I have some really exciting news to share: Brian has become our Product Manager. He’s been in this role for 2 weeks now and even after 1 week he was doing a better job running Product than I ever managed to do. It’s been incredibly fun to work with him and help him thrive in the role, and now it’s time to make things official.
How the idea of stepping away from Product came about
During our retreat in Thailand I had a chance to spend some time thinking on a higher level about Buffer as a whole. We were also going through an interesting period where we hadn’t quite made the full leap to changing our vision to focus on Business. We had a few months of slower growth and we knew we had to change something. I spent a lot of time talking with Leo, and some time by myself in the local coffee shop pondering what we should do. I sat awake a couple of nights thinking about everything too.
I had a key realization during that time of reflection, which was that I needed to let go of day-to-day product management. It hit me that by focusing too much on Product specifically, I was neglecting to think about the business as a whole. In addition, by trying to focus on Product alongside everything else on my plate, I was not doing as good a job as I wanted to in running Product. I’d read a lot about Product Management and met people for advice and I had a vision of how well I could run it, but struggled to get there.
So that was it. Half way through our time in Thailand it hit me clearer than ever before. I knew there was now no going back: I needed to begin the process of transitioning away from day-to-day running of Product. If I’m honest, I was a little scared by this. I knew it was going to be really hard to find someone who I click with and who thinks about Product in the same way I do, not to mention has the full understanding of Buffer and our space and opportunity.
Looking within the team for someone to run Product
When I first had the thought that I should stop running Product, I assumed that the next step would be to create a job listing and start the search for someone who could take over and work closely with me. Then in a meeting with Hiten, he threw out the idea that I could instead think about someone within the team who could take over one or two of the Product tasks. He mentioned that the way he does it is that someone else will handle wire-framing and some other Product tasks. That got me thinking, and Brian immediately came to mind.
Right away I threw out the idea to Brian of him helping out with Product, and he grasped onto the opportunity with both hands and went further than I could have imagined.
Why Brian so quickly became our Product Manager
I’ve mentioned before that leadership at Buffer is not something you’re given and then take on. Rather, you go ahead and start leading without the title. This is how all of the promotions have happened so far within the team. I am quite sure that Brian becoming Product Manager comes as little surprise for everyone else, since he’s been thriving at the role for 2 full weeks now.
Here are a few examples of Brian really living up to the Buffer culture and also going ahead and leading Product before we made this change official:
- Brian is great at being a ‘no ego’ doer, one of our core values. This is something that has always amazed me. With all of his design work he would approach me in a way that made it extremely easy to make suggestions. He would say things like, “I know you have a great sense of design and how the experience feels for a user, so I think I might not have got this completely right yet and would love your thoughts.” This is such a great quality, especially for someone involved in making decisions around adjustments to Product.
- One of the things we think about at Buffer a lot is the idea of team members “meeting us halfway”. I guess it’s a kind of “intuition,” it’s also the idea of asking for forgiveness rather than permission, and having initiative. With Brian, I only hinted at a few ideas for him to help me with Product. He grabbed onto those opportunities with both hands and followed through on everything. When I casually suggested a meeting to brainstorm a certain roadmap item, he said, “shall we schedule a time for that in the calendar?” He made things happen.
- Empathy and mindfulness of other team members’ time and work, while still pushing ahead and hitting deadlines and moving forward. Brian will often check in with people and be very suggestive about timing and happy to work around schedules. He’s also super organized with calendaring. In addition, Brian is very flexible and adaptable to changes that come up and are urgent, for example new bugs from the Happiness team.
- Happiness and positivity – this is another of our core values. Brian always has an optimistic and positive thought process on new features or product adjustments. In addition, even when we are working hard to hit a deadline and get something launched, he never loses his calm.
How Brian’s new role works with Open Salaries
With Brian as our Product Manager, we’ve decided to introduce a new role and base component of “Product Manager.” We also made Brian a senior member of the team since he’s worked super hard and has been a great example of living the Buffer values.
So Brian’s new salary is being adjusted from:
$94,000 (designer, 1.2x experience, +12k, +10k)
$105,500 (product manager, 1.1x experience, +12k, +6.5k seniority addition, +10k)
based on our new open salaries formula.
Here’s to good times ahead!
The last couple of weeks have been fantastic, I feel I’ve been able to give good high-level focus to Product, Happiness and Engineering and also think about all other areas of the company. Stepping slightly away helps me to be able to think about each area of the company and then signal any adjustments to people leading those areas. I feel so happy that we have amazing people in all these areas now and having trust that they will follow through on ideas which make sense is key.
Brian has been doing an incredible job already on Product and I’ll be helping as much as I can with suggestions to go further with the role, as well as people he could meet for advice.