Our Interview with Upwork SVP, Product and Design, Hayden Brown, on the M1 Podcast (Ep. 62)
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Mobile First Podcast Episode 62
It is worthwhile to spend your life doing something that makes other people’s lives better.Hayden Brown, Senior Vice President of Product and Design at Upwork
As Senior Vice President of Product and Design at Upwork, Hayden leads the product and design teams and oversees the company’s product across desktop, web and mobile. She is an expert in product strategy, innovation and fast-paced execution and revels in breaking new ground on challenges at the intersection of product management, product design and business management. She leads a team of 30+ product managers and designers in developing a product that enables freelancers and clients around the globe to work together in a new model that is radically changing the hiring and job-finding paradigm from a chore into a delightful and instantaneous experience. Learn more about her perspective by viewing a recent article she wrote on Medium about how businesses can outsmart the talent war by tapping into the independent workforce online. Hayden holds an A.B. in Politics from Princeton University.
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Key Insights from our Conversation:
- Hayden is passionate about building products which change people’s lives using technology and all that it has to offer, and harnessing the power and reach of the internet to mobilize people in new ways to give them new opportunities. This is the reason why she has been with Upwork for six years now and why she loves being in product management. She is also driven into getting women into tech roles to promote diversity in tech companies and changing the landscape.
- Hayden grew up with two dedicated parents with unusual professions and this taught her two things: that it is a worthwhile pursuit spending your life doing something which makes other people’s lives better even if it is not lucrative; and, because she has seen the level of poverty in Nepal and the lack of opportunity, it was reinforced in her life to give opportunities to the talented.
- Upwork is a platform which runs the largest freelance site in the world. They bring together millions of freelancers and clients from all over the globe and provide them the tools and technology to collaborate and manage payments.
- To be mobile first, Upwork threw out its previous playbook as they saw challenges in their approach. This includes the heavy work and time spent in adapting to different platforms and software, and the cost of maintaining and evolving features. They felt that their teams were in a continual catch up and it was bad from a resource and a people development standpoint. There was gap between their true aspirations in tackling mobile and what they were doing.
- Upwork wanted to build a global framework of how their team members think about their roles. Because they wanted to change the conversion about how product managers, designers and engineers view themselves, they pushed for a radical notion of having just one job description. All of their job description now is to build the right product with the highest quality, on time.
- Having a business context is critical for everyone to be able to navigate and make difficult choices everyday about what to prioritize, what to invest in, what the roadmap should look like, etc. Take the job description shared earlier and couple that with a great business context, and you will have a recipe for people of be well-informed and would be able to act autonomously in the best interest of the company and the customer.
- Mobile is the platform of the future and they realized that they needed to be faster to market and to be more mobile first on how they build features from the ground up. This drove them to take a new approach in their desktop pages and invest in new approach in ensure they work well and are responsive on devices of any size. The second piece of their strategy surround applications and it’s not just about wrapping the web pages inside mobile. They took it a step further through what they call a ‘bridge’ internal to the app which really takes over and hides or modifies some of the web page functionalities so they have a feel that it is native to the app.
- The outcomes of this shift included time to market in terms of getting features over to users; and internally, the transformation of their organization to be mobile first completely and competitively. To ensure you goal is achieved, Hayden shared that you: start with the why, determine what your vision is, mapping to understand what steps you need to take to get to the vision so it becomes more tangible and create a team buy in to make it everyone’s problem.
- Hayden is currently working on cool things such as new domestic offerings for US clients where they are making it more immediate to connect to talents close to them and expanding features the enterprise space such as compliance.