I’m a Fraud Phase
In 2017, the head of our product team sponsored several of us to attend the 2017 AcademyOx NY Product Festival at the Museum of The Moving Image in Queens, New York. We were blown away by all of the great speakers from companies like Spotify, Google, Instagram, and Tesla, to name a few. Hearing Mindy Zhang of Dropbox speak about “Imposter Syndrome,” the struggle to internalize one’s accomplishments, and persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud,” left me speechless. Wow! Talk about timing! Having just heard Spotify and Instagram boast about the experiments they can run on their millions of users each day, I was pretty envious, and felt like a straight-up fraud! Luckily, I was able to take solace in a factoid the speaker offered, that we were all ‘Impostors’ (according to research she quoted, at least 70% of product managers admitted this)! She said it’s “OK” because this meant we were continually learning and that we had the skills to learn the “skills.” That made me feel better, but more importantly, it awakened me to new possibilities thanks to the collective of conference speakers and ADP for giving me the opportunity.
I took what I learned at the conference and was determined to apply it to my work. I made some advances! I used some of the tools I picked up and shared them with my stakeholders. I found that people were receptive to these new ideas. I even had the opportunity to experiment with some impressive results. For example, last year, we launched an experiment within the Retirement Services Team to migrate clients from a legacy product with one partner to a new product with another partner before the client’s legacy product subscription ended. Migrations can be risky since they allow clients to consider other vendor products. We didn’t want to lose the business, and we wanted to give our clients the best possible experience without disrupting their operations. So, we experimented with super-concise copy, and a very light UX (only two clicks). Clients converted fast, we met our goal of 50% client-conversion in less than 60 days, and eventually exceeded our goal and retained almost all our legacy clients.
Based on this win, I knew there was more we could do. We came across another opportunity with our digital marketing team. I felt like an impostor again when they presented a readout on their latest Marquis project. I realized what I’d been doing was on a small scale, while they had been operating at scale with full-fledged experiments, which they shared in detail with our entire product organization. At first discouraged, I remembered I had the skills to learn the “skills”! So, I networked with them, traded notes, shared my ideas, and asked them questions about their work!
ADP’s evolution and modernization over the last few years have been a true success story, which I attribute to the company’s culture. ADP went beyond agility and adapted a learning culture. Although I haven’t heard it described this way, ADP’s culture has been about adopting a “Growth Mindset.” In the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carolyn Dweck, the author describes her research and findings that support the belief that ability can be developed through effort and by embracing the challenge. The book describes the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. In her research, students with a fixed mindset believed their abilities, intelligence, and talents are fixed traits. While in a growth mindset, students understand that they can develop talents and abilities through effort, good teaching, and persistence.
ADP has cultivated a learning culture that is pervasive throughout every discipline, business unit, and region. For example, in SBS, Product Managers have gathered for “Lunch & Learns,” almost every month, to gain insight into other areas of the business, including our own. We also have gotten together for ‘book club’ meetings to share specific ideas and stories from popular books about product management, marketing, leadership, and psychology. As a larger Global Product & Technology organization, we have partnered with Audible for free employee subscriptions to “squeeze” learning in by listening to audiobooks. That’s how I read Mindset and about ten other books! In product management, we host a monthly “Stand up,” where our leaders review what they’ve been working on, which allows us to share with our peers, and host guest speakers from outside of ADP. Our most recent speakers included Marty Cagan and Chris Jones from the Silicon Valley Product Group (SVPG)! As part of my growth and learning, I’ve attended 4 ADP-Sponsored conferences since 2017, including Mind The Product 2019, in San Francisco. All of this has helped me shake “imposter syndrome.”
‘I’ll Never Finish’ Phase
I’m still focused on how I can take our experimentation to the next level. When I started working with the IPM team in RUN, I knew that I would use that domain to further the experimentation culture by setting a new example. I started strong, full of ideas after having read Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success by Sean Ellis. I developed a network of “Growth Hackers” with whom I can develop experiments. I continue to share my ideas with stakeholders and have scheduled ‘readouts’ of my experiments, explaining the hypothesis, setup, plan, and latest results. I now speak the same language as my digital marketing peers, setting up variables and controls for each test, identifying primary, secondary, and even tertiary conversion metrics, conducting funnel analysis, and demonstrating statistical significance.
It’s a journey. My IPM team is small and very scrappy, and we use all the tools we can get our hands-on. We frequently collaborate outside of our team to generate even more ideas. We’re crafting an architectural vision for how our a/b testing framework can operate using a combination of the latest and greatest experimentation tools, in collaboration with our current infrastructure.
Our strategic vision is to “Generate conversions with IPM by offering products and features that are the right FIT for a business, can add VALUE to operations, and help make a positive IMPACT for both the client’s bottom line as well as ADP’s.” We even have our own sticker!
As we enter the next fiscal year and set our objectives, many of my stakeholders have come to me about a/b testing capabilities. So, the word is out!
Also, as a response to the current Pandemic, I was asked to help design a UX for ‘Alex,’ a persona we created to represent our clients at the human level, to help her navigate the crisis and take necessary and relevant actions. We experimented with a non-native UX tool and iterated the design and implementation countless times during the early weeks of the crisis. Perhaps, if not for some of the work I’ve done with the IPM team, I wouldn’t have been asked to help on this significant and meaningful project? In the words of Lin Manuel-Miranda, have I created what I set out to create?
Adrian R Carrión is a Director of Product Management at ADP in New Jersey.