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Damien Coullon is the Director of Product and head of Growth at Linkedin, driving SEO, Guest experience, Onboarding, Notifications and Virality. He believes in blending qualitative insights with quantitative analysis to get to meaningful user insight as fast as possible. In other words, Growth = quantitative intuition + fire.

Over the last 4 years, Damien has worked with amazing teams to accelerate Linkedin's growth by increasing the value they deliver to their members. For example, they have shortened the time to get value for new Linkedin members, reduced the volume of email sent by half, increased the effectiveness of their notifications, enabled new acquisition channels like SMS to reach members in emerging markets, created new guest experiences (SEO) making it easier for people to discover the many things Linkedin can do for them, and created new ways for people to find each other and and the things they care about. 

Before Linkedin, he was head of Product and Software engineering in an e-commerce startup, and before that, he was doing strategy consulting. See more on LinkedIn. 

[Linkedin's growth team is always growing. See their latest Growth PM openings]

  • PC

    Pedro Clivati

    16 days ago #

    Hey, Damien Coullon - thank you for doing this.

    A few questions regarding the management and structure of the growth team.
    1) I noticed you are both Director of PM and Growth. Do you have two separated teams focusing on different goals and/or is that a single unit?
    2) Still around that, is your team exclusively formed by product team or do you also have sales/marketing/other departments background?
    3) What's LinkedIn NorthStar Metric?
    4) How do you manage the process (from choosing which experiments, allocating resources, keeping track of work and evaluating results)?

    Thank you again and congrats, LinkedIn keeps getting better and better.

    • DC

      Damien Coullon

      13 days ago #

      We are mostly bottom-up in our planning and experimentation process. We provide high level guidelines on goals and themes, and then most of the ideation and prioritization happens at the squad level. We use fairly typical frameworks (cost, impact, likelihood of success), trying to maintain a balance of core/strategic/venture overall. For impact, having true north metrics makes every team speak the same language, which helps prioritize across teams if needed.

      Sharing (and keeping track of) learnings and results is super important to build a collective intuition in the team. This is an area where I’m super interested in what other growth teams do - please share !

      On our end, we do weekly experimentation reviews (the most fun is when the team that implemented asks the rest of the team to guess the results with a rationale for the guess, as it helps everyone conceptualize learnings that become easier to apply in different contexts) + quarterly reviews + “most interesting experiment” spreadsheet. We have super good internal tools to make it easy to run and learn from experiments, so the pace of experimentation is pretty high.

      4 Share
    • DC

      Damien Coullon

      13 days ago #

      Great questions Pedro. Starting on #1 and #2:
      1) and 2) I’m head of product for growth, which is a cross-functional team: it includes product, engineering, marketing, design, engineering, data science, user research… Being a cross-functional team is fundamental to doing growth at scale (initially, growth PMs may have to be more versatile and wear all the hats at the same time).
      Speaking of the team, we are hiring across all functions :). See our growth PM openings for example.

      2 Share
    • DC

      Damien Coullon

      13 days ago #

      On true north:

      The real north star is maximizing the value we create for the LinkedIn ecosystem of members and customers. From a growth perspective, we look at 2 main KPIs: breadth of engagement (a composite metric predicting that a member has what it takes to get value from Linkedin on a regular basis), and depth of engagement (sessions).

      Speaking of metrics, it’s important to remember that metrics are the shadow of what we are truly trying to move, and will always imperfectly capture the value we create. The metric itself can’t be the be all end all of the team. For example, we recently ramped a couple of changes that had negative impact on our key metrics, because we believe these changes will ultimately improve the long term health of the ecosystem.

      Of course, as a growth person, I'd rather have imperfect metrics (whose imperfections I understand) than no metrics at all - if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Having a true north is critical to align across teams, and helps make decisions more objective and thus more understandable across the org.

      2 Share
    • JN

      Jason Neasti

      9 days ago #

      NIce One

  • LL

    Lucas Lima

    15 days ago #

    Hello Damien, thanks for your time

    What do you think is the single most important thing you can do for growth in a small company?

    • DC

      Damien Coullon

      13 days ago #

      It depends on the size and maturity of the business. It generally does not make sense to have a growth team before you have product/market fit. Can you elaborate on what you mean by small company ?

  • JY

    Jason Y

    15 days ago #

    Hey Damien thanks for doing this AMA!
    Got a few questions that I would love to hear your insight on:

    -Linkedin has become one of the big platforms that marketers have their eyes on. But as they say...marketers ruin everything. I'm sure you've seen what marketing and sales gurus have been suggesting tactics wise (automation tools, mass connecting, etc.). What's your thought on the landscape of Linkedin in that context?
    -How have you tackled the problem of acquiring more users from niche industries that don't really see value in joining/being active on Linkedin (ie. restaurants)?
    -One learning that blew your mind?

    Thanks!

    • DC

      Damien Coullon

      13 days ago #

      Thanks Jason for the great questions.
      1) I think of Linkedin as a “marketplace” with people willing to give and get help to each other, which requires authentic relationships with the right network that can help you be more productive or successful in whatever you do - that extends from our members and their professional communities, to our customers and organizations trying to reach their audiences.

      Mass connecting dilutes the value of the network - if you connect to people you don’t know, it becomes difficult for you to participate in meaningful conversations, and for everyone to leverage the network effectively. For example, if you are looking to get feedback on a potential hire, and Linkedin surfaces connections in common that you don’t know or that don’t know the potential hire, you won’t get meaningful feedback and will lose trust in the platform.

      We are constantly working on making this better, as it’s clear that many members are connecting to people they don’t know, and we have a responsibility to protect both sides of the marketplace.

      2 Share
    • DC

      Damien Coullon

      13 days ago #

      On niches

      You have to follow a segmented approach, just like most marketplaces have. Define the niches, do some work that does not scale for a few priority niches, then platformize the work so you can scale all over. We are in the process of doing that :)

    • DC

      Damien Coullon

      13 days ago #

      3) on learning

      At this scale, it becomes more and more important to have a unified vision of where the company and product needs to go, and having a clear definition of success helps distribute this very concretely to all teams. Shifting that definition of success is relatively simple but has massive leverage.

      1 Share
  • MK

    Merit Kuusniemi

    16 days ago #

    I really enjoy the relevant content in my feed as well as the notifications. I even enjoy reading things that have nothing to do with what I’m currently spending my time on. I wonder what you are planning in order to make the new connection suggestions more relevant to where I’m located now and more dependent on the most recent additions to my network or my current stated industry or headline or event my most recent posts, or hashtags in my posts. LinkedIn is by far the most valuable and relevant platform for professional networking and information and learning (besides TED) exchange. I hope to see it even improve.

    • DC

      Damien Coullon

      13 days ago #

      Hi Merit, thanks for the feedback and glad to hear how valuable LinkedIn has been for you !

      Are you talking about what happens after a significant career change (like moving to a new location or a new industry), or more of an everyday thing ?

      The signals you mentioned (industry, location, connections) are part of what we take into account for recommendations ; we continue to invest in better real-time capabilities so we can adjust recommendations immediately based on the actions you take like sending an invitation.

      2 Share
  • PP

    Pedro Pinto

    14 days ago #

    Hi Damien,

    I’m looking forward to see this AMA. I have a couple of questions for you:
    - How do you manage your day between Product and Growth and how do you organize teams among both areas?
    - Which are the main kpis that LinkedIn tracks in terms of Retention and Engagement for users that mainly user LinkedIn as a way to find a job.
    - How LinkedIn tries to keep them engaged after they eventually find a job? It’s more effective through the networking features or through relevant content that might interest this type of users?
    - And finally, do you have any tips for a company that don’t have enough resources to have a sophisticated machine learning system for notifications?

    Thanks

    • DC

      Damien Coullon

      13 days ago #

      On #1 It’s actually a single team, I’m just the head of product for growth.
      On #4 There are companies that provide some of that out of the box now, so I’d look there first. Otherwise, start with simple rules, focusing on providing value to your users.

  • AS

    Alanna Sousa

    14 days ago #

    Hey Damien,
    Really appreciate your time and insights here.

    As a millennial, I saw Facebook rise and become one of the greatest social addiction of my generation. And now I've been seeing it going down and lose its value - as matter of fact, I barely use my account nowadays. I remember it took me quite a while to get into LinkedIn mode, to see its value and benefits, and to learn how to (and what) to "sell" myself out there. This only started to happen when I was deep into the adult-building-a-career phase, a few years ago (and I'm still far from being a LinkedIn expert, though I'd love to). On this note, my question(s) is(are):

    1) What's LinkedIn strategy to attract and retain younger users (Y Gen, for instance)/early adopters? Are they targeted, at all? How are they "educated" to use it in a professional way and take advantage of all the features the platform offers?

    Thanks in advance.

    • DC

      Damien Coullon

      13 days ago #

      Ultimately, we want Linkedin to become a place where students can build their professional identity from the time they are in school and provide them with the products and features that will help them showcase their academic passions - to ultimately help them develop the right professional community and land the right job after school. Most recently, we launched things like mentorship marketplace and campus playlist specifically geared for this segment.

      1 Share
  • EL

    Eduarda Lemos

    13 days ago #

    Hey, Damien! Thanks for doing this AMA!

    What tips do you have to making an article go viral on LinkedIn?

    • DC

      Damien Coullon

      13 days ago #

      First, focus on creating great content. That means understanding the audience you are trying to reach.

      Right now on Linkedin, video + hashtags + relevant mentions typically creates lots of great conversations as long as the content is relevant for your audience.
      It also helps to engage in the conversation surrounding your content, so it’s not just you shouting to other people to get them to listen to you. Think about it from a community point of view. See more here

      You can apply this reasoning across platforms - once you have the right content, leverage the content distribution features of the platform you’re targeting, especially the newer ones where there may be less “competition” - it’s very similar to the way a growth person would think about growth channels, just in a much more tactical way.

      3 Share
  • JM

    Jacob Miller

    14 days ago #

    Do you have advice for a student to achieve a career at LinkedIn, preferably in product management? I'd love to work for one of my favorite companies!

    • DC

      Damien Coullon

      13 days ago #

      Great to see that you are interested in becoming a PM at Linkedin. If you are new to the industry, we have an amazing Associate Product Manager (APM) program at Linkedin, which gets you two 9-months rotation in a real product manager role in Linkedin.
      Before getting actual formal PM experience, exercise your PM sense by going through design critiques of existing products. Why are they built the way they are ? What would you do differently ?

      2 Share
      • JM

        Jacob Miller

        13 days ago #

        Thanks so much Damien! I really appreciate your insight and aspire to be as successful as you someday! I hope we can connect on LinkedIn for future reference!

      • CJ

        C Joshi

        13 days ago #

        Thanks. I'll be on the lookout!

  • BB

    Bárbara Bonfim

    13 days ago #

    Hello Damien!
    I'm very excited about your AMA, thank you for doing that - I'm a big fan of LinkedIn!

    As it's a global company, I'd like to know (i) how does everybody from outside the growth team deal with your growth plans (ideas, actions, and feedbacks);
    (ii) more specifically, how does your Content team interact with Growth?

    This one is about LinkedIn algorithms: (iii) is it true that having a hyperlink in your post reduces its reach?

    • DC

      Damien Coullon

      13 days ago #

      (i) We share our plans with all other teams internally, and have regular syncs with other product teams to get feedback and alignment. It cuts both ways - sometimes we depend on other teams, sometimes they depend on us.

      (ii) We work very closely with the content team. We spent time getting aligned on a clear vision to the point that we have a joint task force working on the early user experience, and some of our growth PMs actually joined their team.

      (iii) No. See my answer to Eduarda for more details on reach :)

  • RF

    Ricardo Françoso

    13 days ago #

    Hello, Damien.

    I’m curious to know what’s on LinkedIn’s onboarding package.

    Thank you!

  • MA

    Mireia Aguilera

    13 days ago #

    Hi there! Which are the skills needed for a great Growth PM?

  • DC

    Damien Coullon

    13 days ago #

    Alright thanks everyone for the questions, signing off now !

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