Avichal Garg

Avichal Garg

Product Manager at Facebook

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON January 15, 2016

Discussion

Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
Hi, I’m Avichal, Product Manager at Facebook. My teams work on building Profile, Local, Events products. I’ve been at Facebook for 3.5 years and have worked on a variety of other teams, such as News Feed and Platform. I’ve started and sold startups, am an angel investor, and started in product at Google where I worked on search, ads, and started Google Transit. I love the process of building something from nothing and have an unhealthy love for pizza.
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Hey, Avichal! Facebook events is one of the best tools for passive discovery, so awesome work. 👏 Facebook is known for being experimental and moving quickly. What's the biggest surprise after working there for 3.5 years?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@rrhoover Thank you! Events is a big team effort across engineering, design, analytics, research, product, partnerships, marketing, and many more. It's pretty awesome to have been a part of getting the engine going 2.5 years ago and seeing how we've grown. Fun fact: The entire Spool team is still at Facebook and most of us work on Facebook Events now. The biggest surprise is how quickly the company is still able to move. I think "Move Fast" is so engrained in the DNA that every time we start to feel like we're slowing down, we find a way to scale better, build better tools, and re-think how we communicate to pick up the pace.
@avichal How do you schedule and organize your day to ensure maximum productivity?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@iamcuan Great question. I've found that organizing by when I'm going to have the most energy is the best way to go. I tend to have high energy points early in the morning and then early in the evening. I try to get up around 6:30 and spend a few hours doing things that will require hard thought -- a strategy document, feedback on designs for a team, digging through data to understand what's happening. From 9-5 I'm in various meetings with teams, people on my team, other groups we're collaborating with, and working sessions. These are often mostly about helping other people think through things they need help on and I find 30 minute meetings, back to back can be every efficient to help unblock others to go solve hard problems. From 5-8ish I dig out from email and do some more deep thought sorts of work before shutting down for the day.
Hunter Horsley
Hunter Horsley@hunter_horsley
@avichal_garg what time do you go to bed? Have you always been a morning person or have you trained yourself?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@hhorsley @iamcuan I usually go to sleep around midnight. I haven't always been a morning person...it took a little bit of training but I love it now.
Beats
Beats@officebeats · Product Manager, OutcomeHealth.com
@avichal_garg how did you train yourself to be more of a morning person?
Zach Cmiel
Zach Cmiel@zach_cmiel · CEO, PoKoBros
What's your favorite book??
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@zach_cmiel So many great ones to choose from. A few come to mind that are worth reading and rereading: - The Psychology of Persuasion by Cialdini - Self Reliance by Emerson (an essay really but so many quotable quotes) - Ender's Game - Siddhartha by Hesse - The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz - On Liberty by John Stuart Mill
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
Who are some of the people who have had the biggest impact on your life/career? (Stories, please!)
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@katesegrin Far too many people to name. Everything good that has happened in my life has been because of great people who have helped me along the way. One great story that comes to mind that I tell to entrepreneurs I work with: Marissa Mayer was my first manager at Google back in 2005. I was an APM (Associate Product Manager) and after graduating from the program was thinking about leaving to do a startup. She spent a lot of time with me helping me think through the decision, and left me with a nugget of wisdom when she said, "Startups are hard. But failing is harder. One of the hardest thing for smart, successful people like you is the failure. Because you will fail repeatedly when you do this startup. And then your company might fail altogether. And you might start another one and another one, and those might fail. The hardest part won't be leaving now to do it. The hardest part of it will be picking yourself up and trying against after you've failed a 100 times and believing the 101st time will be different. If you think you can do that, I support you. Go do it." She was absolutely right.
MoMo Zhou
MoMo Zhou@momozhou · Communications @ Uber
@avichal_garg great answer, and great advice! thanks for sharing.
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
Best place to get pizza in the Bay Area / Silicon Valley?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@katesegrin Arizmendi in the Mission. They make one kind of pizza per day, always vegetarian, sell it by the slice, and the crust is amazing. Sometimes I go up to SF from Palo Alto just to get a slice.
Ben Bregman
Ben Bregman@bregman90 · Data Scientist, Facebook
@avichal_garg @katesegrin So you werent just coming to visit me?? :(
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@bregman90 @katesegrin The more reasons to go to Arizmendi the better!
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
@avichal_garg @katesegrin the Mission is THE place to go for good food 🙌
Ricky Yean
Ricky Yean@rickyyean · CEO, UpbeatPR.com (formerly PRX.co)
@avichal_garg best reply ever
Laura Barganier
Laura Barganier@laura_barganier · PR and more at Day One Agency
@avichal what are some of your favorite sources for inspiration (outside of Facebook)? and did you make any resolutions for the year?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@laura_barganier I'm not really a resolutions person :) A lot of my inspiration comes from comedy. I think great comedians have a way of shining a light on obvious things and looking at them in a new way. So I spend a lot of hours every month going through YouTube looking for good standup comedy routines or looking back at great sets from some of the greats.
Laura Barganier
Laura Barganier@laura_barganier · PR and more at Day One Agency
@avichal_garg love this! any specific routine(s) you might recommend?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@laura_barganier Mitch Hedberg, comedic genius:
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@laura_barganier Right about 10 minutes in it feels like the crowd tips and gets it. I think the donut-receipt bit wins them over.
Jon Lax
Jon Lax@jlax · Product Design Director Facebook
First question, How awesome is it working with Jon Lax? -- Follow up question, what is the one thing you tell PMs who are early in their career?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@jlax pretty awesome. I'd venture to say that he's probably my favorite Canadian Design Director in Building 20 at Facebook ;-) Too many PMs early in their careers tend to think their job is the make product decisions. Good PMs quickly realize their job is to help the right decisions get made.
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
What are the most important tangible skills that aspiring product managers can teach themselves?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@andrewmettinger 1/ Humility - you are not Steve Jobs. Focus on helping people make the right decisions and not about whether you got the make the decision. 2/ Clear Communication - when there is more than one brain working on a problem, communication is often the bottleneck, so learn how to communicate clearly. 3/ EQ - why people do what they do (people using your products and people you work with) is as important as what they do
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
Hello @avichal What excites you about a company to invest in it? Any suggestions for a first time entrepreneur?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@neeeharika Hands down the early stage is about people. You can't teach things like tenacity or passion. If someone is smart enough (and really being smart enough is all it takes in my opinion) but wants to win badly enough, they will eventually win. Start with something you believe in, surround yourself with people who believe in you, and go.
Omar Hammouri
Omar Hammouri@hammouriomg · Founder at Delegraph
Do social media apps need any special kind of support from any second party to succeed or its just like any other successful business ?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@hammouriomg I'm not sure I understand. What do you mean by second party?
Omar Hammouri
Omar Hammouri@hammouriomg · Founder at Delegraph
@avichal_garg Thank you for your answer, I meant if social media business needs any kind of support from online business giants, or you can move as a startup and you can become huge.
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@hammouriomg I think you don't need support from an online business giants. Good luck!
Stewart Dennis
Stewart Dennis@macgregordennis · Co-Founder, CEO of BitBounce & CredoEx
@avichal Hey Avichal! Hope you're doing well man. My question is, what's the biggest secret you know for creating great products?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@macgregordennis Hey! Great to see you here. Not sure if it's a secret but one of the things I think one of the biggest things founders (and often first time founders more than others) overlook is asking "why now?" There are a lot of smart people out there and odds are someone else already had saw the same problem you see. And they probably tried to solve that problem and failed. So if you're going to succeed with your product, what has changed in the world? There isn't always a great answer to this looking forward but often there is.
Theoharis Dimarhos
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Thanks for doing this. What are the most important things you've learned about human behavior while at facebook?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@theo_dimarhos too many to list, but a few off the top of my head: 1/ teenage angst is a thing everywhere 2/ people are amazing at finding hacks in any system to do what they want 3/ we are not the typical person using FB
Avi Bitton
Avi Bitton@ajbitton
@avichal as a product manager in Facebook - what are some pain-points you notice in new product managers coming to Facebook? PS: Do you listen to podcasts? If so, which one would you recommend for an aspiring product manager?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@ajbitton Mentioned this one above but I think new PMs tend to think that they are responsible for making the decision or coming up with the solution. What separates the great PMs from the rest is their ability to identify the critical decision to be made, help frame up why that's the critical decision and how to think about the problem, then get a group of people to come up with the globally optimal solution.
Avi Bitton
Avi Bitton@ajbitton
@avichal_garg @ajbitton thanks for the insight!
Akshay Patel
Akshay Patel@mrakshaypatel · Product Manager
How is Product Management at a large company like FB different from your prior startup experience? Pros? Cons?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@mrakshaypatel I think in startups a lot of what you need to do is focus on how to build as quickly as possible with very limited resources, and what to build is obvious. In a big company, a lot of what you have is a well-staffed team so odds are that won't be your bottleneck, but you need to make sure to build the right things. So you spend a lot of time making sure you are solving the right problems.
Aren Sandersen
Aren Sandersen@arensand · DevOps consulting
@avichal What advice to you have for entrepreneurs who are just starting to build their companies? Any take-aways from your previous startup experiences?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@arensand Too many to list/mention in one place, but a few in no particular order: - find a cofounder who has complementary skills, whom you trust, and who has the same long term goals as you - make sure you have a love for your users - find an unfair advantage so you can get your startup off the ground. Examples include a distribution channel that others won’t have access to, a patent that prevents others from competing easily, an exclusive partnership, etc. - have a clear answer for why you are the right team to solve this problem - keep burn low until you find product-market fit; it can take years. Odds are you will run out of energy so pace yourself. Once you hit product-market fit, you will need emotional energy to scale. - Seeking out press is usually not a good strategy. Try to stay off the radar until your success makes you impossible to ignore. - Find other founders and build a support system. Doing a startup is hard and other founders know what you’re going through. Help them and they will help you. - Be very careful with who you let invest in our company. 80-20 applies here too. 80% of your value will come from 20% of your investors, and 80% of your pain will come from 20% of your investors. - Hire more slowly than you think you need before you have product-market fit; hire far more quickly than you think you need after you have product-market fit - Most companies need to compromise in their early hiring and then upgrade talent later. No one is honest about it but everyone does it. - Companies become good at the thing that made them successful in the early days. A consumer company won't figure out enterprise one day. An enterprise company won't magically also build a consumer product later. This dna is almost impossible to change, so embrace it. many many others…
brittany walsh
brittany walsh@brittanyawalsh
What life advice would you tell your 18-year-old self?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@brittanyawalsh spend more time with the people who matter to you (because they won't be around forever), spend less time worrying about whether things will work out (because they will)
Lauren Sachs
Lauren Sachs@aurenlaypr · Senior Account Executive, Day One Agency
Besides Facebook, what are your favorite places to catch up on news? And why?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@aurenlaypr Facebook and Hacker News basically cover it for me
Rahul Thathoo
Rahul Thathoo@thathoo · Engineering Lead, Woodworker
Hey @avichal! My question for you is: Are there any leadership principals that are dear to you and that you try to imbibe in day to day work/life?
Rahul Thathoo
Rahul Thathoo@thathoo · Engineering Lead, Woodworker
@avichal_garg @thathoo Thanks for the answer... I agree with it and knowing you IRL I know you adhere to it. Also, I clearly dont know how to spell principle.. :P
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@thathoo thanks :)
Vinish Garg
Vinish Garg@vingar · Co-founder @mystippi @ContentHug
Hey Avichal, the product design evolves considering the expectations and acceptance by the current users. Considering the huge user base of facebook, the stakes are extraordinarily high. How do you evaluate whether the design strategy is in the right direction?
Corley
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
Hi there! Thanks for joining. Can you talk to us about the role data plays in Product Management. And how you use data to build great products.
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@corleyh Data is critical to building great products. The people who work at Facebook are different from most of the people who use Facebook every day. The people who use Facebook are mostly outside of the US, for example. Data helps us understand human behaviors at scale, understand which of those behaviors are universal, which of our intuitions are valid/invalid, and helps us find and identify latent behaviors in the system. For example, the bulk of Facebook Events' growth has come through public events like concerts or farmer's markets. But the product wasn't designed for this (it was originally for organizing house parties and birthday parties). Data and User Research identified this latent behavior, helped us see that the platform could be used for a different set of use cases, and that design, product, and engineering should build towards all of this demand. The risk, of course, with early stage products is that data can't tell you everything. In the case of markets that don't yet exist (social networking in 2005) you have to bet that the reason the market doesn't exist is that the right product hasn't been built or something in the market has changed to unlock a bunch of new value. So I think data has to be balanced by user research and design to make sure we're asking the right questions.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
@avichal what is the best thing about working at Facebook? Flip side, can you tell us the worst? ;)
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@ems_hodge best thing are the people. worst thing: not enough hours in the day to get everything done we want to get done
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
@avichal what's your investment strategy? Can you tell us anything you've changed about your strategy from learnings you've had along the way? Bonus question - favourite pizza topping? 🍕
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@ems_hodge I tend to work with entrepreneurs very early - before they even have a well fleshed out idea. At that stage it's all about the people and the litmus test I use is: Would I want to start a company with this person or people? This breaks down to a number of questions: What is the dynamic between the founders? Why are they the right people to work on this problem? Do they have an understanding of what in the world has changed such that now is a great time to try and solve this problem? What unique perspective do they have on the world? What is their track record previously (always bet on slope over y-intercept)? and more
vishal srivastava
vishal srivastava@vishal_in · Data@claritymoney
@avichal what one thing do you love about being in product management that is not available to other fields like engineering? Also, any suggestions on how an engineer make the shift to become a successful product manager?
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What does a typical work day look like for you?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@jakecrump Since my primary job is to make teams successful, I’ve oriented around setting up a typical week rather than a typical day, so that deadlines/checkins take on a weekly cadence. Monday - meetings with teams and key people to align on what we need to this week Tuesday - large group meeting blocks (team meetings, company all hands, org all hands) Wednesday - no scheduled meetings / time available for small working sessions, e.g. prepping for a review with Mark, design critique, etc. Thursday - Product Reviews Friday - 1:1s / advanced planning for the following week Saturday - meet founders and companies with whom I work Sunday - no plans
@avichal How will recreational marijuana in places like Colorado, Washington and Oregon impact the way Facebook does business there?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@iamcuan Whoa, that's not a question I expected someone to ask. :-) It probably won't have an impact. Were you thinking about some impact in particular?
@avichal_garg @avichal Do you think Facebook will allow ads from marijuana businesses? If not, what's the reason? And do you have interest in investing in the industry?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@iamcuan Ah I see. I actually don't know much about the ads policies and what would cause us to accept/not accept ads from marijuana businesses. I don't seek that industry out but am not opposed to it. I think it's just a matter of time before it becomes legal. I haven't seen the right combination of business and people yet to invest personally but I'm sure there will be some big businesses built in the industry.
Mohit
Mohit@mohitify · Developer - Product - UX - Mobile - SF
Hey Avichal, What would you suggest to a software developer to do to become a product manager in future. What all skill he/she should work on to become a good Product Manager.
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@mphreak I would first ask why you want to be a product manager? In most healthy companies you can do everything a PM does as a senior engineer or an engineering manager. Ultimately aligning people around a product vision, communicating the purpose of a product clearly, and helping a team ship products aren’t things that a PM should have a monopoly on.
@avichal For someone who is working in technology currently, but has an Unfinished Degree, but enjoys programming and has interest in working for a startup, is the lack of degree a hindrance to future growth? Curious, as I wish to determine if I should go back to school, or start promoting my projects to startups. Thanks for your time!
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@weems A lack of degree definitely isn't a hinderance, especially in software. What you do need to do is determine how competent you are. If you can build high quality products, understand computer science, and write great code without going to school, more power to you.
Beats
Beats@officebeats · Product Manager, OutcomeHealth.com
@weems - I am a college dropout and have worked at 3 startups (that have become successful). These companies hire for culture fit and competence first so a college degree isn't as important in the early stages of a company compared to the growth stages. Location is the other key. I'm in Chicago which is becoming a rapidly growing startup tech company city.
Pedram Daraeizadeh
Pedram Daraeizadeh@pedramdara · Product Management and Marketing
@avichal how do you deal with potential overlapping responsibilities between PMs, designers and engineers? Thanks!
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@pedram92d Ultimately everyone working on a product is responsible for the product’s success, so overlapping responsibilities are unavoidable. Overlapping responsibilities are fine as long as there is trust, mutual respect, and a clear process by which disagreements can be resolved (someone makes the final call, some way to test, user study to validate assumptions, etc.).
Sneha Mehta
Sneha Mehta@sneha_mehta · PhD student in Computer science
What is your one must-follow advice for CS grad students?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@sneha_mehta Don't fall in to the trap of building a technology solution in search of a problem.
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
I'm going to sign off now for a few hours - have to get back to work. I see a few unanswered questions at the bottom. I'll come back later tonight and answer those. Thanks for the time!
Dennis Mashabela
Dennis Mashabela@sebata63 · Founder
@avichal Having started various businesses from scratch in the past 30 years, some sucessful and others not... I have tasted success and failure several times and am not spooked by falling and rising. That said, how does one deal with lack of confidence in what you are doing or support by those closest to you such as a spouse. I find that easier to convince business partners or potential investors of the value of the idea I'm pitching than say, my wife. I remember aeons ago when I quit a multi-national ad-agency at the age of 24 to start an agency with a few colleagues . I sat with my mother to explain her my decision for quiting a well paying job, as well as explain what I did for a living as a creative director. A good 30 minutes after I stopped to catch a fresh wind and refuel with water... she interrupted and said she worries about the risk of a no secured income but said she has never seen such animated happines in anyone's face talking about work and their prospects. She said she had no idea what creative or strategy was but if the happiness in my face was any indication of what I derive from my work... then I should go for it and she wished me the best of luck. I can't get my wife tio listen for 10 minutes before she says " why dont you go sell shoes instead of following your dreams." How do you deal with such???
Macrina Damian
Macrina Damian@macrina_ · Product designer
@avichal your thoughts about machine learning, AI, conversation apps (facebook M) ?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@macrina_ I think software AI and human brains are going to merge over time, both at the individual level and as part of a system where the system has a software/AI layer and human intelligence. Things like M are the future. As AI and machine learning gets better, I think we will use it to augment human brain power, not replace it and the combination will be awesome. Even today I think phones are able to do things that 25 years ago would have been magical — I often use voice-to-text on my phone because it’s faster than typing now — so I’m excited to see what happens in another 25 years.
Nick Creegan
Nick Creegan@njcreegan
What are the best ways that you've seen to inspire creativity and innovation among product teams? Any tangible activities that you've taken part in that have made a difference?
Wil Chung
Wil Chung@iamwil
What period of your life did you learn the most intensely/fastest, and how did you put yourself in such a position? Do you conscientiously practice clear thinking? Is it through writing (even if you don't publish)?
Avichal Garg
Avichal Garg@avichal_garg
@iamwil I can't single out a single time period -- I'm always trying to be in over my head. I do this by finding people who are far better than me at something I want to learn and asking how I can help them. Asking for opportunities and positioning it as helping someone else positions it as a win-win. Thinking more clearly for me comes from writing, and by reading works from clear thinkers. The senior leaders at Facebook are all exceptionally crisp communicators. Reading documents written by senior people at FB for the last few years has been like a graduate class in structured communication. Knowing these same people will be reading my work has forced me to become a much clearer thinker and better writer.
Emin Henri Mahrt
Emin Henri Mahrt@em · Entrepreneur, Publisher
@avichal_garg @iamwil where can i read such documents?
Crystal Ray
Crystal Ray@writinginwaters · I am an inventor.
@avichal what's happening bro? We don't know each other but the expansion I am looking forward to is to meet you one day amongst others to discuss business. You know how hard it is to come across an opportunity like this....ya so thanks for all the effort of even writing to me on top of everyone else's that is if u do. First of all I have many suggestions and ways of doing things that I know are great complmentory /not invented inventions to the FB style now andit is a bit intense for me to sit here with this multimillion dollar outline just waiting to be up to the test. Do you have any idea how incredible this feeling is knowing you have spent years be able to create something that will help millions? I don't know you personally but I have confidence that you just might know what it feels like. Anyways, I'd love to hear from you, like give me any advice as to how I can one day take a safety steps toward the heart of facebook / or any questions you may have. CR
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