At Duolingo, we pride ourselves on hiring individuals who are passionate about our mission and want to use their expertise to change the world for the better. To help give you a peek into what it’s like working for Duolingo, we’ve asked our team members to share more about their experience at the company and in Pittsburgh! Today, meet Nico: a Product Manager at Duolingo! Nico joined Duolingo in July 2020.
Why did you choose Duolingo?
Two big things helped me realize I wanted the job during the interview process:
First I was inspired by the interviewers, as I felt they were all authentic, approachable, and transparent. But most importantly, all of them seemed happy with their jobs and aligned with the mission.
And the second, key moment was during a take-home task where I had to prepare a presentation about a feature I would create to move a key metric.
I spent several days analyzing app reviews and talking to learners to get insights, and found that the biggest learning challenge was around dialogue exercises. I thought about what feature could address this issue and how to incorporate it to the app. After polishing my designs and presentation, I showed it to a committee.
After going through that process, I realized I really enjoyed spending time thinking about the app and its learners, doing research, planning features, and presenting them. I knew being a PM at Duolingo would be a creatively fulfilling job, where I could work with amazing people, and contribute to a worthy mission. This was my place!
What are three words that describe Duolingo’s culture?
Caring, supportive, and innovative
What do you like most about Pittsburgh?
It’s a city that has everything I need: access to the outdoors, sporting events, entertainment, cultural events, and restaurants, while also maintaining small town vibes. Pittsburgh has very nice people, no traffic jams, and you can get anywhere in the city in less than 15 minutes. We like to say that Pittsburgh punches above its weight.
Describe a typical day in the life as a Product Manager at Duolingo!
There is not a typical day, but in general, I spend time coordinating projects and timelines for the team, planning for future features, and analyzing experiments.
Generally, I use the first 1-2 hours of the day as my focus time, doing data analysis and looking into the A/B tests that are ready to evaluate. This helps me collect learnings for the team, and find places where we can iterate and improve our product.
Mid-morning, I usually meet with designers, UX researchers, and data scientists to follow up on the projects we are working on, either on the research phase, design phase or analysis. As a product manager, it’s important to make sure you listen to all the ideas on how to approach a problem or project, and then narrow down to the best idea and implementation. There are so many good ideas and projects that we are always busy prioritizing the best ones.
I also spend a lot of time meeting with other PMs and teams to collaborate on feature ideas, get feedback, share best practices, and learn together. Having a talented group of people nearby is helpful to talk through problems and solutions.
Finally, a big part of leading a team is coordinating and collaborating with my engineering co-lead to ensure the team is happy, motivated, has clear objectives, and each member can grow professionally.
What are some challenges you face as a Product Manager?
I think one of the biggest challenges I face is the correct balance between shipping super high-quality products and moving fast by learning from MVPs (Minimum Viable Product). I’m always trying to come up with the simplest hypothesis to test without compromising with the quality that our learners are used to.
What is unique about working at Duolingo?
I’ve always been impressed by how transparent we are as a company in all aspects and how much access we have to leadership. Every time we want to discuss a big product change, we get to sit in a room with the CEO, VP of design, and other executive stakeholders to pick their brains and get feedback from them. I’ve never heard of any other company where I’d be able to move this fast building features and get such easy access to product experts.
What is your favorite feature on Duolingo?
I definitely have a bias here since my team built this feature: Friends Quest. It matches users to their friends so they can collaborate and reach a goal together. I love how it enables people to engage with each other by sending fun messages, gifts, and holding each other accountable to their learning goals.