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July 19, 2011

Day in the Life of a Yelp Product Manager

A lot of people think of Yelp as just a shiny, happy company that helps them find a place to get their hair did or an oreo milkshake -- and we are! -- but we’re also a technology company. And because we’re a tech company, we need the talents of engineers not only like JR Heard, but Product Managers who help keep the myriad of projects we have in the hopper on track.

Mark Allen is one of those Product Managers. When he’s not sharking for dollars on the 10th floor, looking up what your Great, Great, Great Grandfather did back in the day or having the occasional Ke$ha moment, he’s helping to build and design fundamental features here at Yelp including most recently, Yelp Deals! Check out his “Day in the Life” below.

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What did you do before coming to Yelp?
I was a User Experience Designer at Ancestry.com, where I had the challenging but fun job of creating easy-to-use historical research tools. I also got to play detective and learn all about my family’s sordid past, which sadly wasn’t nearly as scandalous as I hoped.

How did you first hear about Yelp and the job opening?
Within a week of moving to San Francisco, I used Yelp to find a mover, a storage unit, a car mechanic, a dentist, a bank and way too many burritos. I was hooked and have been a yelper ever since (although I’m still trying to earn my first Elite badge). When I noticed the job posting on Yelp’s careers page I immediately applied -- even though I wasn’t really looking for a new job at the time.

What's your title at Yelp and how long have you been with the company?
I’m a User Interface Product Manager, which is an interesting role that I’ve actually never seen anywhere else. It’s kind of like being an actor-slash-model, but with a lot less acting and slightly less modeling. Basically it means that I do both design and product management for some of our more design-heavy new features. I’ve been here since April 2010 but it feels like it’s been two, maybe three months tops.

What comprises a typical day for you?
Our engineering team moves amazingly fast here at Yelp, so most of my time is spent making sure they have stuff to work on. Every morning we have a quick stand-up meeting where we share what we’ll be working on that day. After that it can get pretty wild depending on what’s happening. There are always new features in development to test, feedback to review from the Yelp community, and upcoming projects to plan for. I try to find at least a few hours every day to spend designing new features or updating older pages on the site that need some love. And I try to squeeze in a game of badly played pool on the 10th floor once my work day wraps up.

What's the BEST part of working for Yelp?
Every single day I’m impressed by the people here, whether it’s an engineer coming up with an elegant solution to a seemingly impossible problem, some tenacious support from our User Ops team, or someone presenting an interesting topic in our weekly learning groups. My second favorite part of working at Yelp is that we despise having meetings for meetings sake -- so there’s a lot more time to actually get things done compared to other places I've worked!

What is your favorite perk at Yelp?
As you might expect, Yelp knows how to throw a great party. We do a great job of finding excuses to hang out with each other outside of normal office hours, and our team off sites are actually something to look forward to. Least favorite perk: I’m still finding glitter in unexpected places from our last off-site.

What has been your favorite memory at Yelp?
My favorite memories here are tied closely to new product launches. I got to work on the launch of Yelp Deals last year. We had a very aggressive development schedule that meant a lot of hard work and some late nights for our team. It was a challenging few months, but when we finally flipped the switch and someone purchased the first Yelp Deal a few minutes later I was so pumped that I wanted to pour a bucket of Gatorade over someone’s head (and maybe I did)

What separates Yelp from other places you've worked?
Aside from our awesome Kegmates? It has to be a culture that would be the envy of any tech company. Everyone here is genuinely excited to help people find great local businesses -- and it shows. We also have a fantastically passionate community of yelpers who keep us motivated. I love getting their feedback and hearing about their experiences using the site.

Finally, what would be your one piece of advice for someone interested in your role?
Build things! You don’t necessarily need to write code as a product manager or designer here at Yelp, but we always like people who are so excited to try out new ideas and technologies that they’ll hack together a prototype just to see if it works.