PLS Community Spotlight: Natalie Kwong (Airbyte)

Meet Growth Product Manager and non linear career champion

Sandy Mangat
January 25, 2022
PLS Community Spotlight: Natalie Kwong (Airbyte)

We wanted a way to find a way to highlight and celebrate the forward-thinking work of our PLS community “Product-Led Sales Community Spotlight” was born. 

In this series, we interview members of our community to highlight their career path, how they found their way into the world of product-led, their advice for newbies, and their predictions for the future of product-led sales. 

Meet Natalie Kwong, Growth Product Manager at Airbyte

Natalie is currently Growth Product Manager at Airbyte, but Natalie hasn’t always been in the world of product. She started out in marketing operations before making the switch to analytics. She eventually led her own analytics team at KeepTruckin and also dabbled in the world of BizOps before finally landing in PM. Natalie has spent most of her career thus far at midsize startups in various analytics and operations roles, wearing many hats, and learning a ton along the way. She brings all of that background and expertise to her very data-driven role at Airbyte.

Tell us about your role at Airbyte

My role is really focused on building operations and analytics, I like to think of it as building out the scaffolding for growth. As we accelerate our go-to-market motion, my focus is on what our product optimization flow looks like and eventually experimentation within the product. I am constantly thinking about what types of programs, processes, and tools we need to build this scaffolding, as well as what kind of data do we need to analyze these experiments. A lot of this falls under the category of thinking through how to make our product more self-serve and optimized. 

As a small team (we’re about 30 people) I also wear many hats, as you do at a startup. 

Tell us about Airbyte

Airbyte, at its core, an open-source ELT data platform. Airbyte helps data teams move data from place to place. The difference between what the current data integration industry leaders offer and us is that we approach it from a community-driven open-source perspective. We're focusing on building out a community around data integration. In the closed-source world, we see the ELT/ETL platforms all plateau at about 170 connectors. We’re here to tackle the long tail of connectors that go well beyond the standard. We’ll also uniquely offer customization and integration into the rest of the data stack.

How does Airbyte go to market?

Our dream end state is to have both a PLG motion that is completely self-serve with a sales-assisted motion to tackle enterprise and mid-market. 

Where we are at now is deep into iterating on our self-serve cloud product to make sure that experience is really rock solid. We’re still very much in the early stages but excited to build out the rest of this flow so a user can sign up for a free trial and put in their credit card details to complete the purchase without needing to talk to anyone. 

How’d you get your start as a Growth Product Manager?

I’d say I wasn’t completely aware this role existed. I recall working with someone at another company who was in the role and thinking it was very unique.

As a Growth PM, you get to sit at the intersection of business and tech, which is really similar to my background in analytics. You pair your technical background of experience instrumenting jobs with Airflow, versioning, and SQL with your ability to translate that data into what it means for the business. So there was a natural transition from analytics to Growth PM for me.

I got started in Growth by suggesting improvements and proposing solutions. My most effective way of learning in my career has always been to just try it. Experiment and see what happens, and if necessary revise your approach.

What drew me to the role initially was how multi-faceted it is, especially if you are a team of one and you can be nimble as the organization grows.

What advice would you have given yourself early on in your career?

Have goals for what you would like to know, things you want to do, but be flexible. 

The question of what you are going to be doing in 5 years is actually one I struggle with, and for the record I don’t think it’s a great interview question because it’s not very telling. 

Most career paths today are pretty nonlinear. What you should be clear on is what you want to learn. Don’t hyperfocus on titles or company size, look at the people and think about what you can learn. 

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your role?

Constant context switching has been the hardest skill to hone.

The other comes down to if you are a one-person Growth PM team a lot of your ability to get things done is not solely dependent on you. You often have to rely on the rest of the product team or other stakeholders to move projects forward. A recent billing platform evaluation was a good example of this. Halfway through the process I realized that it was definitely not something I could just make happen on my own and I needed to partner closely with engineering, product, and operations.

What’s the most fun aspect of your role?

Well, it’s a double-edged sword. Being in a cross-functional role and getting to work with everyone is so fun and so rare. 

The coolest part of this role is it requires you (in a good way) to be dependent on people to help you. I think that the relationship-building part is the most meaningful to me in the end.

Where do you see Product-Led Sales and PLG in the next five to 10 years?

More companies are taking a hard look at their products and making it a priority for their business and I see this continuing over the next several years.

It’s really interesting to see, my last company for example acquired an open-source company, and instead of changing the open-source product to be more like the existing enterprise product, they did the opposite.

So we’re definitely going to see more investment in PLG and self-serve and alongside it a surge in usage-based billing. I think the usage-based billing piece is going to ride the wave of PLG. 

I’d also say we’re spending a lot of time thinking about the impact this has on go-to-market roles. For example, are we really going to have an account executive, account manager, and a CSM? How do we split who does the selling, who is focusing on value, and who is doing support? My prediction is we’re going to see a lot more emphasis on technical support or this product-specialist role that can be more involved across the entire customer lifecycle. 

Rapid Fire Round

What is your favorite TV show right now? Awkwafina is Nora from Queens

Favorite emoji? 🤦‍♀️

Next on your travel bucket list? Portugal

Thanks for sharing your story Natalie!

If you're new to product-led sales or looking to connect with experts, join Pocus' Product-Led Sales community by requesting an invite. Want to nominate a member of the community for a spotlight? Connect with Sandy Mangat on the PLS community slack.

About the author
Sandy Mangat
Head of Marketing at Pocus
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