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May 24, 2010

Day in the Life of a Product Manager

Following in our Day in the Life series is Vivek P., Product Manager at Yelp.

Vivek talks about how he likes to keep Yelp all in the family, and why no day is ever the same - especially as the Product Manager in charge of expanding Yelp internationally (parlez-vous Yelp?) But when he's not busy launching our site in other countries, you can find him kicking back with a cooler of beer on wheels and playing, er, frisbee golf with the team.


(Vivek: Second from the left. A Product Manager is never too far from his engineers - or a good beer!)

What did you do before coming to Yelp?
Before Yelp, I was the Director of Product Management at SugarSync, a startup that built file backup and sync service for consumers.

How did you first hear about Yelp and the job opening?
As a bay area foodie, I had used Yelp to look up reviews for years, but I realized that the site was something truly special when my wife would stay up late into the night pounding out reviews in her quest to be Yelp Elite. Following that, I heard about the opening on the product team from a friend who was already working at Yelp and jumped at the opportunity (or risk the ire of my wife!)

What's your title at Yelp and how long have you been with the company?
I've been a Product Manager at Yelp for a little over a year now -- I started in April '09.

What comprises a typical day for you?
One of the fun things about being a Product Manager at Yelp is that there's never a typical day. Most recently I've been managing our international expansion so I'll start my day by checking out what happened overnight in Europe. I'll look into what users have been doing on the site in Canada, UK, Ireland and France and answer questions from our international community managers and user operations team. Following that morning routine, we have our daily stand-up where the engineers on the consumer team will check in about what they're planning to work on for the day. After that, pretty much anything can happen. We push new code to the website everyday so there's always a possibility that something isn't working as expected and I might need to jump in to coordinate a fix. Or maybe it'll be a quiet day and I'll spend time designing a new feature in Fireworks or some longer term product planning; talking to a partner or testing a feature that's about to be released. We've got a bunch of exciting projects underway so there's never a dull day at the office.

What's the BEST part of working for Yelp?
I genuinely like the people I work with and I believe in our mission of creating a community that helps connect people to great local businesses. Perhaps most important to my role as a Product Manager, I LOVE the fact that I spend my time actually working and executing on really cool things rather than sitting in meetings just talking about getting them done. Having a team that is able to move quickly, efficiently and with creativity on projects is rewarding - one you don't get just anywhere!

What is your favorite perk at Yelp?
Yelp HQ is located in downtown San Francisco right across the street from the Yerba Buena Gardens. It's great to feel like you're at the center of things and not stuck in some boring office park eating at Quizno's everyday.

What has been your favorite memory at Yelp?

After several months of laying the groundwork for our first version of Yelp in another language, my team launched Yelp France. To celebrate many months of hard work as a team, I organized a surprise off site to play frisbee golf in Golden Gate Park. I'm pretty sure no one had actually played frisbee golf before, but we we were well prepared with our cooler of beer on wheels (in lieu of the Yelp kegerator) and enjoyed a memorable afternoon together.

What separates Yelp from other places you've worked?

Yelp has done a remarkable job of keeping its rich culture and feel as a small start-up intact - even though it's grown rapidly in the past year. Everyone I work with really cares about what we're doing and the management team is completely accessible and actively engaged.  It's nice to know you play an important and valued role in a company that has already demonstrated it has massive potential.

Finally, what would be your one piece of advice for someone interested in your role?
Don't be afraid to learn new things and get your hands dirty!