Tabish Gilani- Senior Product Manager @replit, ex- @youtube, @google

Tabish Gilani- Senior Product Manager @replit, ex- @youtube, @google


I currently lead product and growth at Replit.

Replit is a company where we're aiming to essentially bring the next billion software creators online. We provide users with a place to host their projects, learn how to code. And also at the same time, we provide you with a community to learn from, to engage with, and really build a network of creators.

And so a lot of my role here is thinking about, what is the product vision looks like, the product strategy and how do I empower the rest of the team to really build the best product that we can for our users.

Before Replit, I was leading global growth for youtube kids. I was there for about a couple of years. I was at Google as well on the hardware team, prior to that, I was leading product controls for another startup, Leap.ai. I spend time in growth for awhile. Now I guess I've transitioned a little bit more to product side of things.

What does your typical day look like?

I'm going to give you, the answer that everybody gives all the time, which is no one day looks the same. I feel like it's, really hard to say what a simple day looks like.

So I'll give you an example. We got back from the break like this past week. I got back on a monday and i was like, I need to figure out our strategy for the rest of the year or rather I need to write it down and actually present. Before I do any work, so, before I left, one week I was literally focused on running a planning session for 50 plus people on our team.

So it really depends on what the team needs, like the way that I think about the role of a PM, It's to empower the team to really think deeply about the problems and the solutions.

And then that allows the product manager to sort of fill in the gaps, and fit in wherever they can add most value. And I feel like, that's where a lot of my value comes in. I think, list of things that I would work on would be anywhere between like focusing on strategy and roadmapping and thinking about what do we need to focus on for like the next six months to a year? Thinking about what are the experiments that we're currently running, thinking about our data infrastructure and how we're tracking that, how does that connect with our experimentation infrastructure? and hiring is a big part of my role.

So we literally just, uh, I was just reviewing a Tuesday. I think half of my day was just reviewing our candidates pipeline. And then plugging in wherever the teams needed me or we needed to meet, we need to get clearer and crisper on scoping, or we need to get tighter on metrics or we need these users to interview. and so wherever there's like any administrative stuff that I can like fill in as well.

Maybe if I'm lucky I'm able to do two or three of those things. But I think the biggest thing that helps me is like having some of that focus on what is most impactful and most important at this given point.

Why did you choose to become a product manager? How do you see things differently than the rest?

I never wanted to be a product manager. I kind of actually ran away from the title as much as I should for the longest time. And the reason for that was because I felt, I did engineering as a degree and for me, I was always more enthralled with the idea of actually building, running something, bringing it to life.

And my first job was actually in growth, it has evolved to now become such a product led function, that it just makes more sense for it to bring product live because the product is a fundamental foundational layer that the users have to interact with. And I think there's layers on top of that, that sort of help users, coming to the product.

And so when I did growth for the first time, I just bought into this idea of like using data to make decisions, looking at the full user life cycle in the user journey, where are they coming? Like even before they sign up, like where are they even finding us? Where are they coming from? How are they finding out?

Why are they signing up? What is their onboarding? Like, how are they retaining? What are they turning? Asking a lot of those questions was very intriguing to me. and so me at the time, much earlier in my career, I was just like very curious, before growth, actually, I had a role at IBM. I was in tech consulting like an analyst.

And I realized that I don't really enjoy that one. Some of the things that I learned from there was like, I didn't enjoy being in B2B. I didn't enjoy, sort of working towards a goal that basically was, we need more money. I felt like we didn't have goals or structure. I switched to this role in growth at a time I had a mentor who was like, why don't you just come and work at growth?

And I have no clue what growth is, but I will do this because I think it's good for me to learn. And so as I got more into it, I found out this is really fascinating, I'm able to work with the data and able to come up with the experiments that we need to move these. I'm able to work with other people, so it was a good marrying of skills of communicating on the business side of things and also being data-driven, thinking about the user funnel, the user flows, and being a little bit more rigorous in our approach there.

My career by no means was like a linear path. I worked at a university in student affairs for a little bit, it sort of reminded me that, I really enjoy working with other people and I really enjoy sort of leading a team and sort of helping them accomplish a particular mission or objective. And so I went back into naturally, I think by the time I got back into growth, I was like, growth needs to be part of products.

I got pulled into the product side of things, cause lot of engineers and designers and other PMs that I would work with would come for advice on figuring out how we're running this experiment, how we're setting up the control group. Like measuring the data, or what are the analysis that we need to look for?

I don't know if there's anything that sets me apart from the rest. I actually think early in my career, pieces of feedback that I received, was just do the things that need to be done well, there's no need to go above and beyond.

There's no need to do the extra mile all the time. Find out what are the core things that needs to happen and do them well. And if you don't know how to do them well, ask for help or learn from other people. And I think as a PM, humility goes a long way.

By running experiments I've come to realize that 80% of the time, my intuition is probably misleading. Naturally that muscle has gotten a lot better over time. And I think the idea of PM is the more reps that you do, the more you learn, and I think that has been really valuable.

I don't know if this has to be a part differently from the rest, but I think for me, it's like how many more reps can I get in? And can I get them in faster and more efficiently and help me learn.

What’s the one thing that you absolutely love about your job?

One thing that I love about being a PM is that I get to touch a lot of different parts of the product. While that is really valuable, it is also very humbling because I realized there are a lot of things that I don't know, and that I can lean on a lot of people for help and figuring those things out.

So it's like a double-edged sword in a sense that I enjoy the fact that I get to touch all of these different phases of the user journey and work with a lot of different people. But that also scares me, that people trust me on that level to like work with me on that broad spectrum.

What are some of the cool things that you are working on currently?

The really bad thing from a consumer is that it's really hard to get everybody. And so some of the stuff that I've been working on a Replit, there's a lot of infrastructural things to help us bridge some of the perception and reality gap.

For example there's a section of the users that everybody on the team has, and then there's the actual reality of our users which may be exact same, or they may be completely far apart. And some of the things that I'm working on are really infrastructural to bridging that gap, because I think that's how we build a predictable business.

Some of the stuff that I've worked on are data infrastructure, what are the core actions that we need to track? What are the things that we care about? How are we talking and measuring user success, what is our north star metric?

what are the things that we care about? What are the things our users care about? building out experimentation, infrastructure, what does our product development process look like?

Some of the really cool things that I'm actually excited about are, we actually had an experiment where we essentially allow people to watch YouTube videos while writing code. That was really interesting cause I felt like this is how I used to write and learn.

This came from an insight that we had. People are actually telling us that they're coming to Replit to learn how to code. And they have YouTube in another tab, what if we have just like this in the editor, a corridor experience?

Since then, we've rolled it back because I think we didn't have a clear plan of, how to continue to roll it out and scale it up. But I think the learnings that we got from the networks is so fascinating that people are finding value in the feature, and are using it regularly.

This is one of the reasons I love working at Replit that, we're thinking about new mental models to create for our users. How do we go about creating them in a way that feels natural? and so that is in itself a really interesting challenge to be focusing on, and we have interesting ideas coming out of it, like giving people access to an AI bot that codes with you, or potentially even having a structured learning experience within the editor itself. Lot of those are like very novel and valuable. We'll continue to go out and have those, I'm really excited for those.

What are some of the emerging trends in your industry that excite you? And why?

If Replit started, like 10, 15 years ago, it actually wouldn't have worked. And the reason for that is because, a lot of our infrastructure actually relies on cloud computing, like costs keep decreasing over time and it becomes something more powerful. That's actually what allowed Replit to become this powerful while we're running like so many containers where people are able to run their code on an online IDE.

And that is something that I think is really valuable to us. And just like the emerging trends that are happening in the, in the cloud space and how we can continue to take advantage of that, to provide more resources and more compute and more support to users all around the world, not just in one particular region or country.

The whole idea is that the asset of cloud is democratising  access to software because the most part has been localise in north America or a privileged country and so this is allowing us to expand really quickly and grow really well. That's on the cloud side of things on the developer side of things, we're seeing more and more, organisations, schools, people take a programming course, education institutions take a programming like a core course now, you're seeing like tons of resources popping up around learning how to program.

It's a growing trend or a growing market of people wanting to actually write programming. We've still not gone to a really great place where major population in the world that still don't have access to education, but we're slowly bridging that gap as well. I'm drawing belief is that technology will also help bridge that gap and reach like a similar point.

And last thing, I think that this is the most meaningful aspect when you have a world economy that is becoming more and more interconnected by the day, by the minute, that brings up huge opportunity for strong network effects.

we have the most valuable user on the planet. If we can arm the developer with a community, with a network, with ways to monetise and really bring their work to life and then help them read and share that with right people.

You can think about when Shopify came out, people working in e-commerce were blown away because they were like, oh my God, this just created a whole new order of magnitude, a better experience.

And so you can think about that for developers right now that are creating and building on Replit that are learning with other people. And so we're taking advantage of this creator economy that everybody's talking about. And we think that there's a huge opportunity for Replit to actually lead the charge as we're capturing more and more developers, because our users in the future we'll have thousands and millions more users.

Do you follow any product/prioritization frameworks when making decisions? If yes, what are some of the top frameworks that you recommend, and why?

Frameworks are there to help you frame the problem on intensive days and shape how you're thinking about, what makes sense for the business. They are a means to an end. And I see a lot of teams get into this cycle of following this framework and it's like, no, but there's first principles thinking behind it already. Well, you need to push it through like the framework. So the framework is only as good as, the output, to be honest.

I think RICE Framework is really popular. So your reach impact competencies, you use, some amount of market sizing and scoping talking for our users. There's different product development cycles that we followed. I'm actually like for Replit in particular, we've actually created one from scratch based on how we actively, think about building and product development. It's just like creating things from first principles, and actually seeing what the problems are.

Frameworks was probably created, by a person who has their own personal biases, There's a lot of frameworks that, uh, Reforge, which is like a product and growth cohort learning. They provide like, like a fair bit of frameworks as well around experimentation, and product, which I think is like very valuable. But yeah, I think for the most part, RICE is really helpful for just impact sizing, understanding product development. We try to go through problems validation, solution validation. I would definitely recommend, Figma's VP of product has a really good PRD on code.

What’s the one tool that you couldn’t do your job without, and which very few people know about?

So when I joined, I think within like a couple of months, we've got amplitude implemented, amplitude is immensely valuable. Amplitude is like a product analytics solution that essentially helps you track your user journeys, your funnels and I think I tracked like a lot of metrics and like core actions that are happening on the product, before amplitude I was in our business intelligence tool and I was writing SQL queries for very complex query and that on amplitude is done in like five minutes. That's definitely one tool that I couldn't do my job without.

What’s something that you learned/realized recently in your work journey that you wish you knew earlier?

This is going to be ironic because one of the things that I'm going to talk about is the, uh, the power of communication. So the first thing is, the further along I've gone in my career. The more I realized that the words that you say are more and more up for misinterpretation by the people that are based on their own biases and assumptions that they have. And so being very crystal clear in your communication and leaving a little to no room for misinterpretation and things becomes really important as your community communicating to large slots of people, what you're hoping to achieve.

If there's only one decisive reason for the thing that you're working on, that's all you need. A lot of times when you have multiple reasons, you're kind of crowding the space. And, you're not convinced that there's one clear thing to do.

And so that one decisive reason I think is very important for me. We're going through like reckless, product cycles as we're going through the world and we're evaluating the market. It's like, what is the core fundamental problem? And the reason for solving that problem by things that become very valuable, that I'm coming to realize, and sort of learn as I continue along in my life as a product leader. Within my current career, something I realized earlier on was that idea of being insights driven.

I was very fortunate to have a manager who really pushed me. It was kind of like, what do the numbers mean? And I was like, oh, I don't know what the numbers mean. And I just see them going up into the right. And that means it's good. And he was like, no, you need to do, you definitely need to look deeper underneath the numbers. And if you can't figure out what they mean, that that means there's additional research and work that needs to be done. And that is paramount to a growth practitioner. You need to deeply understand why things are the way they are, and communicate that to others.

What are some of your biggest inspiration that help you get up and do your best work?

So from Replit standpoint, the biggest motivation, and this is actually going back to why I love working in the B2C space is because that impact translates to millions and millions of users. I can actually be in a world in which Replit is potentially transforming, or helping, enabling certain people to actually earn a living for themselves just off of the foreman, sort of enabling them to learn the skills that they need to potentially get a job in the future.

That is really inspiring for me and motivating for me. I've always largely tried to work in like industries or teams that I think have some sort of that mission like when I was at YouTube kids, I was very bought into YouTube Kids needs to be a place where we keep it safe and that was the whole mandate. It's like we should build a world in which the kids are becoming more and more tech savvy, and they're becoming more and more connected. We need to find a way to prevent them from accessing harmful content on the internet. We know there's a lot of it.

Before that I was at leap.ai, It was like, enabling people to get access to better opportunities. So for me, working on things that are empowering people, some sort of like economic empowerment, I think those are very valuable and meaningful to me. And I think that getting out of bed every day, like we have kids in India who are like 14, 15 year olds that are building apps and websites that are being used by a hundred thousand people daily to share COVID resources. Like that is amazing. And they built all of that on Replit, build it together using like our multiplayer, but like that is something that is really valuable to us as a company. And just honestly, it's really inspiring to see that. Other motivations like I think for me, I love the team at Replit.

They are a very humble, driven, talented group of people, that I'm very fortunate to work with. And so for me, the way they think about the world is really valuable. And so I think that helps a lot and sort of pushing me to think more, and sort of like motivating me to put my best forward.

What would you recommend to people who want to start their careers in your space?

I just had a couple of friends who transitioned into the space as well, and I feel like the number one advice I gave them. Get really good at identifying the biggest impact problems to work on and then figure out what are the things that need to happen in order to get to a solution. And then being able to communicate that with other people. For people that are transitioning generally, like the way that I've seen it is by either condition like within your organization, like by ladder switch, or you find a hybrid role that has some PM level responsibility to, along with whatever you're doing.

So if you're in like a customer success, customer support role, asking for it to be involved in product development, I think on those lines, if you're in sort of like a marketing role, trying to focus more on the growth side of things and getting like a foot through the door there. And then really, again, thinking deeply about the problems from like a user level and a data-driven lens.

I think these are like table stakes for like a PM. Think about the problem those are like, I think the things that I would sort of anchor on as people are trying to transition into.

Any new companies you know of that you think are going to make a big difference, which we should keep an eye on?

Micro Acquire has been sort of in my circles. So they've been doing really well in terms of like getting more and more people. Honestly, that's like financial liquidity for a lot of people and cause you always have high level acquisitions. And so Micro Acquire, I think is really valuable.

One of the other things is Stonk, which is basically, uh, bringing together, it's like a demo day for startups where you basically get, couple institutional investors as panels and you have like five or six startups that are basically doing and pitches and you have angel investors and potentially other institutional investors on.And so those guys were like really cool, like democratizing opportunity.  

Other ones that comes to mind recently is Betterleap, which was started by one of companies that I used to work with. They're essentially creating like a recruiter marketplace, which is also really exciting.

There's a lot of things happening in the web3 space. We had a Replit ventures program and we had one of our people that went through the Replit ventures program. His name is Kenneth. He created, which was essentially helping developers create programming courses, and sort of like, earn, create like a second source of income, essentially. And he recently posted on Twitter that they're pivoting, to become a web3 company that was like really interesting.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

I do want to reiterate at Replit, we just closed our series B funding from like $80 million from Coatue. We announced it in November so, we're growing fast.

We're hiring a proper support for like a ton of roles. I'm hiring some people on the product team. There's a lot of engineering roles, business, design roles, I think there's a real world impact happening at the company. And there's a lot of very driven, talented, and humble people that you'd be working with.

So if there's anything that I mentioned on Replit that you thought was interesting, please do reach out. You can find me on LinkedIn and, definitely check out career space.


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Brought to you by

Olvy is an AI-powered feedback management tool designed specifically for Product Managers and UX Researchers to better understand their customers' needs at scale. 

Read our case studies with LottieFiles, and ReadyPlayerMe.

ProductHooman Podcast

Follow us On

©2023 - Olvy Inc.

Brought to you by

Olvy is an AI-powered feedback management tool designed specifically for Product Managers and UX Researchers to better understand their customers' needs at scale. 

Read our case studies with LottieFiles, and ReadyPlayerMe.

ProductHooman Podcast

Follow us On

©2023 - Olvy Inc.