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Podcast Episode 43 – Barron Ernst, VP Product Zenly about great product management & the challenge of remote onboarding

02. Februar 2021

In this episode, Stefan interviews Barron Ernst, a seasoned product management leader who started his career in Silicon Valley. After a stint as director of product management at booking.com, he moved to Paris to lead product at Zenly, a Snapchat-owned live map of your friends and family.

About the Podcast
Digitale Leute Insights is the podcast for passionate product people. We interview software product developers worldwide and take a closer look at their tools and tactics.
Host: Stefan Vosskoetter

It’s almost a year ago that Barron Ernst moved to Paris to work as VP Product at the social network Zenly. COVID forced the 100 people strong company to go fully remote – only a few employees escaped their small apartments in Paris to work at the beautiful headquarters. Not Barron though.

Zenly reacted quickly to the global outbreak and released as early as March 2020 the “Stay at Home” challenge to foster social distancing. That fits Zenly as a social network based on geolocation, interactivity, fun and well-crafted features.

Before Barron moved to Paris, he lived for five years in Amsterdam working for Africa’s biggest media company Naspers and later as Director of Product Management at Booking.com.
When you ask Barron what he brings to the Zenly team, he answers: “I am more like a player-coach”. At Booking, for example, there was a lot of strategy work included, but he prefers more to enable his team to deliver features and build beautiful products.

More focus on remote onboarding

Since he joined Zenly, he doubled the product organisation which today counts seven product managers amongst the team. It’s a Spotify-like team structure making sure PMs have a strong design partner.
“Remote Onboarding is a challenge, which is figuring out how to provide a great onboarding experience and getting people up to speed.“ Especially at Zenly, it takes some time to get into the product’s details, as Zenly with its mapping and geolocation features is more complex than it might look on the outside. As a result, Barron dedicated more time for new hires in the remote setup.

But what makes a good product manager? Which educational background is better: design, tech or business? asks Stefan. “I don’t believe a good PM needs any of the backgrounds you mentioned. Because the best people are not the ones that tell engineering how to build it, they tell engineering what to build and what the customer outcome should be”, Barron explains.

When the team will go entirely back to the office is not yet sure. But first, it has to be safe for the teams, Barron states. Hopefully, that’s not too far in the future, and Barron can start to explore his new hometown Paris.

LinkedIn: Barron Ernst

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