Calvin French-Owen, Geoffrey Keating on June 10th 2020
Andy Yeo on August 5th 2020
Let’s say you're looking to break into product management but your experience to date has been limited to support or other customer-facing roles. What's the best way to become a product manager?
I can't promise you that the path isn't challenging, but there are some fundamental steps that worked for me that I'm sure will make your transition much easier.
Success in any career transition relies more on your motivations and less on your experience. There are days as a PM where you feel absolutely invigorated by what you're shipping to customers. But I'd be lying if I didn't mention the days where it also feels thankless and stressful. That's why it's important to ask yourself honestly, "Why do I want to move from customer support into product management?" and align this with what fulfills you in a job.
For me, I had led a career traversing various customer-facing roles — from sales -> customer success -> sales engineering -> support engineering. Each time I made a move, I was motivated by my passion for solving customer problems.
When I decided to transition into product management, this passion was combined with a desire to drive business growth at a strategic level by influencing what and how products were launched. These motivations haven’t changed, so no matter how nerve-racking my week gets, I have no regrets.
Customer support reps often perceive themselves in a second-class role. They see themselves as someone who spends their days answering ticket after ticket, with no end in sight. If you feel this way, don't.
Some of the best product managers I know come from a customer support background. The role trains you to be empathetic with the customer, exposes you to the most relevant customer problems and teaches you to juggle many tasks at once with the same level of quality.
These are all attributes that make a brilliant product manager.
In fact, I specifically moved into the support role at Segment after reading this blog post so that I could gain the customer exposure necessary to make that transition smooth.
If you’re looking to make the jump into product management, focus on the portable skills you’ve developed as a customer support rep. There could be few candidates that have your depth of customer empathy.
Never take for granted how much relationships help in your career. This is especially true if there isn't a formal internal transfer program available in your company.
Get to know the whole product team, understand what they do, how they do it, and potentially how they may have made their own transition happen.
When I first arrived at Segment, I arranged coffee chats with every PM on the team, the colleagues who I'd one day be on the same team with. They shared their journeys, their advice, and more importantly, anecdotes about their job that helped to confirm my original motivation.
In particular, get to know the product leader. Depending on the size of your company and its management style, this would likely be the VP or Director of Product. Share your aspirations with them and make them your executive sponsor so they can help steer you in the right direction, offer advice, and ensure you’re top of mind when the next opportunity arises.
I built a solid relationship with our Director of Product when I first joined Segment and attribute a lot of my own transition success to the guidance he shared with me and the doors he opened. While he has since moved on, I still consider him both a friend and mentor.
One word of caution. I've spoken to a number of customer support reps who shy away from sharing their aspirations of becoming a PM in their company for fear of failure or judgment from their team. As long as you're performing in your existing role in support, your transparency makes you top of mind to be considered when PM roles do open up.
While no one expects you to stay in one role or team forever, and great managers will actively support you in your career development, the caveat here is that you must excel in the existing job that you were hired to do.
In support, this typically means consistently answering a large volume of tickets at a high quality and receiving positive NPS scores from your customers. This gives you repeated opportunities to learn how to investigate the true pain points for customers and also the various ways that these issues can or cannot be resolved with the existing product functionality. This provides a holistic perspective on what and how you build a product once you become a PM.
Remember that the manager of your current team is just as involved in any potential transfer process as your future manager will be. Your performance in your support role helps translate into a recommendation for the transition. In my case, my manager was incredibly supportive of me exploring potential opportunities, but it helped that she trusted that I could deliver results.
The best way to demonstrate your interest and to hone in on the required skills of a PM is to take on suitable projects. While this might seem overwhelming on top of your existing responsibilities, juggling multiple workstreams in itself is great practice for becoming a PM.
For most organizations, there's never enough people to do everything that needs to be done so the challenge isn't about landing a side project, but about choosing the right project to work on. Your evaluation should first be based on the level of impact on the business and then how well it allows you to demonstrate and practice core PM skillsets.
The gaps or areas to focus on will differ for each person but I worked with our Director of Product (remember how important this relationship is?) to whittle down the projects which allowed me to build empathy and communication, practice product execution, learn how to effectively distill data to make decisions, and formulate an effective way to manage multiple workstreams.
Over the course of the year, I completed 3-4 projects which touched on all of these skills and more. I conducted research interviews with both internal and external customers, analyzed data sets to inform the recommendations and proposals that I presented to our leadership team, wrote out mini product requirement documents, and worked with engineers and designers to implement them.
Each project you complete brings you closer to the finish line and before you know it, you're being considered as your company's next product manager. The projects you’ve shipped will set you apart as a driven and motivated individual, and the skills and knowledge you've gained make you an irrefutable choice.
When an opportunity came up at Segment, I had graduated from working on side projects to informally being embedded on the Platform team where I had first shadowed the PM and taken on smaller parts of the roadmap to execute upon.
Thanks to this, I was offered a position on the same Platform team as a product manager creating products that allow our customers and partners to build their own integrations on Segment.
Though I've moved on from the support engineering role, I'm still heavily involved through regular meetings with the team and jumping into our support ticket system to make sure I have all the latest on-the-ground customer insights.
Transitioning from support made being ‘customer-obsessed’ second nature to the product decisions that I make now. Looking back, while the process was tough, it was also rewarding and set me up with the necessary foundations to succeed.
If you’re looking to make a similar move, I’d recommend the following:
Understand why you want to become a PM
Believe in your ability to go from support to product
Build deep relationships to help you along the way
Outperform in your current role
Show that you can do it
Or if you’re curious about a career at Segment, check out our open positions! We’re always looking for more driven, collaborative people to join the team.
Tayler Mehit on July 30th 2020
Andy Yeo on July 16th 2020
More of the customer experience is online than ever before. While this offers your business new opportunities to tailor each user’s journey, it also creates a lot of complexity below the hood. Most companies are using 80+ vendor tools to run their business, and half of the enterprises we surveyed maintain 7+ disconnected islands of customer data.
Today, we’re proud to announce that Functions is generally available to all customers, and you can start building now. If you want to learn more, here are a few of the most common ways customers are using Functions.
While Segment already supports 300+ sources and destinations, you can use Functions to create your own sources and destinations directly within your workspace to bring new types of data into Segment and send data to new tools:
Collect customer data across any data source that supports webhooks
Send customer data to any tool or internal service with a public API endpoint
We’ve seen customers primarily use Functions to build a more complete customer view, with a specific lens toward connecting an internal service or an industry-specific tool to Segment. For example, Adversus is an outbound call center platform that used Functions to create a new data source and destination for their new financial automation tool, Fenerum.
By integrating Segment to Fenerum using Functions, the Adversus team is able to keep track of changes in user subscriptions and related invoices in real-time. These integrations have also empowered their Finance team to use their data warehouse as a source of truth for their own analysis.
At Adversus, we need the freedom to control our data and Functions lets us do just that. Integration projects are now done in a few days instead of weeks, and our development team can focus on the core product development instead of internal IT projects. We’re now looking to move even more of our data integrations into the Segment product. Mads Jepsen, Co Founder, Adversus
When your business has multiple business units or products, it can be tough to balance keeping data clean and reliable across the company, while also making it work for every tool your teams use.
For Adevinta, a marketplace specialist with over 30 brands, this had led to serious data inconsistencies in order to optimize their ad performance.
One of their real estate brands, Fotocasa, wanted to advertise to users via Google, Facebook, and Criteo with personalized ads based on whether users want to buy or rent. Their data team wanted to keep the data clean with a single event for House Lead, with properties for type: sell and type: rent to help them avoid reporting on redundant events. However, their ad tools required them to send two separate events for Sell House Lead and Rent House Lead for personalization.
In order to better balance data quality and ad performance, Adevinta created a Source Function to collect a single House Lead event and create separate events downstream so their ad platforms could properly use the data. This quick solution helped them keep their global analytics clean while unlocking better personalization for Fotocasa.
Not only does this save them hours of engineering and reporting time, but it also helped them further optimize their ads to create a 4-5x improvement in campaign performance.
With Functions, you can go far beyond implementing new tools by creating functions that allow you to automate away complex workflows. This is especially true for industries like consumer packaged goods where offline and online data need to interplay to create great experiences.
A multinational CPG business is using Functions to provide delivery visibility for the store owners who distribute their products. They use Foxtrot to manage deliveries in Latin America, and every time a delivery is about to go out, Foxtrot triggers a route created event that contains the IDs of all the stores that are going to get hit on that route.
By plugging that same data into Segment using a Source Function, they can use Segment to match Foxtrot data, customer ID, and store ID. They can then pass that data from Segment to Braze, which triggers a message to the store owners informing them their items are out for delivery.
Even more impressive is that they were able to complete the entire project within four days, giving them a huge personalization win in less than a week.
Functions is built on AWS Lambda, and we’ve continued to rapidly expand the feature set since our developer preview. We’ve partnered with early users to build in more ease-of-use and reliability to ensure the functions you build can truly become core to your data pipeline.
Here’s what we’ve improved over the last few months:
Error tracking: You can find useful information about errors triggered within your function in both our debugger and in event delivery.
Advanced permissions: You now have more control over who can create, edit, or deploy functions in your workspace.
Data replay for Source Functions: We’ve built a tool to help establish more reliability for your event pipeline and to help respect GDPR/CCPA compliance.
Custom settings for Destination Functions: You can now include configurable fields either required or encrypted for things like API keys, secrets, and event mapping.
Autofill for Destination Functions: Test your function with real events from any of the active sources within your Segment workspace.
Functions is a paid product, but every customer is granted a generous set of compute hours to build, test, and use Functions for your business. We invite you to start building within your workspace today.
Calvin French-Owen, Geoffrey Keating on June 10th 2020
Geoffrey Keating, Andy Schumeister on April 29th 2020
Our mission at Segment is to help every company in the world use good data to power their growth. And over the past eight years, we’ve been lucky enough to help thousands of businesses do exactly that.
During that time, most of the people implementing these customer data strategies have come from specific, and largely technical teams, like engineering and analytics. This is not only because of the technical effort involved in data collection, but also user comprehension around what they should collect and why.
But imagine a world where a product manager didn’t have to ping an engineer to instrument a tracking plan for the new feature they just launched. A marketer didn’t have to submit a Jira ticket to track whether an A/B test was successful or not.
Today we’re introducing Visual Tagger — to help everyone in your company collect the website data they need in minutes, without relying on technical teams.
With Visual Tagger, you can capture all the events that you want to capture without having to touch your code. - Neeraj Sinha, Chief Technology Officer, ScoutMyTrip
In less than 10 years, the amount of customer data being tracked by businesses has grown exponentially. According to Gartner, 82% of organizations have seen an increase in the types of customer data they are tracking over the past five years.
Just as the overall volume of customer data has increased, so too has its influence across the business. Nowadays, product and marketing teams are as eager to collect and use customer data as engineers and analysts.
How customer data is changing in the organization. Image source: Gartner
The desire to collect customer data may be universal, but so too is the struggle to execute.
Whether you’re an early-stage startup or Fortune 500 company, engineering teams are facing increasingly limited bandwidth. When implementing a customer data tracking plan has to compete for attention with dozens of other priorities, it can be deprioritized, or worse, ignored.
Driven by these constraints, an entire industry has started to flourish. Known as the “no-code” or “low-code” movement, tools like Webflow, Airtable, and Zapier (and Segment customers like Buildfire and Hotjar) are democratizing access to tasks that previously required technical expertise.
We now live in a world where you no longer need to become a developer to build a website or build an app. At Segment, we believe you shouldn’t have to be an engineer to start collecting the data you need to understand your customers either.
Visual Tagger is available free to all Segment customers, so long as you have a Segment workspace set up and the analytics.js snippet installed on your website. While the functionality of Visual Tagger is powerful, the user experience itself is incredibly simple and intuitive. In fact, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.
If you’ve ever used “WYSIWYG” software, Segment’s Visual Tagger will feel familiar. Simply point and click the different parts of your website that you’d like to track.Out of the box, Visual Tagger lets you create three types of events:
Button or Link Clicked: Create an event every time a user clicks a button or link on your website.
Form Submitted: Create an event every time a user fills out a form on your website.
Any Clicked: Similar to button or link clicked, create an event for any HTML element you would like to track (e.g. a banner).
The Visual Tagger interface
From there, you can then add rich, contextual information in the form of properties to help you understand more about the specific action that the user took.
For example, if you wanted to track a button on your homepage, you could add the property Location: Homepage. If you wanted to track a demo request on your pricing page, you could add the properties Location: Pricing Page and Feature: Demo Request.
If you aren’t sure which events or properties to track, we’ll provide recommended events to track based on your industry right in your workspace. For additional recommendations, you can also check out our industry-standard tracking plans for ecommerce, B2B SaaS, media, and more.
Your data-driven decisions are only as good as the quality and accuracy of the data you collect. With Visual Tagger, you can preview the results before the event gets created and starts flowing in production.
In test mode, you can:
Target URLs: Specify which URLs or group of URLs that an event is fired from.
Preview your events: Test the actions that would trigger the event and verify they are firing e.g. if your event gets fired, then a green checkmark will display.
Check all the details: Get granular feedback on where, how, and what event gets fired so that you can fix any issues before you deploy.
This means that you can have complete confidence before you deploy.
That’s it! Once you hit publish, the events you created will start flowing into Segment and will show up in your Debugger. You can use the Visual Tagger console to see what events are live, along with additional context for you and your team on who created the event, when it was created, and any recent updates.
Check out the docs to learn more.
Whether it’s helped them to experiment faster or save valuable engineering resources, Visual Tagger has become integral to the workflows of technical, and even non-technical, users alike.
Here are use cases from a few of our early customers and the positive impact Visual Tagger has had on their businesses.
ScoutMyTrip, an AI-driven road trip planner and travel expert marketplace, relies heavily on quick, iterative experiments to help drive customer acquisition and retention. However, with a small engineering team, they struggled to make a strong business case for launching and analyzing these experiments. Investing precious engineering resources in capturing data for an experiment (that might not even work) felt wasteful, given other demands from across the business.
With Visual Tagger, ScoutMyTrip can track all the experiments they need without having to touch a line of code. Whereas tracking events for an experiment usually took the team six days on average, they were able to track the same number of events in two hours.
“It took me about two hours to capture 30 events. If I didn't have Visual Tagger, I would have decided not to capture half of the events altogether because that would be too much of a hassle.” - Neeraj Sinha, Chief Technology Officer, ScoutMyTrip
Nationbuilder, a nonprofit and political campaign software platform that combines website, communication, and donation tools, wanted to understand and optimize their onboarding experience.
Unfortunately, getting the data they needed was a highly manual process. Tracking events had to be manually instrumented with engineering, and, quite often, was ignored in favor of more pressing matters. For Alex Stevens, Director of Growth at Nationbuilder, they needed to start tracking with minimal investment of resources, so they could understand product adoption and onboard customers as easily and quickly as possible.
With Visual Tagger, the team now feels comfortable implementing event tracking themselves.
“It used to take weeks for an analytics request to get prioritized. With Visual Tagger, I can quickly collect the data I need without having to create tons of requests for our engineering team.” - Alex Stevens, Growth Director, Nationbuilder
With Visual Tagger, customers can configure events in minutes and then activate the data in 300+ tools in the Segment catalog.
For example, Voopty, a business management software that connects educators, tutors, and clubs, with families searching for their services, needed better visibility into engagement metrics.
Voopty’s Founder and Software Developer, Taja Kholodova, needed access to product analytics to provide reporting to the hundreds of partner businesses they work with. Unfortunately, collecting this data was manual and required time to learn every additional tool and platform.
Kholodova turned to Visual Tagger and was able to quickly set up event tracking to understand user engagement in a matter of minutes. From there, Kholodova instantly activated the data across their entire tech stack, including tools like Indicative, FullStory, and Google Tag Manager.
“We were able to start sending events to destinations in 5 minutes.” - Taja Kholodova, Founder and Software Developer, Voopty
Visual Tagger is a win for both technical and non-technical users alike. Engineers are free from menial and repetitive tasks that take away time they could spend on building product. Product managers and marketers can unlock the myriad of use cases within the Segment product, without writing a single line of code.
But we think the true benefits will be felt by your end customer. By making analytics instrumentation unbelievably easy, data is accessible to everyone in your company. This empowers every individual to use that data to inform their day-to-day work.
And ultimately, that means better products and better customer experiences for all of us.
Ready to get started with Visual Tagger? Log in to your workspace to set up new events in minutes.
Calvin French-Owen on March 18th 2020
Each year, I like to reflect on what’s now different about Segment. Thinking back to a year ago, there’s an incredible amount that we’ve managed to accomplish.
In many ways, I see the Segment of 2020 as a new company, with fresh challenges and lots of new opportunities.
But as the famous saying goes—the days are long but the years are short. Without further ado, here are the major highlights from Segment over the past 12 months.
Segment helps businesses connect and use reliable customer data to fuel product experimentation, marketing, analytics, data science, and so much more. And in 2019 we doubled down to ensure that companies could truly add data into Segment and use the data wherever they needed.
Simple code editor to build a function
While we’ve made it possible to build any connection with Functions, we’ve also added more than one new integration per week in 2019 to our integration catalog.
That means our customers can more easily set up 350+ tools (37% growth from 2018) to connect new sources and destinations. About 1 in every 3 customers has already tried one of the newest tools in our catalog.
Since the early days of Segment, we’ve stood for privacy and responsible data handling. We’ve tried to avoid dealing with sketchy data brokers and third-party cookies, and instead make it easier for companies to comply with privacy-first legislation like the GDPR and CCPA.
At Synapse, our annual user conference, we launched our new Privacy Portal that allows organizations to automate detect and classify information flowing through Segment, and control where it is sent. It’s currently used by hundreds of customers to help enforce data standards at their companies.
Aliya Dossa and Tido Carriero announce our new Privacy Portal at Synapse
One of our core values is karma, and we want to make sure we treat our customers’ data in a way they would expect. Privacy isn’t just a big deal for our customers. It’s a big deal to end-consumers as well.
We went beyond being ready for CCPA when it became effective on January 1, 2020. We also stood up a Privacy Program and a Public Policy Team in 2019. We made multiple trips to Washington to help campaign for privacy rights. We’ve also been very active in California around the CCPA.
Destination Filters are being used by more than one out of every three business plan customers. They are key in helping customers control their API costs and instrument basic privacy controls. Protocols Transformations allow users to alter their events without changing their code. We’re seeing companies use transformations to help standardize event names between new and old systems, connect previously siloed data, and more.
Simple UI to build a Destination Filter in a few steps
In 2019, we grew from roughly 350 employees to 500+. In March 2019, we launched our Denver office as a new hub for our Customer Success org with a plucky landing crew of 3. Since then, we’ve grown the office to 17 strong, and made 24/7 customer support possible.
Segmenters around the world
We saw similar growth across our other offices too. In April, we expanded our NYC office to a high-rise right next to Times Square. In November, we expanded the SF office an entire floor. And in November, our EMEA team in Dublin made its 50th hire! There’s never been a better time to join!
In February 2019, we launched the Segment Startup Program, to give early stage startups access to $50,000 in free Segment, and more than a million dollars in free software from companies like Intercom, AWS, and HubSpot.
We’ve onboarded 3,000+ startups into the program, and continue to add hundreds each month. More importantly, we’ve helped the next generation of startups make data-driven decisions powered with good customer data.
This year, we expanded our customer conference, Synapse, in a big way. We hosted a record-breaking 1200 attendees. We had two full days of talks from experts and customers, as well as a partner summit.
Main stage audience at Synapse 2019
Synapse was an opportunity to learn from the best, and we continue to be impressed by the level of depth and expertise that customers shared.
For example, it’s humbling to hear that Segment played a meaningful role in helping Allergan increase revenue by $250 million. We hope to share many more stories like this over the next year.
Full-page Wall Street Journal advertisement
We have come together with over 100 partners to cut through the noise and make sure that businesses know that there is an entire alternative ecosystem outside of their CRM suites.
There are alternatives that meet the demands of today’s customers, are flexible, and work together seamlessly, so that businesses can build customer technology stacks that are unique to their needs, versus a one-size-fits-all approach.
We rebuilt our documentation site
Our documentation is one of the most-visited parts of our website, and while it had grown organically over time, it was starting to show the strain. In late November we released an entirely new docs site, with a fresh, readable design, greatly improved information architecture, and better navigation. We also released new content in the form of an all-new intro to Segment, and some introductory guides tailored to different user roles.
In August 2019, we launched one of the more iconic startup campaigns on the market: “What good is bad data?” To highlight the importance of clean, accurate data, we staged a series of mixups that found their way into billboards across Austin, New York, Los Angeles, and more. You can read more about it here.
Our billboard in San Francisco
The campaign created quite the storm, as we saw tweets and Reddit posts shared from celebrities, friends, and customers.
Segment has the privilege of working with many different types of clients, including Fortune 500 enterprises to industry-specific small businesses. In every case, we want to build trust and show every customer our commitment to security.
Throughout late 2019, we completed our SOC 2 Type 1 attestation. I’m excited to share that this is one of many steps we are taking to continue to build trust with our customers.
Thanks to all who made the above possible. If you’re interested in helping us build the next wave of progress, we’re hiring!
Alexandra Agnoletti on March 5th 2020
Updated on March 12, 2020
Our focus remains on three main priorities: keeping the Segment team and families safe, helping contain the spread of COVID-19, and supporting our customers who depend on Segment. Below are the measures we’ve implemented toward these priorities:
As of Monday March 16th, all Segment employees in all global offices are either strongly encouraged to work from home or are mandated work from home. This recommendation follows the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus in every region where a Segment office is located.
We are also restricting all business travel, not just travel to certain locations. We continue to discourage all personal travel.
We recognize the period of transition that Segment is undergoing as we adjust to a fully-distributed workforce — we are providing manager workshops on how to manage remote teams and resources for our employees on how to stay healthy while working remotely.
As a cloud-based platform supported by a flexible, globally-dispersed team, we are able to continue supporting our customers with minimal disruption while transitioning to a remote workforce. Our internal tooling and business systems are comprised of industry-recognized cloud solutions that allow our team to effectively communicate and collaborate both inside and outside of our offices. We are continuing to evaluate our business continuity plans to best support our customers during the developing situation with COVID-19 and to further strengthen our resiliency for future unforeseen events.
This post will be updated as new developments occur. Original post published March 05, 2020.
Given the current developing situation with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Segment is acutely aware of its responsibility as corporate citizens to employees, customers, and the broader community. Here is how we’re approaching our responsibility to slow the spread of the virus and to keep conditions as safe as possible in all our global offices.
Segment has implemented the following precautionary measures, effective March 5, 2020:
We are allowing all employees to work remotely at this time and encouraging all SF-based employees to work remotely in accordance with the increased pace of the spread of COVID-19 in the region.
We are also requiring employees who have been to a CDC level 2-3 country within the past 2 weeks to work in self-quarantine for the amount of time recommended by the CDC.
For the safety of our customers, partners, and those in the interview process to work at Segment, we are moving live meetings to occur over video. In tandem, we are restricting all business travel to and from San Francisco and any CDC level 2-3 locations, as well as discouraging personal travel.
We are dedicated to ensuring business continuity for our customers while we take precautions to keep our employees and broader community safe and secure. Due to the nature of our business, we aren't expecting any disruption to the Segment service. We welcome any and all feedback you may have.