Marissa Chacko

Marissa Chacko is a Product Manager at Foursquare, focused on growth and special projects. Prior to joining Foursquare, Marissa was a Product Manager at Hotel Tonight and Zynga.


So my name's Marissa Chacko. I am a Product Manager at Foursquare now and I focus right now on growth and special projects. I started out and my first real Product Management job was I guess at Zynga where I was doing consumer gaming. Started out on web, transitioned to mobile, then went to Hotel Tonight. Was working there for about a year working on their consumer-facing mobile apps, then most recently at Foursquare for about a year and a half.

I made the transition... I was working in B2B consulting for IBM actually, and so a lot of it was very similar to what a B2B Product Manager might be. We were helping our clients build tools and infrastructure, but I wanted to move to the consumer side so in the middle of that I went to Berkeley and got my MBA. Sso that was my good transition point to move over to the consumer side.

I moved out from New York to San Francisco where there were more opportunities, then really got to dive in on the consumer side so that's how my path evolved. But it was definitely not linear. I'd never heard of Product Management before I came out to Berkeley so I didn't know that was what I was going for. I just knew the types of things that I like to do.

Why would you recommend Product Management as a career?

I think for me Product Management is a great mix of things. So it has a creative element that you're working with designers and you're trying to come up with solutions for problems that potentially have never been solved before. So I think that element is really fun and challenging.

There's also a heavy analytics aspect. It depends on the company but for most of the places I've worked a heavy analytics component. So I like working with numbers. I like rational decision making based on data. And so there's a good component there.

And then there's just a lot of communication and teamwork. It's not really an individual role. You have to work with a bunch of different people, and I think that for me takes it out of that heads down at your desk working away for eight hours by yourself. You can't really do that because your whole team needs you and needs your help.

So those are probably the three things for me, that stand out for Product.

What do you look for when recruiting Product Managers?

That's tough, I think that for new Product Managers who haven't done it before I'd say I'm usually looking for people who are looking to understand users and understand problems. I think some of the issues I see sometimes with folks that are young and eager, they're like "I have the perfect solution! Snapchat just did this, Instagram did this. We can do the same thing!" And I think that's great but it's better when they are really focused on who are the users we are trying to serve and what are the types of problems we're trying to fix. Because I think that's actually what we care about the most.

And then further along the line I'll be looking for people who have a more developed sense of product strategy. How do we take what we know now and turn it into a vision for six months down the road, a year down the road? What should be be building towards?

So I think that there's different things that you'll be looking for depending on their trajectory, but really just understanding users and a love for solving problems early on is great.

What advice would you offer someone considering a career in Product Management?

I think it's a great job. It's my favourite job I've ever had so I highly recommend it.

I would say, take a look at products that you love, even analogue products like your light switches and things like that, and think about what makes them great. What makes them interesting. Spend a lot of time if you want to work on mobile apps like what I do. Think about decomposing why are certain screens that way and really look at the elements. Thinking about the larger picture is fun, but as a Product Manager we need to decompose, why is that button there, and why did they do this? And so start to really think about those details and then always think about the users. What is the goal of these different products? What are they trying to address? Take it from that standpoint.

I would say otherwise just explore, learn, talk to a lot of people, talk to a lot of Product Managers. I think they can give you lots of advice. I think that's helped me understand where to grow, where my career might need more skill development and I think you can bounce ideas of those folks so, that's my advice for now.