Product Leadership Interview with Kevin Fu
Kevin Fu joined DoorDash in 2015 on the Bay Area operations team. Now, 5 years later, he is the Director of Product leading the Logistics and Dasher team. With a background in both operations and product management, Kevin has experience working across deeply cross-functional teams to drive improvements in delivery quality and Dasher efficiency. We interviewed Kevin to share what it’s like to ship products in a fast-paced environment, and solicit his advice on how to accelerate your career in product.
You’ve had an impressive career trajectory here at DoorDash – starting on the Ops team to now leading a critical product area as the head of Logistics. Tell us a little about your tenure here and how it has led you to where you are today.
I started my career here on the operations team. We were a small scrappy team, which was a big change from the work I had done previously in consulting. On my first day, I built an excel model to prioritize what restaurants our sales team should sell. I’ll always remember my manager looking at the work and telling me “You’re working with one sales representative, you should go out there and sell restaurants yourself” – this has stuck with me to this day. I spent almost all my time as an operator doing things that I knew was solving a dasher, customer or merchant problem, whether that was texting Dashers to let them know it was a busy time for deliveries or making hundreds of menus so we could onboard merchants more quickly.
In 2016, I worked on a product feature that was aimed at improving quality on our larger catering orders. Initially, we had been assigning dashers to these orders in real time, and soon realized that some dashers didn’t have either the right size vehicle or equipment to handle these high volume orders. We decided to start manually assigning our top and most well equipped dashers to handle these catering orders the day before, via a sign-up sheet on google sheets. We eventually productized that workflow and that feedback loop from a few earlier merchants, and seeing this product feature that we built continue to increase quality was what first got me hooked on Product work.
Since then, I’ve managed products on the Support, Dispatch and Dasher teams, and most recently am leading the Logistics org. From the earlier days to now, I still think about my job in a similar way – staying close to our audiences and solving their problems.
What are some of the similarities and differences between being an operator and being a Product Manager (PM)?
Both operators and PMs need to be incredibly goal oriented. We set and hit aggressive goals and have to adapt as those goals shift beneath your feet – currently, our goals have shifted as we’re working to better support customers, merchants and dashers during the COVID-19 outbreak. As a PM you need to focus on not just hitting those goals, but also how you get there matters just as much.
For example, we’re working to reduce the frequency of cancellations on restaurant orders. One reason cancellations happen is because soon after placing an order, customers change their mind about an item or two. They aren’t able to adjust their order and are instead forced to cancel, a notably awful customer experience. A quick way to improve this is to delay an order around a minute, so that if a customer wants to add, remove or modify an order they’re easily able to. This can turn into another bad experience for the customer by having every order delayed, so we’re investing in tools to give consumers the ability to modify orders all the way up until pickup time without interfering with merchant order protocols and POS integrations. This route might take longer and is more complex, but it ultimately achieves the goal the right way: customers get their order just as fast, they can modify the order seamlessly, and all the complexity of making it happen is on the backend.
Why is the Logistics team an exciting team to join?
The most exciting thing for me is the engagement we get from the Dashers. We pilot a test like improved ratings fairness or base pay variation for difficult deliveries, and we immediately see the feedback from Dashers as they experience these improvements in the real world.
Another example of how our team’s work has an immediate and meaningful impact on Dashers is the launch of Dasher Rewards. We believe that our top rated Dashers should be rewarded with unique perks, which is now especially imperative to our Dasher community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, there is a real sense of mission in doing what we do and it is very exciting to see our work having an immediate impact on Dashers nationwide during a time of need. We have a reddit page if you want to check out the many problems we help Dashers solve on a daily basis.
What’s the long term product vision for your team?
First, to be such a reliable, affordable and comprehensive service that DoorDash serves as a true utility to our customers. This means every delivery needs to be seamless and on time, all the way down to the correct sides and sauces. We also need to be hyper-efficient, with the potential to deliver 5+ separate orders in an hour – leading to a more affordable cost per delivery.
Second, to provide financial stability and mobility for Dashers. An individual with no bank account should have the ability to apply and start dashing within a few hours. Another focus from that point is helping Dashers achieve their earnings goal, whether that’s on an hourly or annual level. We have a lot of product work to be done to get there.
What’s the culture of the Product org at DoorDash? What do you think sets the DoorDash Product apart from its competitors?
The most unique thing about DoorDash is how fast we move. Our product teams sometimes go from problem identification, to mvp, to shipped in an a/b test in the span of a day. Moving fast is a mentality we have – how do we work most efficiently together to get something done today.
Our executive team has intentionally set a “bottom up” culture, where most decisions are entrusted to the working teams so they’re able to move at their own pace, and work autonomously. We strongly believe that failure and bad decisions can be okay, so long as you learn and apply those learnings going forward. That level of trust from a management team is hard to find.
In your opinion, what makes a great PM and a great PM leader?
The PMs I’ve worked with in leadership positions all exhibit this one essential trait – they elevate everyone around them. What you’ll observe is people around these leaders are also performing at an incredibly high level whether it’s on engineering, design, operations, marketing, analytics or finance. Naturally, part of that is building amazing teams, but another portion is how a PM works with others.
A good PM might be sharp and be able to appropriately delegate and prioritize cross-functionally. A great PM is someone who would take a step further, and ask their cross-functional stakeholders what they need from them to tie everyone’s work together. A PM has the opportunity to act as a guide and an amplifier – this leads to the best work output as a team.
If you’re interested in joining Kevin and the Product team, check out our Career Page. We’re hiring!