Julie Zhou – Building a Culture of Growth

BY CALVIN HOOT ON MAY 25, 2017

Julie Zhou, Director of Growth at Yik Yak, tells ProductTank San Francisco how to build a culture of growth. When a startup or new product starts to get some traction, there often comes a decision to hire someone to manage growth without a full picture of what that will actually entail. Julie Zhou leverages her experience in exactly that role to tell us how to develop that culture – in the context of a play in three acts.

Act I – Setting-up for Growth

Your first task as the first growth hire is to gain some quick wins and show people what they have been missing. Julie’s early win at her current company, Yik Yak, was to show how all users are not created equal. She did this by plotting percentage of total users against the “number of usage days per week”, fostering interest across the organization in transforming infrequent users to highly engaged ones. It also highlighted that aggregate stats, like total app usage per week, were basically useless. All-in-all, it got her colleagues engaged in the conversation around how to understand their users, and how to drive growth.

Act II: The Foundation

Building off the company’s newly-sparked interest in growth, it’s time to leverage your setup with Act II: The Foundation. The value of growth is most often seen at the surface – in the right numbers going up-and-to-the-right – but you need to invest in a well-designed and well-built growth stack to make that happen. This will enable you to create more detailed experiments and deliver more valuable outcomes. Unfortunately some experiments will inevitably have spectacularly bad outcomes, but a solid foundation will also let you quickly and easily recover.

Act III – The Finale

The finale, Act III, is to bring everyone along into this new culture of growth. With your foundation in place you are ready to help engineering, product, marketing, et. al reach their desired outcomes and key results. Rather than becoming another silo – “here you go, make it grow” – it’s your job to understand and balance the needs of the organization, and empower each team to take the necessary steps to reach the goals that matter to them.

Q&A

Julie wraps up with a brief question and answer session. Amongst other points, she highlights how she helped build the cultural and technical foundations for growth and bring everyone along, bearing in mind that she did not have a team of dedicated designers and engineers.

About CALVIN HOOT

Calvin Hoot happily owns the title, "process nerd". When we do anything we follow a process, implicit or explicit, which often only makes sense in retrospect. He brings attention to these processes so that we can create with intention and enjoy the journey regardless of the destination.

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