Managing a Small But Scaling Product Team

Irene Chan

Product Lead at Treering



"I currently work at a startup with a small product team. There was a point when I was transitioned into leading this team which at the time included only one product manager and myself. We had let go of the previous team members so there were just the two of us managing all three products that the team was responsible for. Of course, we needed additional help so it was my task to not only build up a team but also to manage new hires and the current team while simultaneously delivering as much as we possibly could."

Actions taken

"My goal was to get three product managers (PMs) onboard. We already had one qualified product manager on the team which meant that I needed to hire two more PMs. This number of necessary PMs was derived from the total products that we were managing, three. Of the three products, I and the other PM knew two of them fairly well with less familiarity with the third product. Thus, this led me to seek someone who could help manage that final third product.

From managing a team perspective, I am a very detail-oriented person and it is for that reason that it is hard for me to let go of the everyday particulars. People tend to come to me when there are small problems and I would follow up on them right away. But as we were scaling, I knew a huge part of me needed to let this go and rely more on my team. Thus, I sought after hiring people who could take on challenges and solve problems autonomously.

During the interview process, after outlining the position and describing the company, I found one specific person who was really energetic, hungry, and motivated to get things done. And although she had only a couple of years of experience, I took the risk of bringing her in. Not only did she have a small amount of experience, but she was also residing in Australia. Consequently it ended up being a double risk as we relocated her from Australia to San Francisco. But I saw something in her that matched what I was looking for and the reward paid off. She has been with us for two years now and she manages the third product completely by herself, without me being involved. Additionally, whenever people have questions or issues, I can now direct them to her and her team."

Lessons learned

  • "Be able to rely on your team and empower them by giving them the ability to take on challenges and solve problems. Put your trust in them and have their backs."
  • "As a general rule for my team, I let them know I can be supportive only if I know what is going on. I trust that they can run with a problem, understand it and its impact, and come up with solutions on their own, but I want to be kept in the loop."
  • "Set good examples. Demonstrate to your team how you would attack the problem and enable them to act in the same manner. Teach everyone to ask questions and train them to enquire about the use case. By setting that example, you give them the ability to ask the hard questions and to think critically on their own."

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Irene Chan

Product Lead at Treering

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