How do Amazon’s Product Managers help to serve customers around the world?
Meet Sophie Wilshaw, Senior Manager, Product Management. Sophie and her team work across our e-commerce business, covering a wide range of product lines, to support the build of product features on the Amazon store websites that provide a seamless shopping experience for our customers.
We spoke to Sophie to find out more about how Product Managers and their teams help millions of customers around the world by continuously innovating and simplifying the customer journey.
What does a Product Manager do at Amazon?
Product management is a strategic role driving the development, launch and ongoing support and improvement of products. By ‘products’ in this context, we mean any new website features or tools that we add to our webpages. Across different organisations, the role can mean different things but it always encompasses a wide range of responsibilities.
At Amazon, Product Managers or Leaders like myself are involved in the end-to-end process of developing new products for our Amazon stores around the world. This process covers everything from ideation to the development, launch, and adoption of said products on our Amazon stores, always with the customer at the heart of our product design.
I talk to global business and tech partners everyday – not just in Europe but also across the US, India, and further afield. That means we’re always enjoying a real cultural mix and thinking creatively about how to work across different markets.
I check in with teams on our pipeline of ideas – we might be looking at a scoping document for a new product, user stories, or reviewing our ideation process. I get to see game-changing ideas developed live.
Then working across amazing teams in business functions, product management and tech means I’m constantly learning and building new relationships.
How do you launch a new product at Amazon?
One of the most important parts of life at Amazon is that anyone can put forward a new idea. Wherever you may be sitting in the business, if your idea can help us build better experiences for our customers, our product management team wants to hear it.
Using our ‘Working Backwards’ approach, you can frame any new proposal by outlining the end vision first, focusing on what the idea means to our customers. Once we have the vision in front of us, we then work backwards to figure out the step-by-step process required to make that vision a reality.
Hackathons are a great way to identify and develop new ideas. We want to leverage experimentation and the natural creativity across our teams, because everybody needs time and space to be playful and to ‘think big’. We bring a diverse set of business and tech partners together, invite new ideas, split up into groups and then set ourselves a target – for example, can we move from a concept to a ‘working backwards’ document built in under 24 hours?
During one of these hackathons we identified and developed 360-degree imaging on product pages which you can now see on Amazon today!
Can you share examples of shopping experiences that your team has built?
Our global team recently launched a new experience in our search results where we now highlight additional information on our products, rather than just showing product name and price. This feature displays a bullet point list of highly relevant product information next to the product image. This means customers are more informed about the products they are selecting earlier in their shopping journey.
Another product feature which has been launched enables our customers to easily view large product images on a detail page via a new image gallery feature, meaning they are able to visually evaluate products with confidence before making a purchase.
What are the top three qualities you look for in a Product Manager on your team?
Having been at Amazon for over four years, I think about what qualities you need to succeed in relation to our Amazon Leadership Principles.
The first is ‘Customer Obsession’. We always make sure that what we are developing is based on a real customer need and we are continuously iterating and honing the design to meet our customers’ high expectations.
The second is ‘Invent and Simplify’. We don’t want to deliver products that already exist in the market. Instead, we think creatively for new experiences on behalf of our customers. At Amazon we serve millions of people every day, which presents big and complex challenges that we always strive to solve with simple but delightful solutions.
The third quality is ‘Deliver Results’. We love to continually improve our customer experience, which relies on our ability to launch new products on a regular basis.
How do Product Managers and their teams build new technology-driven experiences when they do not have experience as a software developer?
A Product Manager doesn’t need to know how to code. What they do need to understand is our customers’ needs and develop new experiences to address these issues.
I studied Geology at Durham – in fact, I originally wanted to be a volcanologist! But in my early career in consumer consultancy, I found a niche for understanding customers inside-out and working on related projects. I learned analytics and other skills, crafting my career as it developed. There are not many linear career paths, and you don’t need a degree in engineering or computer science to excel – instead you need an open mind to lifelong learning and a diverse range of skills in the team around you.
We work with wonderful tech partners all around the world – including software developers and engineers, front- and back-end developers, User Experience designers, data scientists and more – to turn our vision into a real product on Amazon’s online stores.
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