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An inside look at how CNN builds product | Upasna Gautam

An inside look at how CNN builds product | Upasna Gautam


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Upasna Gautam is a product manager at CNN Digital, where she works closely with editorial staff and journalists to build their internal content management system. She is also a longtime meditation coach and a board member of the News Product Alliance. In today’s episode, we delve into how product teams are structured and operate at CNN, how CNN uses OKRs and roadmaps, and the unique challenges and opportunities in designing a digital product for journalists. Upasna also shares a story about her team’s product saving the day during the 2020 elections and gives listeners a free mini lesson on meditation.

Listen now on Apple, Spotify, Google, Overcast, and YouTube.

Find the full transcript here: https://www.lennyspodcast.com/an-inside-look-at-how-cnn-builds-product-upasna-gautam/#transcript

Where to find Upasna Gautam:

• Twitter: https://twitter.com/UpasnaGautam

• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/upasnagautam/

• Website: https://linktr.ee/upasnagautam

Where to find Lenny:

• Newsletter: https://www.lennysnewsletter.com

• Twitter: https://twitter.com/lennysan

• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennyrachitsky/


• Insight Timer: https://insighttimer.com/

• News Product Alliance: https://newsproduct.org/

Mindfulness in Plain English: https://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-English-Bhante-Henepola-Gunaratana/dp/0861719069

How to Win Friends & Influence People: https://www.amazon.com/How-Win-Friends-Influence-People/dp/0671027034/

• The New Product Development Game: https://hbr.org/1986/01/the-new-new-product-development-game

The Mandalorian on Disney+: https://www.disneyplus.com/series/the-mandalorian/3jLIGMDYINqD

Ted Lasso on AppleTV+: https://tv.apple.com/us/show/ted-lasso/umc.cmc.vtoh0mn0xn7t3c643xqonfzy

Everything Everywhere All at Once on Showtime: https://www.sho.com/titles/3493875/everything-everywhere-all-at-once

Andor on Disney+: https://disneyplusoriginals.disney.com/show/andor

In this episode, we cover:

(00:00) Upasna’s background

(03:13) How Upasna’s meditation background helps her thrive in the chaotic world of product at CNN

(08:55) How PMs at CNN build in buffer time and create backup plans when breaking news hits 

(10:26) How the product team works with editorial staff and journalists at CNN

(15:22) The product org structure at CNN Digital 

(19:02) OKRs at CNN

(20:10) How CNN’s product teams do long-term planning

(21:37) Why Upasna involves the tech lead in all product discovery/product review meetings

(23:51) How to boost morale with remote teams

(27:39) Balancing maintenance with building new stuff

(29:21) The time CNN.com went down in 2020 and the new platform saved the day

(31:21) How the product team rehearses breaking news

(34:22) The superpowers Upasna and her team have cultivated

(35:50) Why meditation and honing your communication skills help you excel as a PM

(42:01) How to get started on the path of meditation

(44:39) The work News Product Alliance is doing and how to get involved

(51:54) Lightning round

Production and marketing by https://penname.co/. For inquiries about sponsoring the podcast, email podcast@lennyrachitsky.com.

Lenny's Newsletter
Lenny's Podcast: Product | Growth | Career
Interviews with world-class product leaders and growth experts to uncover concrete, actionable, and tactical advice to help you build, launch, and grow your own product.