Interview with Gusto

Notes from my interview with Gusto.

I ended up as a finalist in the interview process for a Product Manager intern position for Gusto. Here are a bunch of notes I took in no particular order of importance.

Gusto - Feedback 🔗︎

  • pricing
  • didn’t get next level
  • product details
  • design conclusions - jumped too quickly
  • design acumen
  • really tough tough decision
  • no for gusto
  • over 150 applicants for 1 spot
  • initially had 2 spots

Eric 🔗︎

  • Think through workflows as a PM
  • How do you organize and prioritize your work and flow of that feature development
  • Demonstrate how you would work through a feature development
  • Think of email example with Hila

Jarell 🔗︎

  • Culture
  • What is important to me
  • What you value most personally and professionally
  • Review 6 values of gusto
  • Pick one or two values that really resonated with me in personal and professional experiences

Michael 🔗︎

  • Prioritization
  • Process and features
  • Demands with business
  • Needs of team
  • Case questions
  • 1 to identity problems and diagnose and then 2 being able to solve it
  • Project management, communication,

Questions to Ask 🔗︎

How do you go from screenwriter to PM? Unique background? 🔗︎

  • understanding people, picking up on their queues, their tells, product management theres a lot of people stuff
  • communicate & undestand
  • without offending people
  • lead them
  • emphatize

When you’re faced with a feature that only 8% of your user base is using, you have to make a call: Kill it or keep it. Have you ever been in this kind of situation before? 🔗︎

cost to having a feature engineering needs to maintain it customer support keeps users happy attracts customers preventing from leaving leads to referrals –> getting you publicity

2% of your users very high cost to serve not making referrals not important to growth strategy not worth to keep feature alive ROI analysis

Why did you move from engineering to PM? 🔗︎

  • studied engineering
  • leave many doors open
  • considered everything from investment banking to consulting to engineering to PM
  • build by talking with customers and putting together the requirements and working with engineers
  • shepherding with customers and how its helps the customers and build the business
  • bite-sized project to allow an intern to run with it
  • get help with resources in company
  • rely heavily on feedback and

What is the biggest advantage of having a engineering background? What about biggest disadvantage? 🔗︎

  • coming up with the ideas
  • shipping
  • level of nuance that’s required when it comes to engineering and make efficient use of our time
  • deep understanding of how software works than make better ideas
  • as an engineer, better to have deep critical thinking when it comes to math
  • numbers games

What do you wish you’d known as an engineer that you now know as a PM? How do you earn the respect of the engineering team? 🔗︎

read code & talk down to me get questioned a lot more than others dont have an MBA background poking holes in projects in differnet ways - simlar to engineers flesh that out - risk adverse**

wireframes in Balsamiq - do things in Sketch - make rules that dont exist in your product - understanding platform on engineering and business sides

I saw that you use slack and you mentioned sketch- what else do you use on a daily basis 🔗︎

Slack, Sketch, Google Sheets (love/hate), Google Docs, all the Google stuff, I hate Google Drive, data tools - Aleft (database queries using SQL), Calendly, InVision,

  • do your job
  • responsible for writing very detailed specs
  • defend roadmaps and product map
  • feel included in the decision
  • get ideas of their team
  • technical enough to have a technical question

What aspects of product management do you find least interesting and why? 🔗︎

corraling - more stakeholders - everyone needs to know everything but if you let everyone know everything - they dont read anything

lots of reminding people - not reminding but informing people of updates

give you correct feedback so it doesn’t blowup later

read updates - keeping people informed

so many projects going on at one time - hard for people to keep up

  • project management
    • varying degrees
    • break work down into chunks
    • getting chunks done on time
    • being accountable to dates
    • paper jockeying and coordinating between people
    • engineers should be responsible for their team

PM Workflows 🔗︎

car company CEO Americans are drinking more and more coffee

Head of Product

Design coffee maker for a car

  • 3 major components to product
    • figuring out what to build
      • vision of company (long-term)
    • figuring out how it should work (PM intern focused on)
      • know problem that is worth solving
      • getting engineers involved (constraints & feasibility)
    • execution
      • shipping features
      • making products go quickly

PM Prioritization 🔗︎

pricing comes up earlier –> think about business

office supply company move into the digital age blackboards

white boards how do you

  • 3 major components to product

    • What do we build?
      • vision of company (long-term)
    • How does it work? (PM Intern focused on)
      • know problem that is worth solving
      • getting engineers involved (constraints & feasibility)
    • How do we ship it?
      • shipping features
      • making products go quickly
  • If you’re a PM, you make decisions about your product - what features to develop, when to develop them, how to get users to start using those features, etc.

  • When planning your roadmap and where you team should spend their time, it’s useful to ask “how many people are actually using each of our product’s features?” - a simple way is by plotting out all the features on two axes: how many people use a feature and how often 

Deciding For New Features 🔗︎

  1. Does it fit your vision?
  2. Will it still matter in 5 years?
  3. Will everyone benefit from it?
  4. Will it improve on an existing workflow
  5. Does it grow the business
  6. Will it generate new meaningful engagement
  7. If it does well, can we support/afford it
  8. Can it be designed so reward is greater than effort
  9. Can we do it well
  10. Can we scope it well

Rolling Out New Features 🔗︎

  1. Team testing (dog-fooding)
  2. Company testing
  3. Restricted beta
    1. Discoverability
    2. Engagement
    3. Adoption
    4. Use Cases
    5. Barriers
  4. Full roll out
    1. Message schedule for feature
    2. continuous built-in notifications as you use app
  • The reality is that typical feature usage is usually limited to a few key ones and the rest are barely used
  • For any feature with limited adoption, you can kill it, try to increase adoption rate, try to increase frequency, or just try and make it better

PMs have to be good at saying “no” 🔗︎

  • Building a great product isn’t about adding a ton of useful features that are somewhat related
  • But instead delivering a cohesive product within well defined parameters
  • Potential bad excuses:
    • data looks good
      • takes very little time
      • certain customer going to quit
      • make it optional
      • cousin’s neighbor said
      • nothing else planned
      • we can work on whatever we want
      • but x amount of people want it
      • but competitors have it
      • but someone else will build it
      • but boss wants it
      • could be the one

Why I’m Better 🔗︎

Having a solid engineering background gives a PM two critical tools: the ability to relate to engineers and a grasp of the technical details driving the product

Gusto Values with Jarell 🔗︎

  • Which value of Gusto do you identify with the most?
  • The least?
  • For value 02 (don’t optimize for the short-term), how do you relate to this - where do you see yourself in the future or 5 years from now?
  • How would you define a PMM?
    • best understanding of the customer that you find - what motivates them - know the customer inside out
    • trends in space
    • eyes & ears in competitive landscape
    • handful of buckets: 1) customer research feedback loop to product, what things they need to change, 2) go-to-market strategy, customer segmentation, market sizes, projections over time, and 3) partner to PMs when it comes to launching features - how do we launch? how do we find out about it
    • on-boarding flow - custom docs
  • What aspects of product marketing management do you find least interesting and why?
    • lots of project management
    • wrangling of different stakeholders
    • other folks on marketing team
    • coordination
  • love most: longitudinal - deeper on long-term projects - customer search, segmentation,

Based off what Eric told me was going to be covered in the interview with Jarell, we were supposed to review the 6 values o Jarell

  • Culture
  • What is important to me
  • What you value most personally and professionally
  • Review 6 values of gusto
  • Pick one or two values that really resonated with me in personal and professional experiences

Values 🔗︎

06 Be transparent Share information. Share mistakes. Share victories.

05 Do what’s right What is right isn’t the same as what is easy.

01 Ownership mentality Every employee has the power to make our company better.

03 We are all builders We are collectively building the product and company of our dreams.

04 Go the extra mile Go beyond delivering what works. Discover what delights.

02 Don’t optimize for the short term Short-term gains never justify long-term sacrifice. Invest in the future.

Gusto - Jenna 🔗︎

  • Background involves business & QA roles but also symbolic systems degree - how useful was that in your summer experience?
    • symbolic: cognitive science/AI/HCI
    • didn’t want to code, liked philosophy, liked economics
    • could combine and get more holistic experience
    • no coding but ability to relate to engineers (trade-offs, feasibility, how long will it take, understanding complexity)
    • humans/psychology/philosophy
      • deeply empathize with people
      • translating pain points and needs into delightful software
      • UX and fuzzier skills
      • tech & fuzzy skills combined
  • What’s the last feature you helped ship?
    • compensation history and effective dating
    • as an HR platform
    • product lifecycle
    • edge cases
    • functionality
    • shipped 3 or 4 things (8 months)
    • make impact on
  • If you had to do it over again, would there be anything you would have done differently?
    • really just taking it as an opportunity to make it learn as much as you can
    • go up to random people to ask for their advice and just getting to know
    • talking to senior leadership as much as possible
    • sitting in on a meeting (totally happy doing that)
    • picking up better understanding
    • strategic roadmap
    • foot in door
  • How do you stay up to date?
    • learn on the job though for sure
    • a lot of the technical knowledge is very Gusto specific
    • development lifecycle for engineers here - more important to know than code syntax
      • dev environments and staging
      • specific to company you’re working at
    • books on PM
      • project management

Jenna’s Experience 🔗︎

  • 2 years ago
  • intern at Gusto
  • much smaller
  • just payroll
  • 100 to 250 during that summer
  • interviewing at company just as an intern
  • Mayfield Fellows - entrepreneurship work-study program - have to work at startup during summer
  • open PM position on
  • company structured: 5 missions - verticals that a PM can work on
    • 3 of them are around products
      • payroll mission
      • HR mission - Jenna’s full-time position
      • benefits mission
    • platform mission (security) - Jenna’s intern position
    • growth mission (data)
  • hands on mentorship - Tomer (head of product)
    • helped me learned/helped me grow/taught you how to be a PM
    • direct PM in terms of projects
    • customer research, specs, design wireframes
    • products didn’t actually get shipped
    • can’t work with every part of the product lifecycle
    • you might not make a huge impact on company but you learn a lot - help them grow and make them a better PM
    • values interns
  • one PM gave me helpful structure
    • 3 major components to product
      • figuring out what to build
        • vision of company (long-term)
      • figuring out how it should work (PM Intern focused on)
        • know problem that is worth solving
        • getting engineers involved (constraints & feasibility)
      • execution
        • shipping features
        • making products go quickly
  • day to day
    • talking to people all the time in the company
    • lots of research
    • spent time with designers and engineers
    • varies
    • problem solving, speccing, customer empathy

Uber 🔗︎

““Travis’s biggest strength is that he will run through a wall to accomplish his goals,” said Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire investor who has mentored Mr. Kalanick. “Travis’s biggest weakness is that he will run through a wall to accomplish his goals. That’s the best way to describe him.””

At the core of every single one of the problems we face as a society is the total lack of social ethics used by businesses. Uber is just another example of fundamentally-unethical business practices in the way both customers and workforce are used.

I’m so tired of alpha males. And alpha females. I don’t want to “lean in”, conquer the world, grind people’s faces into the dust if they’re 10 minutes late, act like a frat boy for my whole life. or make billions and billions and billions of dollars. It sounds like a horrible life, but these over achievers with under developed consciences, just keep making our world worse and worse. Couldn’t they all go to some survivor island and eat each other alive?

Kalanick illustrates that having a great idea and being a CEO are two very different skill sets. The idea behind Uber is a good one….his ability to be an effective CEO is very questionable.

Hila 🔗︎

Imagine that you are the PM working on this new feature. We want to build a new feature. Every time an employee gets paid, we want to send an email.

Combination between

Users didn’t really know they wanted

Customer customer support case

No existing framework notifying employees that they’ve been paid