Inside Twilio Product: Jen Skene

Kevin Niparko, Jen Skene on January 24th 2022

Inside Twilio Product is a series designed to shine the spotlight on the talented team of product people behind Twilio & Segment products. We’ll publish a series of articles that will follow each team member on their career path and journey to Segment.

Today I’m very excited to introduce you all the Jen Skene. Jen is one of the amazing product leaders in Segment, focusing on Segment integrations and platform efforts. It won’t take you long to realize that Jen brings a unique perspective to product management. From waiting tables at a ski lodge in Utah to marine biology (she wrote her dissertation on the effects of climate change on intertidal seaweed) and public science education, Jen brings a breadth of experiences to building product.

At Twilio Segment, Jen helped formulate our Strategic Connections strategy, roadmap, and team, thinking about how Segment integrates with complex technologies like Adobe, Google, and Salesforce. In a little over a year at Segment, she’s one of the product voices behind multi-instance destinations and destination actions.

Zoom with margin

So Jen, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into product?

After grad school, I worked in public science education at two museums that were part of UC Berkeley. I also was a lecturer at Berkeley and at Mills College, a small women’s college in Oakland. I was writing a lot of grants, trying to get funding for climate change education programs. I am not a very successful grant writer. 

I switched gears and joined an ed tech startup called Inkling that was putting textbooks on the iPad — this was when the iPad was very new. I was a biology content specialist, and I worked with textbook authors and publishers to make biology content interactive. This was a super fun job. The company pivoted to focus on workplace/employee education, and I switched roles: first to product marketing, then to product analytics, and then to product research. I loved the research because I got to use the data analysis skills that I picked up while getting my PhD.

I then moved to Mixmax, a very small startup (I was the 6th hire) where I took on many roles: operations, customer support, even sales! I talked to so many customers and prospects, I started working with engineers to scope out new features: product management! 

Why did you choose to join Twilio Segment?

One of my former coworkers from Mixmax joined Segment, and he kept encouraging me to visit for lunch — and apply for a job. During the pandemic, I was looking for a new role with geographic flexibility, an intellectually challenging product, the opportunity to move into a leadership role, and a kind culture. Segment met all my criteria! 

What is your role at Twilio Segment?

I am the Integrations Pillar Product Lead, and I manage the product managers on the Integrations pillar. Integrations handles how data gets into Segment (our libraries and SDKS) and our integrations with hundreds of downstream tools, like Google Analytics, Salesforce, Amplitude, and Customer.io. Our partners’ products are always evolving, which keeps us on our toes. We’re also excited to evolve our integrations framework and empower partners to build their own Segment integrations on our platform. 

How do you think academia / PhD prepared you for product management?

My PhD program taught me to be a scientist: to think about the world in terms of observations and hypotheses and experiments. I take the same approach to product management. What does the data say? How can we build something small and test it? How can we keep learning and share what we learn with everyone in the organization?

What do bat wings and product management have in common?

Well… after college, I went to Australia to study the flight dynamics of flying foxes, big fruit bats with a 5-foot wingspan. My job was to stand in a large wind tunnel, hold a stick with a bat perched on the end, and gently move the stick to “launch” a bat into the air so it could fly in the wind tunnel. We used special cameras to record the bat’s movement from multiple angles, so we could recreate the movements in 3D space.

Launching a new product is basically the same, right? 

What’s something you believe about product management that you think more PMs should know about?

Product management is an incredibly collaborative job. I’m in meetings almost all day long. You need to be “on” all day — and it is so much fun to talk to customers, pick apart thorny design problems, and talk with engineers about tradeoffs… lots of context switching. You also need to carve out time to think and synthesize.

What’s a guilty pleasure right now?

Furikake Chex mix from my local poke restaurant. They now give me the snacks for free because I am such a frequent customer.

What’s the last really good book you read?

I loved “Transcendent Kingdom” by Yaa Gyasi. It’s about a biology PhD student — and family, the immigrant experience, and much more. It is beautifully written.

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