Nov 20 • 1HR 5M

What it takes to become a top 1% PM | Ian McAllister (Uber, Amazon, Airbnb)

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Lenny Rachitsky
Ian McAllister
Lenny Rachitsky interviews world-class product leaders and growth experts to uncover concrete, actionable, and tactical advice to help you build, launch, and grow your own product.
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Ian McAllister is the Senior Director of Product for Vehicles at Uber. Before moving to Uber, Ian spent over a decade directing teams at Amazon, where he created and led Amazon Smile. He was also Director of Product Management at Airbnb. In today’s episode, we discuss Ian’s legendary post about what separates a 1% product manager from everyone else. In our conversation, Ian outlines the most essential PM skills for new PMs, and how to broaden your experience and diversify skills as you move up the ladder. He also shares what he learned working with Jeff Wilke, Jeff Bezos, and other leaders at Amazon, and goes in depth on Amazon’s working-backwards framework. 

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

Find the full transcript here: https://www.lennyspodcast.com/what-it-takes-to-become-a-top-1-pm-ian-mcallister-uber-amazon-airbnb/#transcript

Where to find Ian McAllister:

• Newsletter: https://ianmcallister.substack.com/

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

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

Where to find Lenny:

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

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

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

Thank you to our wonderful sponsors for making this episode possible:

• Mixpanel: https://mixpanel.com/startups

• Athletic Greens: https://athleticgreens.com/lenny

• AssemblyAI: https://www.assemblyai.com

Referenced:

• What distinguishes the top 1% of product managers from the top 10%, on Substack: https://ianmcallister.substack.com/p/what-distinguishes-the-top-1-of-product

• What distinguishes the top 1% of product managers from the top 10%, on Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-distinguishes-the-Top-1-of-product-managers-from-the-Top-10

• Amazon’s working-backwards method: https://www.productplan.com/glossary/working-backward-amazon-method/

• Jeff Wilke on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jeffawilke

Getting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Successful Web Application: https://www.amazon.com/Getting-Real-Smarter-Successful-Application/dp/0578012812

Wool (Wool trilogy #1): https://www.amazon.com/Wool-Trilogy-Howey-25-Apr-2013-Paperback/dp/B011T7ACU0/

Energy and Civilization: A History: https://www.amazon.com/Energy-Civilization-History-MIT-Press/dp/0262035774

How I Built This podcast: https://www.npr.org/series/490248027/how-i-built-this

EV News Daily podcast: https://www.evnewsdaily.com/

Yellowstone on Peacock: https://www.peacocktv.com/stream-tv/yellowstone

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

• Gibson Biddle’s website: https://www.gibsonbiddle.com/

• Gibson Biddle on Lenny’s Podcast: https://www.lennyspodcast.com/gibson-biddle-on-his-dhm-product-strategy-framework-gem-roadmap-prioritization-framework-5-netflix-strategy-mini-case-studies-building-a-personal-board-of-directors-and-much-more/

• Gibson Biddle’s Ask Gib newsletter: https://askgib.substack.com/

In this episode, we cover:

(03:54) What Ian expected from his initial post on product management

(05:30) How the post impacted Ian’s career

(07:06) How writing can help you crystallize your thoughts

(08:26) Ian’s background

(10:57) Attributes of the top 1% of PMs

(14:32) The top three skills for new PMs to perfect

(20:32) Tips on strengthening communication and prioritization

(23:06) How to level up as a PM

(26:37) What kind of impact should new PMs expect to make?

(29:36) How to broaden your view and think big

(33:06) How to earn the trust of others

(34:30) How Ian could have done more to earn trust at Airbnb

(37:27) Why people tend to stick around Amazon for a while 

(39:53) What Ian learned from Bezos and Wilke

(46:38) How teams get working backwards wrong

(53:51) The two parts of working backwards and how Ian utilizes it at Uber

(58:57) Lightning round

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