Welcome to our Meet the 50 Team series, where we give you the lowdown on how the people at 50onRed get stuff done. This time we’re sitting down with Product Manager Jack Li.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your role here.
I’m a Product Manager here at 50onRed, which means I help funnel our products out into the market, guiding them from ideation to launch. I also work with our customers. Learning more about them and their needs informs decisions about our key features. There are always ideas floating around 50onRed, so I have a pretty busy role. But that’s a good thing.
You’re originally from Mississippi. What first brought you to Philadelphia, and why’d you decide to stay?
Mississippi was really hot and humid, and I felt like I was getting chubbier everyday, so I decided to escape the South and come to Philly for school. Fun fact: It gets as hot and humid here in Philly as it does in Mississippi. And I gained more weight here than I ever did in the South.
Philly is pretty amazing though. It has that “city feel” without making you feel overwhelmed with too many skyscrapers or too much air pollution. I enjoy running along the Schuylkill River and eating Philadelphia food way too much to leave, so I stayed after my four years at school.
How did your experience interning in Nigeria help shape your career today?
I worked with a very well-funded German VC in Nigeria. Despite battling constant power outages (think three-hour outages everyday) and mosquitoes big enough to be walked on a leash, we jump-started an ecommerce shop that would soon be a top 15 most-visited site in Africa.
This was a startup on steroids, and it felt awesome to really grow a company while disrupting an industry. There was only a handful of people when I started the job, but I quickly realized how much impact a few people and a great idea can have. Every one of the interns wore several hats and did whatever it took to get the company off the ground. Timing was key, too. They came in just when Nigeria was ripening with online shoppers looking for quality products. And success followed.
For my career, I hope one day to be at the helm of a startup. I think working with products at 50onRed is a great step in that direction.
Who are your mentors here, and what have they taught you?
I’ve learned not to go with your own assumptions. Talk to others and ask lots of questions. That’s the key thing I’ve learned several times over. Plus, it helps that everyone here is an expert in their field (kudos to the recruiting team!).
What tools are essential to your day-to-day?
Everything Google: Docs, mail, calendar, search. I probably spend more time on Google’s real estate than anything else during the day.
For PMs, Atlassian’s Jira is a great tool. It takes a bit to learn, as not everything is intuitive (like workflows), but once you get to know it, it becomes invaluable for product management. Product Hunt is another great PM resource to see how new products in every category attempt to go to market. It’s also fun to discover new products, like a zombie survival tool I stumbled upon.
Slack, the messaging program we use for company communication, is fantastic. It’s flexible in allowing you to communicate with everyone on the team (especially if there’s an emoji that will communicate your message perfectly).
What makes working for a startup company unique?
No two days are the same. I can’t stress this enough. The job variety is fantastic and gives me a chance to learn about many different things. Most importantly, it doesn’t get boring, which was my worst fear after college. For example, this past week, I worked on a branding strategy for a Chrome Web Store extension, a sprint retro for one of our larger platforms, and a schedule for split testing different monetizations.
There’s growing competition to work in the tech industry. What advice would you give people looking to work here?
For the Product Team especially, you need to think about all the products and apps you use, what you like and dislike about them, and–most importantly–how to make them better. Problem-solving is something we do quite often (“What’s the best way to increase DAU’s through UI improvements?” or “How do we get people to spend money faster?”). No matter what frameworks you use (or don’t use), at the end of the day, products are solutions to people’s problems, and you should be trying to solve those problems better each day.
What’s your favorite perk about working at 50onRed?
Five weeks vacation. I haven’t really gotten a chance to travel much since working, so when 50 announced the new vacation policy, I got a couple of travel guides.This summer, I’m hitting up Thailand and Indonesia. I’ll probably be chilling on the beach and riding elephants–ideally at the same time. Maybe I’ll make the next Old Spice commercial!
Fun fact we heard about you: You have to watch TV whenever you’re eating. What are your favorite shows? Any guilty pleasures?
Humans spend up to a year of their lives eating. Aside from keeping you alive, this is a complete waste of time. So my thinking is this: If you have to waste time, you can probably multitask and do something productive. Or watch TV.
Binge-watching makes everything better. Recently, I’ve been digging Netflix’s original shows. So, of course, I enjoy Frank Underwood in House of Cards. Daredevil is on point, too. And HBO’s Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley. And John Oliver gives me my weekly news fix. There’s never been a better time in history to become a couch potato.
What are your favorite Philly hotspots?
I’m a big fan of food. The roasted eel at Fat Salmon is fantastic. If I’m celebrating something, I might end up eating more than I should at Fogo de Chão (Tip: Drink lots of water during the day to expand your stomach!). Whenever I’m craving Chinese food, a trip down to Chinatown’s Shiao Lan Kung for their salt-baked squid is a staple. And, ever since starting at 50, I’ve been frequenting Franklin Mortgage. It’s hard to go wrong there, so I always try something different. I just had the “Sweater Weather” last night, and it was better than expected. It looked like a brewing cauldron.
Aside from working at 50, you have a gig with the NBA. What do you do there, and can you share any cool NBA stories?
I work on their stats crew. If you’ve ever been to nba.com and checked out the live stats during a game, that’s all us! As for cool stories, the Sixers are rebuilding. It’s a tough time for everyone. Ask me again in three years–I have high hopes.