with the quote that an idea without execution is just a hallucination. Great ideas with bad execution are not going to succeed. Ideas are important but I’ll put more emphasis on execution. I would say 20% – 80%.
- What is your biggest learning lesson on your journey so far?
Customers are going to go for better pastures. If somebody else gives them better experience, better price, better assortment…they are going to go there. So it’s very important to stay on top of things, to innovate and always listen to your customers.
- What is your favorite business book?
Competing Against Luck by Clayton Christensen
Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan
The Membership Economy by Robbie Baxter
- What is your favorite digital resource?
- What is your favorite app and why?
- What is the coolest thing that you are working on right now that you want everyone to know about?
We are about to launch a beta of a new app that some people will call comparative shopping but it’s more than that. It will inspire consumers to think 2nd hand first.