The Global First Product Leader – Interview with Kristina Gibson, Director of PM at Booking.com and Speaker at PMF Europe 2019

Written by Published in Beyond Product Management, Growth, Interviews, Product Management
Kristina Gibson - product management

 

Kristina, can you tell us a bit about your professional journey and how did you come to be Director of Product  Management at Booking.com? 

I have spent my career building products and leading teams that drive global business impact. This originates from my lifelong interest in how other cultures and people behave. As a university student, I was not aware careers building products even existed, but I did know one thing, I wanted to have a global career.

My first product role was at Intuit, where I was a member of a selective rotational development program. Here I was introduced to product management and I built an international payment feature for small businesses to more easily pay vendors across borders. I loved it. 

“To me there was no bigger challenge than developing a product for a user who was unlike myself. “

At Intuit, I developed a foundation on how to translate customer needs into product requirements. 

I joined Mint.com when they were acquired by Intuit. This was a turning point. I saw in my Mint.com colleagues the magic of a start-up, but I knew I was late to the party. I vowed that my next career step would be leading a start-up to expand internationally.

At Eventbrite, I found that challenge. I grew the online ticketing business from a US-only operation to 20-plus markets worldwide and founded teams across Europe and Latin America. 

I then was an early member of the product team at Lyft, where I led the company’s expansion into new cities and new verticals.

After 12-plus years expanding US based companies globally, I flipped to focus on a personal adventure; to work for a global company based outside of North America. The decision was a difficult one. I left behind Lyft & my San Francisco network. I am now based in Amsterdam, and I bring my experience scaling start-ups and building new products to Booking, where I am responsible for driving new-user growth through a segmented product strategy. 

What was the best career advice you received on your career growth journey? And do you have any tips for women aspiring to be product management leaders?

“Go after what you want; don’t be afraid to ask for something that might not be available or take a role that others do not want. “

I got to this stage of my career by identifying what I call ‘hidden’ opportunities.

Early in my career, I took a role leading a multi-million dollar product. But, it was financial desktop software and the role was based in Toronto. I was discouraged by my Silicon Valley peers to avoid working on desktop when SaaS was the future. But I took the role. I saw it was a ‘hidden’ opportunity that met my requirements; I led a large team that had global reach, and built the case to expand role to include online banking solutions for emerging markets. Then, I had a large product scope, with global reach, and being built in a modern technology stack. This role was a launching pad for me to join mint.com and discover start-up product management. 

I joined Lyft when the company was small. Over time, I wanted to transition back into leading people and teams. At that time, the product organisation was purposefully flat. I still asked. 

This opened up another ‘hidden’ opportunity to lead people and build out the User Research team. Over time, I expanded scope to build a larger product organisation focused on multi-modal transportation.

For anyone aspiring to be a product manager, I would encourage two things: network with others in the field to learn as much as you can and spend time in your current scope with customers, you will develop strong products as you understand user needs.  

What’s the most challenging situation you’ve encountered as a Product Leader so far? And what do you love about Product Management?

At Lyft, I can recall a few challenging moments where if we did not deliver, we would be directly impacting our driver community on their payments and taxes. I am proud of how I led teams to rally in those situations and deliver solutions for our users and business. 

This is related to the primary reason why I love building products at mission-driven consumer companies. I see how customers use the product and how I can work to make their lives better. 

Your favorite book about leadership? Or, could you share where do you draw inspiration (professionally and/or personally) from? 

I draw my inspiration from people and their stories. On the weekend, I love to head out on a longer run and listen to NPR’s “How I Built This” podcast. I end the run inspired by the stories of founders, both in the tech industry and out of tech. I often can take their advice and apply it to my personal and professional life. 

Meet Kristina and other inspiring product leaders at Product Management Festival Europe 2019 on the 13-14th  November in Zurich.


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