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November 30, 2012

Day in the Life of a Yelp Product Manager

Madhu P., tamer of lions, urban explorer and Yelp PM, takes us on a magical journey through a day in his life at Yelp HQ in today’s blog post. A UC Berkeley and CMU Alum, Madhu spends mornings gearing up for the day with a trip to the gym and a sizeable portion of coffee. Amped and ready, he then turns his attention to Yelp’s mobile apps, sketching out ideas and testing new features. A devoted supporter of the Darwin Space Division, he talks openly about his transition from a large tech company to the small but mighty Yelp product team. Take it away Madhu!

MadhuP

What did you do before coming to Yelp?

Before Yelp I was a member of the user experience team down the road at a large dot com. I spent my first two years there doing user research and the last two designing social enterprise software. Before that I was nerding out studying Cognitive Science at UC Berkeley (Go Bears!) and Human-Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University.

How did you first hear about Yelp and the job opening?
I had known about Yelp for a while, but after moving back to San Francisco in 2007 I realized how much of an indispensable tool it is for discovering the best of your city. In fact, I found my doctor, dentist, optometrist and hair stylist all through Yelp.

My buddy was working on the Yelp Mobile team, and when he heard I was looking for a new gig he suggested I come in to meet the team. I immediately recognized that everyone here was super talented, and the environment was such that I would have the freedom to try bold things and the support to succeed. I would also get to spend my days building a product I loved with one of my best friends -- who could ask for more?

What's your title at Yelp, and how long have you been with the company?
My official title is Mobile Product Manager, but I also do a fair amount of design since that’s my background and I enjoy it. I’ve been here since June 2011.

What comprises a typical day for you?
I try to go for a run or workout before I get to the office, which means that I’m usually in anywhere between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. After pouring myself an extra-large coffee, which I require to function properly, I meet with the mobile team for a brief “stand-up” meeting where we share what we’re working on that day.

After that, my day is quite varied depending on where we are in our app release cycle. I might be sketching out ideas for the next big feature, creating mocks that detail how a feature should work and look, testing out app updates on a multitude of devices to make sure things are working properly, or looking at usage metrics to see how a new feature is doing and to assess overall user health.

I typically head out of the office anywhere between 6:30 to 8 p.m., often to grab a drink (or three) with some of the engineers on my team.

What's the best part of working for Yelp?
Simple. I get to work with a team of super talented engineers that can build anything and challenge me to design anything without constraints.

What is your favorite perk at Yelp?
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our awesome KegMates, but one of the most unique perks that I get to exploit is being connected to a network of amazing Community Managers who know everything that’s going on in every major city across 19 countries. These guys and gals have got their finger on the pulse of what makes each city unique and love being able to share that experience with everyone.

What has been your favorite memory at Yelp?
Our Hackathons are pretty epic here. At the last one, someone came up with the crazy idea to try and do the first check-in from space. Instead of thinking this was crazy, a bunch of people started brainstorming how they could make this happen. Pretty soon after, Yelp officially launched Darwin Space Division with full support from our CEO, Jeremy. I consider this one of the best examples of our culture, which celebrates challenges and isn't afraid of getting behind bold ideas.

What separates Yelp from other places you've worked?
At many top-tier big companies the product you’re building may have a lot of impact on the world; however, your own ability to make an impact is diminished by having a lot of shared responsibility with others and a management hierarchy. Contrast this with working at the canonical startup environment where you’re doing everything, but your product isn’t yet changing people’s lives. Yelp is one of those rare environments in the middle where our product is making a huge impact on the world and you’re one of a very small number of people who are responsible for it.

Finally, what would be your one piece of advice for someone interested in your role?
Build something and ship it. Learn from your mistakes. Repeat.