Day in the Life: Richie Wu, Sr. Product Manager at Codecademy

Happy Summer Solstice, everyone! This month, we’re featuring Richie Wu, who currently product manages the Engagement Team here at Codecademy. When Richie’s not thinking and working on features to keep you fully engaged with what your learning on Codecademy, you can find him listening and dancing to hip-hop, or reading fiction.

Please meet Richie! :ocean:

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Richie, and I’m from Toronto, Canada. I work on the engagement team at Codecademy, which is focused on keeping learners active on the platform. Before this, I worked at the intersection of fashion and tech for several years. After working in fashion for a few years, I felt a boost in my fashion sense even though I wasn’t working in the merchandising department, which was a nice side effect. I studied electrical engineering in my undergrad, though I never got to apply much of the technical concepts in my role today.

Outside of work, I like to read fiction, listen to hip hop music, dance to hip hop music, cook up a storm in my kitchen, eat all different types of ice cream, and I recently got into calisthenics (my goal is to be able to do 1 muscle up).

How did you end up working for Codecademy?

I worked as a tutor in high school and was always amazed by the impact I had on my students, whether it’s in their studies or on their life outside of school. From that point, I knew I enjoyed mentoring and educating, so Edtech had always been an industry I wanted to pursue. I actually landed my first internship as a front-end developer after my first year of college because I learned the basics of HTML and Javascript from Codecademy. Coding is such a powerful skill to have, whether you want to make a career out of it or not, I wanted to come to Codecademy to help millions of learners get more value out of their online education.

Did you always want to be a Product Manager?

As a kid, I wanted to become an Olympic swimmer, but that didn’t really pan out. Then I had no idea what I wanted to do so I studied electrical engineering in college because I loved physics in high school. I didn’t really know what product management was until my senior year in college. Even though I studied engineering, I was always interested in pursuing a career in “business”, whatever that meant. For instance, I was the head of the engineering consulting club at my school and would partner with the business schools to run case competitions. When I learned that product managers require a mix of technical skills, business acumen, and strategic thinking, I became super excited about the role and looked into it more.

If anyone is interested to learn how to get into a PM role and gain relevant experience, read this post I wrote a little while back.

What are the best aspects about working as a Product Manager?

The most rewarding part of being a product manager is seeing millions of users getting value out of the feature that my team and I have just launched. It just makes the entire process so rewarding. The process being: researching, understanding a problem space, ideating for the problem space, building the identified solution, launching the solution, and measuring the impact of the solution.

As a product manager, you’re constantly working with people from varying departments. Being able to interact with and learn from so many different departments from engineering to design to finance to customer service definitely keeps the job interesting.

What are the worst aspects about working as a Product Manager?

Being a product manager can become exhausting both emotionally and mentally. Because it’s such a cross-functional role, you’re required to context shift from meeting to meeting through your day, which exerts a large amount of mental energy. Furthermore, because it’s a people-facing role, a big part of the job is to drive alignment between different stakeholders. Driving alignment is essentially mediating and conflict resolution, and this can become very emotionally taxing if there are a lot of disagreements.

If you could make one piece of fictional tech reality, what would it be?

Not sure if this is fictional tech, but the ability to understand the inner workings of our brain would be extremely powerful. I think there’s a statistic out there (don’t quote me on this) that says we understand less than 7% of our brain’s capabilities. How amazing would it be to be able to unlock the secrets of the human brain!

Do you have any advice for the learners?

It’s never too late to start. With any new skill, it’s easy to say, “ah I’m past that age”. I believe that no matter what the topic is, you’re never past that age. Starting is the hardest part, every single expert was once a novice.

If you’ve already started, I would say that you should expect failure and frustrations. Learning is tough and that’s what makes it so rewarding when something finally clicks. Failing is a critical part of the learning process, and it usually occurs when you’re super close to grasping something. I like to go for a walk or run to reset my brain when I get stuck!

If you could make one brand new course what would it be?

Tbh not sure if I’m qualified to create any course, but I think it would be fun to teach the “2 step”. I think everyone can benefit from being able to groove to a catchy song, and the “2 step” is the most fundamental thing you need to master. Being able to groove to your favorite tunes definitely adds a lot of joy and color to your day!

What does a typical day look like for you?

Every day is a bit different. I generally love to start my days a bit early to get a morning workout in. This does wonders for my energy levels throughout the day. I typically start work between 9 to 9:30 AM. As a PM, most of my day will be spent in meetings. Some meetings include:

  • Working with product designers on the latest research findings and providing feedback on prototypes
  • Working with a data scientist on setting up feature experiments
  • Aligning and updating marketing, curriculum, finance, and other departmental stakeholders on the product roadmap
  • Discussing implementation trade-offs with the engineering team

If I’m not in meetings, I spend a lot of time writing and reading. As a product manager, you need to stay up to date on all the initiatives going on in the industry and in the company. Most of my writing is engineering or design specs for the team to provide feedback and move forward with building our next feature. Product management is generally about figuring out the next feature to build (or problem to solve) and putting that on paper! I also spend a lot of time analyzing data, building dashboards, and understanding the impact of our feature launches.

After work, I typically like to go for a walk or a run as it helps me unwind. Cooking dinner is also another great way to unwind. I almost always read before I go to bed, currently reading Harry Potter for the first time!

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