The Catherine Ulrich Hypothesis: High-Growth Product Leaders Stay Curious and Dive Into Their Fears

Catherine Ulrich is a product leader turned investor whose career has included being Chief Product Officer at Weight Watchers and Shutterstock and Managing Director at FirstMark Capital. In this episode of the Product Science Podcast, we talk about strategies to drive organizational change, why understanding financial planning can help product leaders, and how the best product teams understand the ‘why’ behind their work.

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Questions We Explore in This Episode

The Catherine Ulrich Hypothesis: High-Growth Product Leaders Stay Curious and Dive Into Their FearsHow did Catherine’s finance background translate into product management? How did she use financial numbers to make product decisions at Weight Watchers? What advice did Marty Cagan give her stepping into a product leadership role? How did Catherine transition an older company with pre-existing ideas of what their business is about into developing new tech products? How does she think about the product portfolio? How does she balance short-term and longer-term goals in an organization?

What were Catherine’s experiences as the first Chief Product Officer at two companies? What does it tell you about a company when they add product to the c-suite? How do you get everyone in large organizations on the same page? How can the investment structure behind a company impact what it’s like to be an executive there? How did this play out for Catherine at Weight Watchers and later at Shutterstock?

How did Catherine shift the organizational mindset at Shutterstock from an asset-centric mentality to a customer-centric mentality? How can better understanding your customer stories help you develop new products? What frameworks does Catherine use to think through the what, how, and why of products?

How did Catherine make the transition into venture capital? What was surprising for her about moving into an investment and advising role as a product person? Why is it so important to understand the ins and outs of execution?

Why is all product development invested in behavior change? How do you apply these ideas to your team? What can we learn about behavior change from parenting? Why is iteration such a hard sell for the executive team? How do you fight to give product development the space it needs to be successful? How do you know when you need to provide more context about a problem?

How do you make sure you keep yourself performing at your best as a product leader? What role does fear usually play in our decisions at work? How can we turn that on its head? How much effort should you spend on executing vs learning?

Quotes From This Episode

There's such a big difference between having a smart comment or thought and executing it... As a board member, your job is not just selling the strategy for the business but also execution. - Catherine Ulrich Click To Tweet The best product strategies come from not only figuring out the job your product does for your customer but moving from that to the why. - Catherine Ulrich Click To Tweet I really believe you have to say something 10 times and multiple different ways, before any group of people is even remotely on the same page. - Catherine Ulrich Click To Tweet When I stepped into my first product leadership role, I knew I had to try to learn from people who had done it before, to get up the curve as quickly as possible. - Catherine Ulrich Click To Tweet You have to be willing to iterate... For most executives, that's a hard nut to swallow. - Catherine Ulrich Click To Tweet Half the time you should be adding immediate value to the organization and to others, and half the time you should be learning and growing. That's how you continue to perform at your absolute top gear in perpetuity. - Catherine Ulrich Click To Tweet


Holly Hester-Reilly: Hi and welcome to the Product Science Podcast where we’re helping startup founders and product leaders build high growth praoducts, teams and companies through real conversations with people who have tried it and aren’t afraid to share lessons learned from their failures along the way. I’m your host Holly Hester-Reilly, founder and CEO of H2R Product Science.
Holly: In this week’s podcast, I had a conversation with Catherine Ulrich. Catherine and I have known each other since I joined her team at Shutterstock, when she was the Chief Product Officer there. Since then, she went on to work in venture Capital and is now an independent advisor and investor. I had a fantastic time catching up with Catherine about the intersection between behavior change, finance, product management and technology. Listen on for our conversation.
Holly: This week on the Product Science Podcast, I’m excited to share an interview with Catherine Ulrich. Catherine was a product leader at Shutterstock and Weight Watchers before that and she’ll tell us a bit about her journey and then, more recently she went over to venture Capital where she was a partner at FirstMark Capital, which makes a lot of early-stage investments and now she’s acting as an investor and tech adviser out on her own. So Catherine, welcome to the Product Science Podcast.
Catherine Ulrich: Great to be here. Excited to chat with you, Holly.
Holly: Awesome. Well, I would love if you could start by telling us a little bit about your journey into product.
Catherine: Absolutely. I guess you would say that actually my journey was a little serendipitous. Meaning, I never had planned to pursue product and maybe that was because at the time, product was not as big or as well known of a function, especially in New York. But, I started out actually in strategy consulting and so, certainly liked problem solving from the very beginning and that was always how I was kind of raised growing up, which is to focus on solving interesting problems. But my career started actually in financial planning and analysis.
Catherine: So I started out more on the finance side, forecasting the business, running the P&L, which I actually think it was a fantastic starting point, because it gave me a comfort with P&Ls. It gave me a comfort with understanding all the financial business metrics, which is kind of the language, honestly, you need to be able to speak if you’re going to get to senior roles in your career. And so, I started with that as my backbone and in that role, I kind of naturally became curious about things that led me into product. You know, at the time I was at Weight Watchers running FP&A and, for example, on our P&L, I would scrutinize with the marketing team, all the different ways you were spending marketing dollars and our CPA down to the penny and what was working from TV to radio to digital spend.
Catherine: And then, I just had this moment where I was staring at our P&L and I was looking at the product investment and saying, “We always say that drives conversion or drives retention, but I don’t know if we’re actually seeing that in the numbers. And I’m the person who’s forecasting all these numbers.” And so, it just got me curious about what releases or changes were actually really making an impact, and that also led me to then get really interested about what changes were driving better weight loss outcomes and efficacy for our customers.
Catherine: And so, it really just came from kind of a geeky interest of diving into those metrics and I think that was lucky that I had some fantastic bosses, who saw that I was interested in that and was diving in and presenting the findings and kind of changing what we’re doing as a business and said, “There’s this VP of product role, would you like to take a stab at it?” And I do remember, there’s these moments in your career where like, “Well, I’ve never been in product. I don’t know how to, let alone, be a VP stepping into that role of product experience” and I was lucky that people took a bet on me and I leapt into the role.
Catherine: And so, that was my first interest in product, came from just kind of being curious and diving in. And then, that led to a period of my career where I’m lucky. I know you’ve had him on this before. Marty Cagan was one of the great advisers I had, because I stepped into this product leadership role and really needed to learn from the best. And so, I knew I had to try to learn from people who had done it before, to get up the curve as quickly as possible and that resulted in me reaching out to people like Marty. It resulted in me literally cold mailing a bunch of people on LinkedIn at the time, most of whom were on the West Coast.
Catherine: Because back then, New York really did not have a product community. It was not a known function. You got confused in the role for being someone in consumer product goods, like building physical products. If you had a product, they assumed you built something physical. They didn’t really know how to think of it and entire capacity and obviously, all that development was really happening on the West Coast. I remember I tracked my response rate. I had like a 10% hit rate on who would respond to me, but luckily out of that 10%, I got some really great mentors who helped me, just hopefully hit the ground running and be learning from their mistakes versus creating them on my own.
Holly: So, I love that you tracked your hit rate on that. It ties in very well to what you were saying about looking for the evidence and I’m going to ask for more about the steps after that. But before I do, I’m curious that at that point in time, when you stepped into that product role at Weight Watchers, what was happening within the organization in terms of their measuring, how changes they were making were impacting either the outcomes for their clients, well, their customers or the outcomes for the business.
Catherine: Yeah. Well, interesting enough, Weight Watchers was a brand business that had been around for 50 years, even when I was there. It had started originally as your retail, brick and mortar, face to face meetings with a leader in a group. And so, that was the original core part of the business. I actually joined Weight at that time, which was treated as a startup within the Weight Watchers brand umbrella. But at the time I joined, it was almost run as a separate business, when I first joined Weight Watchers. Now keep in mind, I was at Weight Watchers almost nine years. So, a lot changed over the course of nine years.
Catherine: But when I first started,, which was the first online subscription business teaching you how to lose weight entirely online, was really treated like a separate company. And then, through my time there we started integrating it more and more. So, what I’d say is, first, and this is maybe a little bit shocking, but the truth is that we weren’t even tracking what product changes were really driving weight loss outcomes. We were kind of following a very old school model, of just like people thinking about what would make it better and launching them and shipping them without really having those data driven feedback loops, about what was making a difference.
Catherine: And at the time that was driven, I think by culturally, and I find this fascinating, culturally is driven by a thought process that, what Weight Watchers sold at the time was points. We were known for this points-based system, what was called internally, “the program,” that we sold. Product was really just a vehicle for teaching the program and the program was something that we had clinical trials to prove the efficacy of. And I think, my step into product, what it really showed was that product is much more than just selling the program. It’s more than the content.
Catherine: Product is actually the entire experience that you wrap it in. And of course I think, now that’s very known but when you get into the behavioral economics, and the cognitive biases of how you can teach content over time, that actually became very much the product. And that was the stuff that I really love digging into and what we … I think, originally when I started Weight Watchers didn’t really think of that as something that they did. But you realize that the whole way that you teach the program, that you give people information over time, cognitive behavioral therapy, like it became part of the product, and the product was broader than just the points-based program.
Holly: Yeah, that’s really interesting and I think, maybe for some of us sitting in 2019 looking at it, we might think that it’s surprising that they weren’t measuring the outcomes of the changes, but it’s actually even still, I think, I talk to plenty of companies that are not doing that kind of thing and in the case of Weight Watchers, it may have been the program that they felt that they were selling.
Holly: But these days, a lot of times what I come across is, they’re just so focused on the marketing metrics and the acquisition and then that’s it. I’m curious, with there being real world physical locations still there, because it wasn’t a company that switched to all digital. Did you start to develop sort of a two-way street of things that you’ve found going back the other way and making their way into the program? Or what did that look like?
Catherine: Yeah, definitely. When I stepped into my role, the first time I stepped into the role of Chief Product Officer, which is a little bit funny because for both Weight Watchers and Shutterstock, I was the first CPO they ever had at the company. And so Weight Watchers, I think that role, the fact I even stepped into a role like that at the C-suite level, it was an example of the company really adopting digital and realizing that, it’s not just digital in the sense of we sell It’s that the whole product, all the touch points need to be integrated from start to finish, to kind of my point about the program, the experience.
Catherine: It is conversion and acquisition, but all the way through to retention and so, I stepped into that role. I guess, when I stepped into that role, it was really about mixing both parts of the business and doing a cohesive plan. So the amazing thing was, we had over 20,000 leaders in the US alone. So these are the people who are trained on Weight Watchers and teaching others how to do it. And by the way, to qualify to be a leader, you have to have already lost weight, been successful at Weight Watchers. That was like an unbelievable group of passionate people to tap into for product ideas. I actually, what I love is when I stepped into that CPO role and my role was not just everything on the digital side, but thinking about the whole broad picture about how the full end to end experience was going to work.
Catherine: That was probably the part that stood out to me the most, was how do you start to tap into that amazing field organization? We tried to be talking to customers on the front line every single day – bringing their ideas in and figuring out which ones should be rolled out globally. What things do you allow coaches to do on an autonomous basis versus what things do you make programmatic.? And that was just a really fun part of the role. But I’m not going to lie either, that is super challenging. Anyone that touches a field organization knows, that it’s so much easier to ship a piece of code universally and hopefully get it to run the same way without a bug.
Catherine: But then to deal with 20,000 people who … I always joke, whether this is training on the product side or just talking internally, I really believe you have to say something 10 times and multiple different ways, before any group of people is even remotely on the same page. Meaning that they could explain it and draw it back to me in the same way that I would draw and explain it to them. When you’re talking about 20,000 people and that’s just the US, we were in 33 countries. That was a big, interesting challenge to think about how you tried to train humans to deliver a product at the same caliber and consistency that we want.
Holly: Yeah, that’s a huge challenge. Are there elements of what you learned in that, that you then brought back to how you get your product team or an internal team to be on the same page?
Catherine: Well, I think I definitely learned the thing I said about, like it takes about 10 times to describe it. I think the other thing, it taught me a lot more, which I might have learned a little bit earlier in my life and then forgot it was, I think it’s very easy for anyone to resort to a command and control model in anything in life, where you say it and then you’re expecting someone to just say it back and do it. And I think it was a very real world example of how important it is just to listen first.
Catherine: Not to be like the CPO showing up in, I don’t know, Kansas and meeting with a leader in Kansas and saying, “Yes, I’m the CPO of the whole company. Let me tell you what we should be doing better.” But instead just interview her, talk and listen and interview her. I think it really was a real world example of servant leadership and learning and listening to people first. Because if you don’t listen first, you don’t even know what version of the story you should be telling to share your ideas.
Catherine: Everyone reacts to … Everyone has a slightly different psychology about what motivates them, about their learning type. Are they auditory, verbal, kinesthetic. There’s only two main type of learning models. I got to know enough about my audience, before I even tried to tell them something. Honestly, I think that’s something that a lot of people could just, should think about. You need to really learn about your audience before you even try to explain anything to them.
Holly: Yeah. That’s fantastic and since I got to see you communicating messages to people, I know that you’ve put a lot of practice into that, to make those messages work. So, tell us a little more about what happened after that. I know there’s more story after Weight Watchers. So what comes next?
Catherine: Yeah. At Weight Watchers, there are about nine years and it’s really interesting. I’ll just say one thing about that in retrospect. When I first left Weight Watchers after nine years and I joined Shutterstock, my first reaction in being in that role was, “Well, I should’ve done this sooner.” Honestly, that’s my gut reaction. The reason why I thought that and it was not because I … and I still to this day, absolutely love Weight Watchers. I’m so passionate about the mission and what that company does and you really are truly changing people’s lives and the lives of their entire family with that, which is it’s rare to find a product that you could believe so much in the mission.
Catherine: So it wasn’t that, but it was that I got into Shutterstock and was like, “Now my brain …” It just hit with was so much new stuff that it’s like kicking into a new gear. And I felt like I had lost that extra gear, at the end of my time at Weight Watchers in some ways. That was in itself a breakthrough, because it made me realize, “Well, I didn’t have to lose that extra gear.” I was letting myself settle into it and not be inspiring myself to always stay in the highest gear. So that was one learning for me for the rest of my life. I think, I will always hold is like, at any point in life you can be choosing to settle into, it won’t feel like coasting, it’s just not you performing at your best of the best.
Catherine: I’m always taking that with me is, how do I expose myself to people to make sure I’m literally always at that top level? That was one learning, because I should have left. But I think that was the wrong insight. Because I then realized, in looking back, like within two years later, I look back at moving to Shutterstock and loving the role there, but saying, “You know what? Probably some of the most valuable things about my career came from the fact that, I stayed at one company for eight and a half years.” It was almost nine years. And the reason why, and I do think I see this a lot, a lot of people jump around every two to three years.
Catherine: Let’s take three year stints even, was that you see companies go through these waves. It doesn’t matter what company it is, whether it be a wave, even if the company’s scaling, whether it be a wave, because there’s economic challenges. I was at Weight Watchers during the 2008, 2009 crisis. If you stay long enough to see those challenges, but most importantly stay long enough to be in a role where it’s actually your job to fix it, I just think you compound your learning in a way that a lot of people miss out on. That doesn’t tell the rest of my story with Shutterstock, but it’s just an insight that I had.
Catherine: I do actually look for people who have done slightly longer stints at companies and I like to ask them about the waves they’ve seen and how they rode it through, and I think it results in a lot of personal growth. Again, if you can make sure you’re staying at that top level of performance. But, to continue my story, then I went over to Shutterstock. At the time that I was making that move, I’ll tell you, I’ve always had kind of thesis of why I was moving one thing to the next. I actually was looking for a business that was in a totally different industry.
Catherine: As much as I love health and wellness, I wanted to take a crack at something that was completely different. I was looking for a company that was entirely product, engineering, tech-driven. Again, loved the challenge at Weight Watchers, but was ready just to move fast and ship things, which is very difficult when you’re dealing with a field of retail organization. And the third thing, which I would’ve never even thought about when I was earlier in my career, but you can see how it led me to later move that made was, I would say, the investment profile, is what I called it. And what I learned was, Weight Watchers was private equity backed, a set of brilliant guys.
Catherine: I’m still close with them. They’re super smart, but they owned Weight Watchers and to some extent, what I realized was that, my incentives as a CPO at the time that I was there, were not necessarily fully in line with their incentives as investors, because Weight Watchers is a high cash flow business and there were some very interesting debt restructuring that happened. But if you think about that, they were doing what was best for their business model, but it didn’t mean putting more debt on Weight Watchers and what it meant for me is, that even if I was developing these great innovative product ideas, ones that would benefit us in one year time on revenue or things that were going to benefit us in five years time.
Catherine: They were not necessarily incentivized to put money to invest in things on that timeline. Now they’re long term investors. So there’s a good argument against my point. They were invested in some other interesting structure and it just made me realize, “Wow, for the first time, part of my role were not aligned with the investment structure behind this business. That led me to look for a business where I was going to be aligned with the business structure. And Shutterstock, as most people know, is one of the most successful tech startup darlings and probably most importantly, Jon Oringer who founded the company, is still the CEO and still owns the majority of the company. So he controls the company.
Catherine: And for anyone that’s met Jon, he’s a super smart, passionate and very driven guy, who of course like any founder, you’ll never meet someone more passionate about Shutterstock than Jon. It’s almost like his first child, of course it would be Shutterstock. At the time that I made the leap, that was my goal. I was like, “Okay. Well, now I know I’m joining an organization where if we have product ideas, that we’re really excited about that we can build a case to do, you have an investment structure behind it with Jon, for example, at the helm that will actually tackle new things.” That was the interesting thing going to Shutterstock.
Holly: Yeah, I want to ask for a little bit more around that because, I think you have a unique perspective on it that not … Because you came up to products through finance and got to a high level where you’re interacting with the investors in that structure. You have more insight into that than a lot of people get. Maybe you could call that out a little bit more like, were there challenges where you wanted to make an investment that you could make a case was good for the product strategy, but it was just hard to get approval to go forward? Or what were some of the challenges that-
Catherine: Yeah. The way that I think about it was, and I probably do a little finance bend of even how I thought about my role as a CPO. I always thought of it as, I am responsible for creating a product portfolio for this business. It’s kind of in some ways, no different than an investment portfolio. I’m going to invest in teams, agile teams. They’re going to be across an entire organization, and those teams are going to be meant to drive certain outcomes for the business. If you were to plot out all the teams we had for any business, whether it be Weight Watchers or Shutterstock.
Catherine: Some of your teams are going to be more acquisition and conversion metrics, and ideally in theory you’re probably thinking, “Hey, this team needs to help me drive an acquisition or conversion metric within this time period.” Like a one year horizon, within this year because we have to hit this revenue target and we think that this metric is the way to do it. And then they’re going to figure out how to go tackle it. Your teams really are portfolio of, let’s say, short term revenue goals, short term retention goals. But then ideally, you should have teams that are a little further out, that are going to benefit the company, let’s say in three years time and ideally I think you should have teams, that are going to benefit the company in five years time, that are doing more moonshot ideas that are even out there.
Catherine: Of course, ideally you set these things up where the money you’re putting behind the teams make sense, based on the level of risk of those teams developing something that’s going to work. But you’re making bets across the portfolio and in some ways, this is no different than what an investor does. Even LPs of the large endowments have a set of money that they’re managing, and they’re investing against asset classes. venture Capital is meant to be this high growth opportunity on a 10 year horizon. That’s the rough profile of it and then they have investments in hedge funds or real estate. All these are the categories that have different investment profiles.
Catherine: It really is no different when you’re working for, I’d say a larger company. I don’t think this is as relevant for earlier stage startups, but for a larger company like Weight Watchers and Shutterstock that the goal … They are both public in that case, they’re later stage. You need to be impacting the business always from different time horizons. But if I talk about the investor structure and how that goes in, that takes money. We all know, every time you’re asking for more product and engineering resources, you’ve got to be showing some case for why that’s going to make sense.
Catherine: I think there’s a … This is always interesting about philosophically to people agreeing that, philosophically there’s everyone on the Exec team and the investors agree that you shouldn’t be investing things that you’re not going to make any money on, until three to five years. How much money are they willing to put in those longer profile initiatives? And I think that’s a critical conversation if you’re in a later stage company, about how the company thinks about that.
Catherine: Because, the biggest downside I believe of … and this has been well discussed by many people, but of the public market of companies, is how it focuses everyone in the organization on the short term, almost quarterly goals, which of course, as we know in an Agile, you don’t know it’s going to work. So you need to have a structure that’s going to be testing, iterating to hit those goals. But you also need to be thinking on a lot of time horizons. That’s a little bit more about how I have thought about it.
Holly: Yeah. That’s really interesting. Okay, so you went to Shutterstock. There’s a different investment structure, there’s a different industry and there’s new things to learn and so tell us more about what happens then.
Catherine: Yeah. You know Shutterstock well, you were there for a little bit of time with me. I think, what I would say, Shutterstock was really interesting because, it had …. My take of it was this. It had grown as a company and it had gone public as a company that sold stock content and the first thing … I would actually, let me jump back one second. I joined as a CPO. The point at which I joined Shutterstock was right as the former COO was stepping back from the business, because he had successfully IPOed and had been there for a number of years, so on great terms. But it was the first time the company was hiring C-suite functional level executives. So first CPO, CTO and all of that at that kind of scale.
Catherine: That’s when I joined and so, you come into that role as a CPO and you say, “Well, honestly, I think it’s kind of interesting as an executive.” You got to figure out what is my job as a CPO? Yes, there’s all the day stuff. Yes, you run product and all that. But, what from a strategic perspective is it? And what it became for me was this realization, that the entire company really had asset centric mentality, not a customer centric one. And I would describe that as … and this draws out from customer interviews. It’s just that in this case I’m interviewing employees versus customers…
Catherine: And what you would hear a lot was like, “Yeah, we sell images, video and music. That’s what we sell and here’s how we sell it.” That’s like you’re focused on the asset you’re selling, and when you would dig into like, “Well, who are the customers you’re selling to?” I would hear things like, early on, “Well, there’s the …” Oh, shoot, what did we call them? The stockpilers. We have one customer, they’re a stockpile, and then we have one customer that’s … I think, I forget what it was, but frugal.
Catherine: But that mentality is like, well, you’re really just describing to me how much of the content they buy. They either buy a ton or they buy very little in piece meal. This is how I always think customer segments: If I am walking on the street and if I go talk to someone for a couple of minutes on the street, I should be able to figure out what customer segment they are. Not because I say, “How much stock content do you buy?” But like, “Who are you as a person? What’s your job? What do you do? Why are you buying content?” And from those types of questions, I should be able to tell the segments. And so what you realize is, again, it was all this asset mentality versus customer mentality.
Catherine: That actually, I cannot emphasize that enough because, when you have a different mentality than a customer mentality insight, you architect the site differently. And Shutterstock was architected a certain way from an asset centric mentality, and it was how we even grew the business. Which made Shutterstock very successful to IPO, by the way. So, I can’t knock that, but we’ve built an image site, we built a music site, we built a video site, and those were all built separately because we just thought about scaling asset types. Well, as you might expect, someone that buys a video also needs to buy music that goes with it. So it’s not customer centric. So I think strategically a big part of my story at Shutterstock was that realization that, to get to be the next scale of company we want it to be, we had to move from an asset mentality to a customer mentality. And when you move to a customer mentality, then the world opens up.
Catherine: Because then all of a sudden, you understand your customers well enough to say, “Well, now I know that …” Let’s just say that Holly is our customer, “I’m only serving this small part of Holly’s journey. This one part today, that’s just buying a piece of content. If I really know Holly’s entire workflow of, why is she even buying a piece of content? Is she a social media marketer that is being held accountable for her response rates on Facebook and that’s why she’s buying an image and she’s testing images?” Well, if I know that better, I can design a better version of Shutterstock for what I recommend for her, for how she searches on the site. But I can also think about adjacent product spaces that Shutterstock as a company is not even in now, workflow tools. That’s the ultimate direction as publicly discussed by Jon, and so I was moving into broader spaces, but it comes from being customer centric and focusing in the right area.
Holly: Yeah. And one of the things that was what you just talked about that I’ve always found really helpful is, the way that you communicate the job to be done. How you put the vision together and how you helped people come around to see what we were doing for the customers, not just what the customers were getting from us. Can you speak a little more about that?
Catherine: Yeah. I think jobs to be done of course is like a core Clay Christiansen principle. For anyone who hasn’t seen that, you should go read about it, but the rough sense of it is that, any product, the customer is hiring you for the job that you’re doing for them. You really need to understand the real job you’re doing for the customer, not the job that you think you’re doing. I might give the story a little bit wrong, but the story he’s always used was this idea of a milkshake or like a fruit smoothie and the idea that … I think it was McDonald’s, but let’s just say some fast food chain.
Holly: I’m pretty sure it’s a milkshake. I like trying to turn it into a fruit smoothie though.
Catherine: I know. That’s a Weight Watchers that will forever be in me, “Please show me the milkshake for breakfast.” I’m going to switch into a smoothie. But it’s a green juice now.
Holly: There you go.
Catherine: The milkshake story was, let’s say like McDonald’s. When McDonald’s started to notice was that people were buying milkshakes at breakfast time in the morning, and so you might look at that and again, the milk shake [inaudible] and just be like, “Our milkshakes are great, people want them all times a day.” But what was actually happening, is if you dive into why they were hiring McDonald’s to do that job for them, to give them the milkshake. It was for a number of things, mainly because they would pick it up on the go. It’ll fit in one hand and you’d be able to drive to work while holding something. So they needed something that fitted one hand. It’s not messy with one hand. You can just sip at it.
Catherine: Also because it was cold, it took a while for them to finish it. So you’re enjoying it over a longer period of time, which for people commuting, fit with their commute really well. And I think there are a couple of other factors, but the point is, those are nuances to the job the milkshake was serving that are much deeper than, “Hey, someone just liked a milkshake.” It’s exactly why do they like a milkshake? And that actually ties me to, there’s this framework that is really just me hacking together two other frameworks, which is Clay Christiansen’s jobs to be done. And then, one of my blog in ‘The power of why’ it’ll come to me in a second. But this great book about ‘The Power of Why-‘
Holly: Is it “start with why” ?
Catherine: Start with why, exactly. I’m just blanking.
Holly: Simon-
Catherine: Simon Sinek, yes. Thank you. So really, I think the best product strategies come from putting those two things together. Which is figuring out the job you do, your product does for your customer. But really moving from the what your product does to what job your product does, to the how that your product does that job, to then the why. You’re just trying to move up this ladder of needs to ultimately figure out why someone is buying your product. It’s a way to think about breaking down jobs to be done and making sure you’re really getting at the core root cause and not getting confused by some external layer.
Catherine: If I say that, like an example for … We can say Shutterstock for example, would be the what job Shutterstock does for customers would be, provides high quality stock, content images, high quality image. That’s what we sell them. The how we do it, for example, is we have to do it, and this is part of your product strategy, is how do you want to be differentiated. Well, faster than anyone else, because we help you find and search faster. Could be from a deep insight that that takes a lot of time for the customers today.
Catherine: But then the why, the why is not that. The why is, for example, social media marketers because they need to drive conversion rates on Facebook or really, that you can get into an even deeper psychological why, which is that person wants to feel successful in that job or they want to look good to their boss and there’s deeper whys and if you go into those deeper whys, you get a much better sense of how to build your product, in a more compelling way.
Catherine: This stuff, again, I will say one thing. I feel so lucky that I started my career at Weight Watchers because, the deeper part of Weight Watchers teaches you a set of principles that end up being foundation blocks for all product in the industry. Things like behavioral economics, things like cognitive biases, things like this, which is even like psychology, what drives people to do what they do and have you study different psychology, different frameworks that people put out there for what drives decision making.
Catherine: If you start to understand that, which I needed to know at Weight Watchers, because I’m trying to convince people to lose weight. It’s like the hardest thing ever. Everyone wants the goal, everyone wants to either lose weight or get healthier, whatever their driving is. But by the way, no one really wants to do the process along the way, like ever. It’s like, everything that I’m selling them is fundamentally not something they really want to do. You might want to sip on that milkshake on the way to your job. You don’t want to be sipping on nothing or sipping on like … It’s a behavior change and most people, it’s not measurable.
Catherine: In fact, I’m trying to teach people to not have the pleasure hormones and stuff on fire the way they used to. I had to learn all these principles that then apply to any product and I don’t know. I guess I’d go on one more tangent of that. It really taught me, like once you dig in on that. I’d say one of the ways that I really distilled it was, it was amazing to me how many decisions in any life are fear-based. And for me, that was like a click for me. For me personally by the way, not personally as well as professionally and then, as a product leader to think about it.
Catherine: There’s a lot of like, even if you’re a marketer manager, like I just want to be good at my job. I don’t want to do a bad job. I’m afraid of not doing a good job and therefore XYZ. Therefore, I’m going to spend hours and hours trying to find the perfect image and if you can get to a level that you understand, whether it be your customers or your friends or anyone in your life at that level, like what is scaring them or even for yourself, and if you can figure out how to free your customers of that or yourself of that, those are the biggest breakthroughs. I think there’s the biggest breakthroughs for people personally, and I think the best products try to figure out how to help on that.
Holly: Yeah, I totally agree. I’m super passionate about actually helping people and realizing that everybody has some pain, right? And they’re just trying to alleviate that pain, one way or another. One of the things I’ve heard you talk about in the past that I think all of what you just said also reminds me of is that, really all product development is invested in behavior change. Tell me a little more about sort of where you came to that understanding.
Catherine: I think it did start from all that time at Weight Watchers watch and really like just being a student of behavior change for years and years in a very practical way. But, the way I describe it is any product, even if you’re just moving the button around on a page, is you’re changing a behavior. I’m used to clicking on the bottom right now, clicking on the bottom left. Something as small as that to something as large as … I want to try to get someone to entirely change how they make and prepare their dinner and so, I think that, that becomes like a great backbone. By the way, it’s a point … It’s just a universal thing about life. It’s true with organizations.
Catherine: Within product, you’re not only driving behavior change for any customer, any feature you ship, any change that you launch is going to change the behavior that your customers do now. And so, you can either figure out techniques to make that as easy as possible or you can make it really hard for them, which will likely fail. The same thing is true in an organization. It’s just as, let’s say, a product leader and executive, you’re eliciting behavior change in your employees or your team, and it actually is the same exact thing.
Catherine: How do you, whether that be a cultural change that you want, whether that be you have a big strategy shift that you need to take the company in. It’s no different than designing a good product for the end customers. How do you … Like the joke that I kind of have with myself was, I think these are a little bit outdated, but when coach marks were first the thing like no apps or products used to have coach marks. Then there was like an inundation of coach marks and now I think we’ve gotten better just thoughtful design that requires less coach marks and tutorials for product.
Catherine: The same thing is true to an organization. I used to, like in my head I’d be thinking, “Hey, what would be the coach mark that I should be popping up to people in this conversation, that would help them like understand what the heck is going on and what’s driving it.” And it comes back to the same thing. It’s like how do you say something 10 different ways to get it across to the audience. How do you care enough about everyone individually to understand what motivates them, so you can figure out how to frame it in a way that’s going to be best for them. But I just say, it ends up being a life philosophy. Test it out on my kids and my husband all the time.
Holly: Yeah, me too. I like to tell people that being a parent of small children is also a really good way to keep practicing your psychology and your understanding of what drives behavior. It’s so raw. You just see it and you’re like, “Okay, I’m going to try this again tomorrow.”
Catherine: And then you get … Because now I have a four and a half year old. I’m like, “Oh man, you are way better expert at testing ways to morph my behavior than I am even on you. You are more successful at …” Like he’ll try all these voices until the voices are approaches to get what he wants and like, “Why are you just AB testing like rapid fire right now. How to get that cookie.
Holly: Yeah, totally. They’re really good practice. I definitely really appreciated getting to watch all of that at Shutterstock and see how you painted the vision and helped the team start to behave in different ways and have the conversations really start to focus on the customer. And I think that’s a really hard thing to do that product leaders all need to help all the teams, all around them all the time, really focus on the customer and what drives the customer and it’s so easy to just get caught in something shiny. What happened after that? So then you moved over to venture capital and how did that come about?
Catherine: Yes, I see. At the time I haven’t … The biggest thing for me was that I was thinking, what’s the step change? I was seeking a new challenge is the best way to describe it. I felt like, I had led product organizations, I’d even done stints at both places being, kind of interim CTO and I was looking for the thing that was going to really feel like a challenge. In some ways, it comes with my obsession with fear. I was like, “What’s the thing that scares me? What’s the thing that I’ve never done, that I have no sense of.” And I was looking at a bunch of different roles, for how I could continue to grow and learn and venture just started to keep coming up.
Catherine: I was actually, at the time thinking about launching my own business and also thinking about joining much earlier stage but the venture roles kept coming up. And for me, in some ways I would say if I’m very honest about it, it came from realizing that I was probably most scared of that job, if I’m really candid about it, because I’d never done it before. Yes, I have a finance backbone. But I had not been a banker. I didn’t go into investment banking. I hadn’t been on that side of finance and so honestly that was my driving force was, it sounds odd to say, but my driving force was, I just believe that you live the fullest life if you continue to challenge yourself and if anything scares you, within reason have to dive into it.
Catherine: I’m not talking about doing something that’s totally dangerous to yourself physically, but like you should explore why and dive into it. When I dug into the role, and by the way, being a product person, I then took almost eight months to research the role in a totally product person way, like interviewing a ton of people and taking notes of like, “Well, what is the role? What does it entail? How is it different across firms to all the entrepreneurs that I knew? What do you love and what do you hate about the different investors that you’ve had and who’s most helpful and least helpful?” And kind of did all that research before I took the leap and when I decided … and for context, I moved from being a full-time investment partner at FirstMark to a venture partner at FirstMark recently because my family moved and FirstMark is very New York centric.
Catherine: But a little bit more too, I’ll talk about that, about why I’m not doing individual advising and investing. I just felt like that role was going to create the biggest growth opportunity for me. That I was going to have a chance to just both learn a ton, but then also, I actually believe this. I do think that venture in general, the fact that there’s so few female partners get a lot of talk. I agree with that. I think it’s great. I’m thrilled that I was part of having more female partners out there and moving into the category. But the other thing is that, it still is very light on real operators being in the role. Not like, there are a couple, there are a number, but people who … For early stage investors you think of the type of advice that a lot of the founders would want and I would have these meetings even before I took the role and then when I was in the role and you’d be surprised.
Catherine: I think the number one comment I get is like, “This meeting was way different than any other meeting that I’ve had with an investor.” And part of me at the time when I heard that, there probably was a little bit of insecurity that came up in the beginning. Because I was like, “Well, what did I miss? What questions am I not asking?” Because I’m brand new to being in the investor role. Like, “Oh my God, maybe I’m not doing this right.” Then you’re like, “Shut up.”, to that part of your brain. Because that’s just fear talking. That’s just a stupid part of your brain talking. But then we dig in and for a couple of them, like ask them why and it was because I just can’t help but come at those conversations from a product line, from talking about how they’re thinking about it, talking … And that leads to their entire growth strategy.
Catherine: And that leads their entire financial profile and the upside in the business. But my angle, it just can’t help but be from a product perspective. And it can’t help be, but one where I ended up someway. I don’t think I’ve been in a single meeting where somehow, some angle behavior change didn’t come in. Again, because I think it’s just fundamental to every single business that’s out there and psychology. And so, then you just end up talking about those components for any business. Having been in executive teams where, sat in on all the board meetings, I think I also … What’s so interesting to me too was there’s such a big difference between having a smart comment or thought and executing it.
Catherine: And I think and I’m not … The great investors by the way, they don’t confuse this. So I’m not talking but there’s so many times where it’s easy to make a smart comment. But then there’s, you don’t know how to manage the gap between smart comment and execution. And as a board member, I think that’s a very dangerous place that you can be in, because you can think that your job is just to make smart comments because you do have a little bit of a removed, eagle eye perspective on the business no matter what. But your real job in my opinion, should be helping with the execution piece. That ends up being a much closer relationship with the CEO and the founders and the executive team because, it’s not just selling the strategy for the business, but it’s how are they gonna be able to execute that within their organization, and all the details that make something roll out properly.
Catherine: I learned that lesson not just being on the executive team with boards, but all the way back in strategy consulting. Strategy consultants dive bomb into a business. They get to look at it. They’re meant to provide really super smart insights that people inside the company can’t see. You do get the added advantage of looking from above, from a different angle, which just makes it easier to innovate and see things. But then you would share these findings. And what I didn’t like about that job is you never got to see how they rolled out. You had a super smart idea. Did it ever happen or what was the flaws in the execution or how did it roll out? And that’s I’ll say, what led me, like I learned that firsthand by being at Weight Watchers and by being there for a longer period of time. Because you have these smart ideas and by being there, you get a longer period of time. As a leader what you get to do is say, “Well, I knew this was the right thing.”
Catherine: I remember a couple of things I tried the first time didn’t work. It didn’t roll out the way that I thought. It was not effective or was failing six months later. But then you don’t give up on that idea. By the way, the problem you were trying to solve is still a real problem. It was just that your approach wasn’t right. And so you’ve got to go retry again a different way if it really is important. And again, by being in an organization longer, that kind of gets ingrained in you and then hopefully over time, you’re just better naturally at knowing what way’s going to work the first time versus a ton of trial and error.
Holly: Yeah. I just want to ask you something about that because I was talking to somebody recently who asked meif I ever talked to any CFOs and if they understood what product science is. I was thinking, with what you were just saying that one of the things I see a lot is a disconnect between what a strategy in a vacuum would be, and what the strategy for this company, with its team and its skills and it’s resources should be. I’m curious, do you have any stories that illustrate maybe something where it was a great plan but it didn’t work and then how did you learn that and get past it, and then figure out what does work or how do you change the approach?
Catherine: I’ll tell you the first thing that comes to mind, but then we can flush it out. I do think, by the way, I think my general philosophy is exactly that. Like if you just go in knowing the first time you try something, it just will not work. You have to be willing to iterate. I think the hard part is there were many times where I probably was the only person on the executive team who was like, “Can we just all agree that you’re going to try the percent, it’s not going to work and have to iterate?” Most executives that was very hard because, “No, I want to know, I’m going to get the outcome that you promised me, particularly if I need to deliver financial outcomes on this timeframe.” That’s a hard nut to swallow, but it’s by the way, the most true thing that happens in life in general.
Catherine: If you can just accept that you’re just seeing it as it is, you’re making the more realistic plan. By the side note, I think someone told me this once, I’m going to credit my husband, but he probably heard it somewhere. He was like the sign of a true leader is seeing things as they truly are. I think about that a lot. Because it’s obviously what is truly happening within an organization with the product. Anyhow, that’s a tangent. My story for something that, great theoretical idea and then as we’re building out differently. So the biggest one probably was at, I think it was at Weight Watchers. We had this online subscription business going entirely online, less than $20 a month.
Catherine: Then we had the original retail business. You’ve got digital tools with your face to face retail experience, but it was closer to $50 a month. And the product that we knew we needed to launch was as online coaching product, which was a hybrid obviously. A lot of people don’t want to go to physical face to face discussions. They still wanted the high touch experience of talking to an expert, but they wanted to do it on their own terms on their own time. And you can just imagine, I mean it’s obvious now, so I’m dating myself because this is a product several years ago, but everything was not as virtually connected as it is right now. We’re creating this online coaching products and it was a brand new product for us. As much as we had insight into how to teach people the program.
Catherine: Well, a bunch of questions like, “How do you set up a customer with a coach that they have the right relationship? How accessible is the coach? Can customers write that person night and day? How quickly do they have to respond? How many sessions do you do? How do you get someone to come back to the session?” There’s a bunch of questions that go into it and like anything, we were trying to be as agile as possible, but no matter what you’re trying to ship this product. And by the way, Weight Watchers has a very challenged like pressure cooker environment, because January 1st, everyone knows is the New Year resolution season and you have to have that thing by January 1st. There is not like, you can’t be ready in February. You have to figure out a plan with a lot of margins for error, that you’re trying to get something that’s going to really work and be there for the, what used to be called the winter diet season. The winter, the diet season.
Catherine: We launched this coaching product. And I would just …like the feedback, it just was not … It was not doing well. Like people, the metric side, this is when we were testing it. It wasn’t really live yet. It was with a Beta group testers. The retention was not great. The satisfaction with the coaching sessions were not great. The metrics were all tanking and then you’re like, “Well, why?” And sometimes it’s hard to figure out why. It’s not easy to figure out the core why. And so we’re watching a bunch of the sessions that were recorded, we’re attending ones live and we’re trying to figure this out. It’s failing. I would just say it’s failing and we have this coming deadline, which is always hard because no one does their best thinking when they’re under pressure and when they start to be afraid.
Catherine: And when you start to be afraid that you’re going to miss the deadline, that does not promote good thinking. Luckily … And so actually I’d say this is maybe a good story because the smartest thing we did, was that we had not our product team, but we had some of the best leaders in the company do it with us. I think my other piece of advice is when you’re in this situation, get other people around the table. I think you know my philosophy in general is like as many different opinions from different teams as we can try to get in the room as possible the better. Because they give you a different lens on it. And so this is a good example. We brought in some of these expert leaders to watch the sessions with us. And there’s one woman who said “rapport.”
Catherine: She was like, “They’re not building a rapport.” It was something very simple. It was like, imagine I’m your coach. I’m trying to teach you how to lose weight. I haven’t even told you about myself yet. I haven’t made you … I haven’t given you the reason to believe that I am the right coach to help this process. I haven’t made an emotional connection with you on a personal level through the screen. And she was like, if you obvious point now, when you say it, you’re like, “Oh duh.” Virtual screens, that makes it even harder to do than if you’re face to face in person. You just have less energy when you’re on a screen. And so that just, like it sounds so simple, but we changed the product, the kind of script, the way that we started the session dramatically changed to the coach talking about herself, showing her before and after picture, and even talking personally like how many kids she has, how much weight she lost.
Catherine: And even a little bit more than that. Like how did she feel before she lost the weight? What was the driving factor for why she wanted to lose the weight? In a way that is nonjudgmental for the customer, saying something like, “There’s many things that ultimately have someone come to Weight Watchers and want to lose weight or get healthier, whatever their goals are.” For me personally, it was that I had this moment when I was, whatever it is, I couldn’t run after my son on the playground. I had to sit on the bench and I was totally out of breath and I almost broke down in tears, because I realized I couldn’t be the mom that I wanted to be if I continued this way. And when people tell these stories that are really true, you can feel it. You can feel it even over video.
Catherine: I actually still get it saying that because I can picture the woman telling the pain. You get goosebumps because it’s real. It’s really real about the emotions behind it. And when you make that connection, it’s all the difference. That was like, that’s adding I think it was two minutes at the beginning of this section. A two-minute section at the beginning of it that was just about creating that emotional connection rapport and was mainly about the coach being vulnerable first, changed the entire product experience. Changed retention numbers, changed people’s engagement with it, changed satisfaction numbers. And that’s all we changed. Nothing else in the program changed. But it’s hard because it’s like, well you sometimes … How do you get to an insight like that?
Catherine: My job and those roles was to try to … How do you make that scalable if you’re running multiple teams? And my biggest advice on that is you need to get outside opinions, you need to get other people who see your product or your company or your world a little bit differently looking at it with you. And help and sharing their perspective on it. I don’t know if that’s your CFO example. But I’d say the CFO example is like, “We have to hit our numbers in January. Are you sure this product is going to deliver those customers? And they’re going to stay this long in January.” And that was probably the attempt pressure at the time from the CFO, but yeah, you have to figure it out.
Holly: Well, I guess, I mean … I think it’s a good story. And then I guess the thing to help tie it back to that CFO perspective is, what do you do now? Even if in that story that wasn’t the case, to get the other people around the executive table, to give the project the space to right whatever isn’t working yet.
Catherine: Yeah. It starts again philosophy. It starts from a philosophy of you have to understand what motivates everyone around the table. People get motivated by different things and they’re afraid of different things. And if you can understand it, it’s much easier to get people on the same page. I guess and I’ll come back to it. I think the other thing is, not many people say this. It’s like the context over control, right? It’s really a natural principle, but like providing the right context. In most cases, I find that almost any argument or misunderstanding or it just might feel like a misalignment. It’s not even something where you’re debating with someone, but it’s just like you’re not in sync with them. Usually come from not having the same context about the problem. And so I usually find myself, if ever I’m in a meeting and you feel that little bit of friction, my brain goes like, “Okay, I need to provide more context of how I’m thinking about this problem, why I think it’s happening.”
Catherine: If you really focus on like, on even saying by the way that I believe in the phrase is like, “I think or the way I’m thinking about it is …” Those phrases are actually really powerful because at least opening, both you’re admitting and the other person’s brain hears, this person is open to another way of thinking. Like the way I’m thinking about it right now is this, which leads openness to, well, the way I’m thinking about it is this. And so you’re right from the way that you frame the sentence, changing the type of conversation in the way people’s brains work. That alone changes the entire nature of it versus it being like a debate. The other, by other tip praise that I learned that I love is just saying like, “I’m curious …” How often I’ve even tried to use that as my stall phrase.
Catherine: Even if you’re stalling, even say yourself like I’m curious or in a group saying, I’m curious and kind of like looking up as if you’re thinking … By the way the physicality of your own body changes how you were thinking and it influences other people. If you’re saying … If I lean forward and aggressively like, “I think …”, really loudly or if I lean back and look up and say, “I’m curious how … You’re going to get two very different responses to the same rest of that sentence, obvious point. And you’re going to probably draw better ideas, if you lean back and think and say, “I’m curious, like I’ve been thinking about it this way.” You’re going to draw the people into the room. These are small, stupid things but once you write these things down and just train yourself on the tricks, they can become like second nature. It’s just kind of how I think about it.
Catherine: I think those subtle things in that meeting that your executive team, is much more likely to feel like they’re in sync and working together than other executive teams. I will add, the other thing I think I’ve learned in my career and you know this well from us working together is, I really believe in the power of a team. I read way back in my career, the Patrick Lensioni book, ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’. As simple of a book that is, it’s a very short read. I used to read that every year for myself personally because I would take away something different in the different context. I found myself in as a leader in every year. So it became one of those very simple tools of like, “Hey, I want to learn how to always be playing at my best game, my highest level.”
Catherine: Well just rereading that book, made me … kicked me up a notch. Kicked me into the high gear. That is a philosophy. Once you learn that, I will say that is so rare. I don’t actually think that gets discussed enough I’ll say. I think if I roll back the clock, whatever it is, 12 years ago, you have this movement of everyone moving from waterfall to agile, was sort of before 12 years ago, but the sweeping and becoming bigger and then you’ve got to have product centricity. I mean there’s these waves that come. I will say like I think we’re going to be really, we have to be in the beginning of a wave that’s around true teams. I still think it is so rare. It is because it’s something that’s easy to say and hard to do.
Catherine: It’s no different than it’s very easy to say that you’re being customer centric, and very hard to do it in your processes and practices at a really deep level. It’s the same thing with really behaving like a team. I’ve been trying to think about ways like how do you articulate it? Because it’s kind of the thing where it’s like, well when you see it, you know that you have it. The signs of it are, one of the biggest signs is vulnerability. You cannot be a team unless you are vulnerable with one another. What Lensioni talked about is it’s most common that people think of their team as their departmental silos. We are a product team or if I’m the CMO, I have my marketing team, if I’m a CTO, I have my tech team, and that is the wrong team.
Catherine: The right team is one that’s cross functional that’s trying to achieve an outcome together. What you usually find, let’s just say at the executive level, is that executives are not used to being vulnerable with other executives. I think the candid answer is that at a very senior executive level, I think it’s just natural that there’s going to be some competition. Why? Because most of those people are high achievers where, and I have a different philosophy, but like as the CPO, I kind of, “Do I want to grow technology and product, well that sounds like a bigger role. I’m going to make more money, I’ll have this bigger perceives that sounds great.” But what does that do? If I have any inkling of that in my head that creates competition between me and the CTO or even the same thing as a marketer.
Catherine: If I’m the CMO and all of a sudden my CPO comes walking around and says, talks about how they own the end to end customer journey. Like what? “You don’t own the end to end customer journey. I own acquisition and conversion and I’m still responsible for retention with my CRM team.” You could so easily see how these things become the opposite but be willing to be vulnerable with the true people you should be vulnerable with just because of the nature. But again, if you dig into why does that behavior occur? It comes from a fear-based model. It comes from a fear-based model of people wanting to feel significant and being [inaudible] like that. But if you say like, “Well what are we really trying to achieve?” Any senior roles in a business you should be trying to achieve business outcomes and hopefully you’re aligning your executive that they are compensated based on the ultimate business outcomes.
Catherine: And if you can really focus on that and that, then they realize, well they are really incentivized to act as the best team because the whole team needs to achieve those business outcomes. I just think most businesses do not work that way. I think it’s because it’s no different than how behavioral economics was introduced with common versus traditional economics, like traditional economics that it would run this way. Comments that I know psychology, it doesn’t, it runs this way. There’s a whole psychology of that organizations that is changing. But most people don’t realize that. They’re like their teams are … You think that they’d work this way and they’ll get along because they’re supposed to be driving the same business outcomes. But in reality, the psychology of most individuals means that they’re not. They’re kind of trying to gain their own personal significance versus the outcomes.
Catherine: It’s interesting because for better or worse, when I look back on my career, I’m like, you know what? I was always very outcome oriented. I definitely could’ve gotten ahead in a certain times if I was totally personally driven. I’ll probably let my philosophy, right? I didn’t take some bigger roles actually that I was asked to do. A question for me earlier in my life was, “Well, did I not take that bigger role because I was afraid of it or did I not take that bigger role because I actually think it was my philosophy?” Now I’m in a point in my career where I’ve learned enough that I’m like, well, it probably is a bit of both when I was early in my career. Probably was, I was a little afraid of being successful in it, inferiority complex.
Catherine: But then on top of that, I do have a philosophy and now I feel better than ever that like my philosophy is the one that makes a company successful. And so whether that be an organization I join or whether that be a company that I start, it’ll be part of the culture from the beginning.
Holly: Yeah. Well, I guess we’re about out of time. I always like to wrap up with what is your biggest message that you would want to share with product leaders or product focused founders?
Catherine: My biggest lesson is basically get out of yourself and keep learning. That’s my biggest thing. I think half of the time you should be adding value, immediate value to the organization and to others. And half of the time you should be learning and growing. That was my insight of how you continue to perform at your absolute top gear in perpetuity. It’s okay to go through waves in your life but you need to, that’s what you should be striving for. There’s so many resources now for how you do that. But that’s easier than ever from great podcast, to great books to online courses to cold calling and reaching out to people on Linkedin you’ve never talked to, you just have a random conversation. I think that’s the biggest one.
Catherine: And then I think my second biggest one is I think of that show ‘The Fear Factor’. But it’s like dig into the fear. Like once you start thinking how many decisions in your life you make based on fear versus believing in something other than fear, it is kind of incredible, how it impacts your performance, whether in a company or personally.
Holly: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Catherine. I’ve loved having this conversation. How can people find you?
Catherine: The easiest way is on Twitter. So my nickname is Kit. Some people know that, it comes all the way back to college. So I’m kit_ulrich at Twitter. Ping me on there and we’d love to continue any conversations on there.
Holly: Wonderful. Well thanks so much Catherine. I can’t wait to share this.
Catherine: Alright, bye. Holly
Holly: Bye.
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