Introducing Delta-v: The Rise of Product Operations
May 10, 2020

Introducing Delta-v and the rise of product operations

Christine Brown
Christine Brown
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“You know that old adage that a good product manager is the CEO of a product? Well any good CEO should have a strong COO next to them.”
I take a quick pause and do some mental math. Between interviewing candidates for the team, explaining it to friends and family, or fielding questions in (now Zoom-only) networking meetups, I must have said this exact sentence hundreds of times before. Because I’ve been asked the preceding question in as many times:
“What is product operations, exactly?”
I didn't always have a quick answer to this question. In my own career, I’ve careened between operations (from stints at Google supporting Flash advertising platforms to running a mentorship program at Udacity) and product management (getting my masters in computer science and helping launch Robinhood’s self-clearing platform). I’ve been most happy in the intersection of execution and collaboration, but neither role (in their true forms) enabled both.
My first encounter with product operations was at Google, where a haphazard reorg (luckily) landed me with a new title that bore its name. The role was framed as an “on the ground” product manager: one who worked on the tactical logistics of launch readiness and ensured support teams had a hand in product requirements. Meanwhile, the PM worked closely with external clients, sales teams, and the Google bureaucracy machine to make sure that the individual launches of our product rolled up neatly into this year’s OKRs. The only real career path was framed as moving out to move up: become a product manager one day and give up the daily engineerings standups for executive-level meetings.
To my surprise, half a decade later this role has turned into somewhat of a Silicon Valley darling. Think you’ve been hearing more about it lately? It’s not your imagination: for the last five years, the discipline has been growing in popularity among tech companies that have complex operations. Most of the tech giants—Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Uber—have built out large product ops orgs and smaller startups are following suit. Since 2014, Google search trends show a nearly 4x search trend for the role, and if you’re in the market you will find dozens of product operations roles looking ambiguously for “cross functional team communicators and collaborators”, responsible for “operating, scaling, and improving”. 
Job Postings
Google Trends score for "Product Operations" searches in the U.S.
But unlike our partners in product and engineering, there are no active communities or wealth of resources for anyone building a career in product operations. And despite how critical the role can be for a company’s success—serving as bridge builder, translator, and (yes, sometimes) traffic cop—the lack of external community means that we’ll lose out on folks who are hungry to grow, learn and excel: they’ll move out to move up.
That’s where Delta-v comes in. We bring together learners, leaders and advocates of product operations to provide resources, development and support for the discipline. You might not be in product operations yet, or—like many of our early advisors—you might be running an organization already. No matter what your stage, we’re excited for you to join us.
“For product operations”, I continue, “the COO’s responsibilities that we mimic are (1) reducing internal complexity and (2) enabling execution-oriented operations. Did you know there’s actually a theory that there are 7 distinct variations on a COO’s role?”
I trail off... that’s another whole can of worms. At least now we’ve got a space to open it.
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