Product Management Insights from Wattpad’s Jillian Gora

Jane O'Hara
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We love it when our Ad.Product members take time to share their stories and expertise with the community.

Member Jillian Gora is a Product Manager at Wattpad, the world’s leading social storytelling platform. She works with the ads team to monetize the platform with native ads, promoted stories, and interstitial video and display ads that drive revenue and create positive experiences for Wattpad’s more than 80 million monthly users and avid readers.

In today's post, Jillian shares her ad platform building experience and advice for teams looking to maintain their product experimentation and collaboration while working remotely.


"Make sure you stay in touch with your users so that you can understand the way they feel about the ads experience; is the ads experience integrated into their experience of using your app?"
Jillian Gora, Wattpad

What advice would you offer Product Managers looking to build innovative ad platforms?

  1. First and foremost, as an Ads PM, keep an eye on that user experience.
    Make sure you stay in touch with your users so that you can understand the way they feel about the ads experience. Is the ads experience integrated into their experience of using your app? Are you showing them too many ads? What types of ads do they prefer? It’s also a good idea to think of ways to make the ads experience as integrated as possible with the user experience you’re trying to create in your app.

    For example, at Wattpad, we’re a global entertainment company and social storytelling platform. It’s important that users get lost in whatever story they’re reading without having to scroll past an ad in the middle of a page or paragraph. We want to make sure that the ads appear at a reader’s natural pausing point. This not only creates a better experience for our users, but it’s better for the advertiser, too!
  2. Make sure you’re current on industry trends so that you can anticipate changes and account for them in your roadmap.
    In the case of ads, there’s a lot to know! And although your amazing Ad Ops team will also have their fingers on the pulse, it certainly pays to have your own perspective on where things are going and how your product can shift and evolve to stay in step (which is where the lovely Ad.Product newsletter comes in handy).
  3. Make sure your ad product team is working closely with your Ad Ops team.
    This is a very symbiotic relationship — we each need the other to create amazing user experiences that can also generate exceptional moments of natural engagement and attention for our ad partners.

Which ad product launch has been most exciting from a product management perspective?

Funny enough, it’s not really the big, flashy product launches that I find the most exciting.

Recently we’ve been doing a lot of rapid experimentation, and the pace of learning is actually more exciting to me than the big launches. We’ve been onboarding a number of new people to our team, so this style of working is a great way for them to familiarize themselves with our setup, helping people quickly learn and be able to participate in a very meaningful way.

It’s fun to see people have those ‘aha’ moments and when you step back over the course of a few experiments you start to see how the things we’re learning truly will help us lay the foundation for the future work we want to do!

What effects is the pandemic having on your work? Any unexpected challenges or surprises with remote teamwork and collaboration?

COVID-19 has been difficult for everyone, but there’s been a silver lining from a collaboration standpoint: our meetings are now more focused.

We’re all in different locations, dealing with individual work and personal situations, so we really need to make the most of the time we have together. It’s forced us to be even more diligent about making sure meetings have a purpose, goal, and clear agenda.

We onboarded a group of new people on the ad squad back in May, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the injection of energy the new faces brought. We’re a fun and motivated team to begin with, but I think onboarding our new colleagues was a great way to bring fresh perspectives and positive, new dynamics into the mix. We haven’t perfected distributed onboarding but we made a ton of progress, and I was really proud of the way our team came together to welcome all of our new hires.

What advice would you offer those just starting their Product Management careers?

  • Find a mentor. Product Management can become a bit of a catch-all, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by thinking you need to do everything and be everything to everyone.

    Someone who has been through the ringer can offer sober advice about how to focus your time, advocate for yourself, and prioritize your work so that you don’t burn out.

  • The pressure to make “the right decision” can feel super real sometimes, but remember: your job is to make the best decision with the data you currently have available to you.
  • "Hindsight is 20/20, and there will always be questions you didn't even know you needed to ask. It’s important to keep experimenting, iterating, and learning."
    Jillian Gora

  • And finally, be diligent about reviewing the data you do have, consulting with the right stakeholders, and de-risking as much as possible. Once you’ve made your decision, stick to it, then keep a close eye on the outcome and adjust as needed.
  • The ad tech industry is constantly changing, but which new trends excite you most?

    Although not directly related to my work at Wattpad, I am really excited about audio advertising, particularly as it relates to podcasting. I’m a huge podcast fan (and a voice actor on the side), so I like to keep up with this space.

    From an advertising standards perspective, I’ll be interested to watch the interplay between user experience and performance metrics. For example, will I always be able to skip through podcast ads with abandon? Or will 5-, 10-, and 15-second holds become the norm?

    Jillian Gora is a Product Manager on the Ads team at Wattpad, a global entertainment company and the world’s leading social storytelling platform, where more than 80 million people read and write every month.

    Prior to joining Wattpad, Jillian worked as a Product Manager at SoapBox and at various ad agencies on the Account Management team. She is also a voice actor and a researcher on Under the Influence, a radio show and podcast that gives listeners a rare backstage pass into the hallways, boardrooms, and recording studios of the ad industry.

    Jillian is also a member of the Ad.Product community.

    Many thanks to Jillian for sharing her experience and expertise — and congratulations on her first anniversary at Wattpad!

    Join the discussion to share your thoughts on product management and your interest in being interviewed.

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Jane O'Hara

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