#Build 1: How to Get Hired by People Who Don't Want to Hire You
Maggie Crowley: Product manager at Drift, where we go deep on what we're learning about building products. Another talk that we're testing out for you, the Seeking Wisdom community, well, that's my official mission. I'm actually here as a PM with an MBA to prove DC wrong. If you've been listening to Seeking Wisdom for awhile, you may have caught his subtle take on product people with experience. He doesn't like them, and people with MBAs, probably not worth hiring. And yet, here I am. I'm not entirely sure how I found the one place where my background works against me since I'm incredibly lucky in the opportunities that I've had. I'm pretty sure DC only hired me because I'm also an Olympian, but regardless I'm here and now that I have a chance, I'm on a mission to change his mind for the good of the people. So, I know on Seeking Wisdom, we're all about sharing the secrets. Today, I'm going to break down his argument and I'm going to share my secret on how to get hired by DC and founders like him. There are a handful of behaviors and patterns that I think come along with product managers and MBAs that make us on average, easy targets and occasionally bad hires. So first I'll start with experience. I think the problem is that experience can reduce flexibility. Once you become a product manager or maybe you're a part of a product team and you're learning how to ship, especially if you start to have some success shipping, you sort of understandably start to attribute some of that success, the process by which you're working, the process that you've developed as a PM. Fast forward a few years, and it's easy to start to assume that the way that you're working, the process that you've developed is the way to work. Right? You've got it all figured out. Then you go for an interview at a new role and you think," Okay, I've done this before, I have this process locked down. It's definitely going to work, I'm going to come in and change everything," and occasionally it does work. But the subtle thing that's happening as you go through this is that the more that you talk about your process as something that works especially as you go into a new company and you're communicating it to others, you're teaching people how you work, you start to lose that beginner mindset that you had in the first place that lets you evaluate your process objectively. Basically, you start to lose your curiosity for how you can build better. And then a founder like DC comes along, a product specialist with so much that he can teach you, but you've already got this way of working, right? You have a ton of amazing experience on your own, you know exactly what you're doing. And then the question is, are you open to learning? Are you truly open to the possibility that everything that you've learned so far maybe isn't as great as you thought and that you might actually have to start over? Most people would say no, right? It's human nature to say no. It's awful and it sucks to have to question everything that's gotten to that point, right? You have all this experience, you've spent all this time working. Why should you have to throw that all at the door? And so unless the answer is yes, you're open to learning, you're probably not a good fit for an experienced founder like DC. But it's not like experience is actually a bad thing, right? Going through that process of building and shipping so many times does teach you so much. So the key, the secret is how you frame your experience and what you do with it. In my opinion, treat your experience and what you've learned as a working theory, or to use product manager speak, a mental model of how to build. And if you approach it that way, every experience, every time you ship something, it expands and refines and kind of helps you discard pieces of what you've learned to date about building. And so you're constantly over the years updating and refining that mental model. So then when you've joined a company of founders like at Drift, my assumption is that that current mental model of how to build is entirely up for grabs. It's a chance to accelerate growth and development of your mental model. Maybe something I know will be useful, maybe not. Maybe I can bring something to the team, but because again, it's a mental model and not my personal ethos on product, there isn't a need for me to have an emotional connection, I don't have to be defensive. My pride maybe doesn't have to get in the way. And at the same time, the company doesn't have to worry that I'm going to be really hard to train in the way that they do things. I'm not going to fight them, right? Because I'm open to learning. Basically, you just have to be agnostic about how you build and instead what you can do is put your pride and your focus on the results, not the process by which you get them. And it just makes it so much easier to learn, to unlearn, to refine and grow your understanding of how to build when you change the way you think about it. Again, it's about how you frame your experience, not making it personal and being truly open to learning. So that's my secret on how to approach any bias I run into about my experience and the assumption that my experience might make me a tough fit at a company that does things in a unique way. So you've handled this first objection, you know exactly how to approach your experience, you know the secret is staying open, and then there's this whole MBA thing, which I think, again, it comes down to perspective. Let's start with the stereotypes. We've all heard it. MBAs are arrogant, they think they know everything already, and they're expensive and entitled. But what I think it really boils down to is what the person in question was looking to get out of their experience in the first place. First, there are MBAs who I think see the degree as their big goal. And then once they have it, especially if they have the good fortune to go to a name- brand school, once they have that degree, they've made it. Right? They can sit back, offers are going to roll in, they can swoop in and get that VP of product or strategy or ops job that everyone wants. Basically, their hard work is already done. But then there's another group. There's a group that went for the MBA just so that they could get their foot in the door at a new opportunity. They are career switchers, they are students with different kinds of backgrounds, interesting resumes, cool stories. Maybe they were in sports. They're the people who are looking for a chance to do the hard work. And so it just depends on what type of person you're looking for and what kind of experience you want. And so I think in the case of Drift, having a really public stance, basically against MBAs with a pretty vocal, you have to prove yourself, carry the water motto, allows that first type of MBA to self- select out hopefully and the second type to come knocking. And so I think the point is just to be honest about why you got an MBA if you have one. It's not a bad thing, it's an incredible experience and opportunity, but it's also in some circumstances, not a golden ticket. And at a place like Drift, and really in my opinion, anywhere, it doesn't mean that you don't have to put in the work, right? Don't be that person who waves their degree around like it gives them a pass. Instead, just like with your existing product experience, I think use what you've learned when it's relevant, and that's it. So, I think you can take two things from this. First, approach any experience that you have in a discipline as like a working draft of a theory. You have an idea, you have some inputs, but you're still doing research, right? You're still refining your mental model and growing and you're still curious. You have to be open to throwing pieces if not all of it out the door. And I think that's what's going to allow you to come in and be flexible and learn from experienced founders. And second, if you have an MBA, that's awesome, so do I. But don't let that stamp of approval get in your way. Appreciate it for getting you in the door but don't be the person who thinks that by having it, they don't have to prove themselves. So, that's the story of how I got DC to hire me despite having experience and an MBA. And since I'm here to question everything I know, to update my mental model, and learn better ways of building, I'm going to be sharing everything I learn along the way here with you our Seeking Wisdom community. So, thanks for listening. Hit me up at Maggie at Drift, tweet at me at Maggie Crowley, tell me what I got wrong, tell me why experience matters always, why MBAs are the best or the worst. Let me know what you want to hear, let me know what you want to learn. We've got tons of ideas and I'm looking forward to sharing everything that we learn with you along the way. Thanks. I think this is where I say, leave a review, six stars only, and bring us that hyper- growth.