Interviews, Product Managers

Balancing the Grind With Alex Reeve, Product Manager at LinkedIn

September 17, 2019

Alex Reeve is a San Francisco-based Product Manager at LinkedIn, where he is currently leading enterprise identity, authentication, and integrations for LinkedIn Learning.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your background and career?

I’m a product manager at LinkedIn, where I’ve been for 6 years in a variety of functions. Most recently, on the product team, I’m helping build our Learning product; prior to that, I had stints in both sales strategy and sales, with a move from Sydney to San Francisco somewhere in the middle.

My background, prior to LinkedIn, was in design, which included a couple of years in advertising and even a period of university lecturing. Tying together the various roles, industries and countries, the two most consistent themes throughout my career have been building things, and learning, so I’m very fortunate to now be in a place which is the intersection of both.

2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?

Some context on the product management (PM) function is probably helpful: while it differs across companies, product management within modern tech companies is often characterized as a “quarterback” role that sits at the intersection of engineering, design, marketing, data science, and any number of other functions. PMs help their team figure out what to build, why, and act as the “connector” that helps them ship successful products.

This materializes as a combination of strategy, prioritization, and execution. In day-to-day practice, this actually involves hundreds of things, but there are some consistent themes: collaborating with other functions, helping create the vision for the product, prioritizing the roadmap, defining product requirements, project management, analysis, meeting with customers, giving presentations, greasing the wheels for your team, and the list goes on.

3) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I’m up at around 6am most mornings. The first two priorities are usually exercise and commute, the order of which depends on whether I’m spending the day in San Francisco, or commuting to South Bay.

Every day is a little different. I’m usually at my desk by ~8:30am, with a typical day involving 4-5 hours of meetings, a lot of communication (verbal, Slack, email), and a couple of hours of focused work and/or thinking time. Where possible, I try and pre-schedule my day and batch certain activities (e.g. email).

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

I’m not a huge believer in tips, tricks, or shortcuts to manage workload. I generally frame this around priorities, versus hacks. I know it sounds obvious, but for me, it’s about defining my priorities, and then being deliberate about where I spend time.

That said, a couple of tactical things I like:

  • I’m a huge fan of Notion, which I basically use as a life management tool. I write down a lot of stuff.
  • Michael Sippey’s grand unified theory of work.
  • The David Allen (Getting Things Done) quote: “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”

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5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

The short answer is by defining principles: a few years ago (credit to Ray Dalio’s book) I started writing down my own principles for work/life.

While I’m certainly not perfect at sticking to them, this did have a fairly profound impact. It’s essentially a set of “rules” I try and meet at least 80% of the time. A few of the more universally applicable examples:

  • Exercise 4 days a week
  • Sleep 7 hours a night
  • With a few exceptions, no meetings before 10am
  • When travelling, prioritize experiences over routine
  • Prioritize relationships with the people most important to me Friday-Saturday

6) What does work-life balance mean to you?

I know it’s cliche, but my philosophy here is less zero-sum and more about integration and sustainability. I’m fortunate to work for a company where face time isn’t the cultural norm, so I’ll look for ways to integrate work into my life, and vice-versa; e.g. I’ll occasionally work remotely on Friday if I’m travelling over the weekend.

7) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

Nothing revolutionary: exercise, sleep, and making sure I’m working on something I’m passionate about. There’s always going to be ups and downs, so that last point helps a lot with perseverance and grit.

8) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

9) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Be deliberate, and not reactive, unless you’re deliberately being reactive!

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