“PM Lessons Learned from Companies Big and Small” with Dane Glasgow, VP of Global Product Management at eBay
By Dan Galatin
July 2012 Event
Dane Glasgow, Vice President of Global Product Management at eBay, presented at the July 11th meeting of the SVPMA. He shared the story of his career journey and some of the lessons he learned along the way.
Dane launched his tech world career doing digital video production in high school by participating in a focus group providing feedback on the company’s software. He was so enthusiastic about the company that he told them he would work for free. That summer, he was hired as an intern. From this experience, he learned Lesson #1: “Lucky people are open to possibilities”. In other words, you make your own luck.
Moving forward he opened an office for the company while attending college at Cornell. Observing the start of the dot com “gold rush,” he and his friends started a company called Jump.com that provided Outlook-like functionality on the web. From this experience, he learned Lesson #2: “Give crazy ideas a chance, they are often genius”. The company decided to pitch themselves to the same P.R. firm that had been engaged by Hotmail (recently acquired by Microsoft). It seemed to be a farfetched idea at first, but Dane and his colleagues convinced the firm to work with them, which contributed greatly to Jump.com’s success.
Jump ended up being short-lived as an independent company and was acquired by Microsoft in April 1999. Mr. Glasgow ended up spending eight years at Microsoft and launched his PM career there. There he learned Lesson #3:”Great PMs fill in the gaps, the parts of the work that has yet to be done”. In one instance, he discovered that the bottleneck preventing a release getting out on schedule was lack of testing resources, so he convinced the PMs to do nothing but test for the next few weeks because that is what the team needed.
Dane worked on the Hotmail team for three years. During that time, he learned Lesson #4: “Make the best ideas happen, not just your ideas”. Based on a set of ideas that Microsoft internally incubated, he pitched the idea of desktop search for Windows XP. Surprisingly to Dane, Bill Gates spent a significant amount of time using and personally promoting this feature internally. Gates’ efforts inspired Lesson #5: “Use the product every day, and not just for testing”.
Tempted to return to the start-up world, Dane left Microsoft to start Positronic. A company that focused on machine learning and customer sentiment analysis for financial sector clients. Lesson #6 was particularly exemplified by Dane’s experience at Positronic – “There are two modes of being a great PM: dreaming about all the possibilities, and making the possibilities a reality”. Each mode requires a different type of thinking and a different communication style. He found that he had to switch between both modes so frequently that it was helpful to explain to his coworkers in which mode he was operating at any given point in time.
Positronic was eventually acquired by eBay, where Dane is currently the VP of Global Product Management. His experience at eBay inspired Lesson #7 and final lesson in the presentation: “With great power comes great responsibility, so when you’re in a position of leadership, you must carefully consider what the company’s goals are”. It’s not helpful to have a many conflicting goals; rather, you should consider which metrics you can align your direction around.
Dane has enjoyed a fast-paced and highly successful product management career. In summary, he reflected on his Lesson #1 and urged the audience to always remain open to possibilities.
Dan Galatin has 20 years combined experience in product management and software engineering. He is currently a Senior Product Manager at Keynote Systems and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.