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Interview with Peter Yang, product leader from Reddit, Meta, Twitch, and more

10min read

Peter Yang is a product lead at Roblox and previously led product and teams at Reddit, Amazon (Twitch), and Meta for 10+ years. He writes a popular newsletter about how to grow your PM career and build a thriving creator business. This article is part of a series revealing the stories of early employees from the most successful tech companies of the past few years. You’ll walk away having learned about what these individuals experienced, what they wish they knew, and the advice they’d give to others joining high-growth startups.

Note: Compound provides everything you need to manage your personal finances (advice, tracking, investments, taxes, borrowing, estate, and more).

When and why did you start posting on the internet? 

I started posting in 2020. I was working in fintech and missed building for creators so I wrote a post about my experience working in the creator economy. To my surprise, the post was widely shared and liked. That gave me the confidence to share more publicly.

What was your “most successful” tweet? Why do you think they were so successful? 

My most viral tweet was a Forbes 30 Under 30 joke that got 319K likes and 15K new followers. I think it went viral because it made people feel cringe followed by laughter. I imagine people’s feelings reading the tweet were:

  • “Oh God, he’s talking about Forbes 30 under 30.”
  • “Wow, what a joke - cold showers and gratitude journal to make VP?”
  • “Dad owns tech company…LOL”

I will say that the risk of viral tweets like this is that it attracts an audience that follows you for the laughs instead of for your expertise. The latter is what will eventually help you make a living online.

What advice do you have to someone with no audience that is looking to build an audience? 

Here’s my advice in brief on building an audience and making money online:

  1. Find your niche: What’s something that’s at the intersection of what people want, what you’re good at, and what interests you? Have clarity around: “I will help user X get from point A to B.”
  2. Interact with top creators: Find top creators in your niche and reply to their posts. This is one of the best ways for your target audience to discover you and for you to build creator relationships.
  3. Publish consistently: Tweet and post to LinkedIn everyday about your niche. After a month of doing this, look at your analytics to see what resonates with your audience.
  4. Own your audience: Start a newsletter or webpage to build an email list. 
  5. Create revenue streams: Start with something simple like a low-priced on-demand digital course (try to keep it 1-2 hours long max) or a service business (e.g., let people pay to get your expertise).

I’m writing a longer blog post about the above if folks are interested in subscribing.

What do you view as the role of a product manager? (What do you think is misunderstood often about the role of a product manager?)

A PM’s job is to empower their team to build products that solve customer problems and make business impact. What’s most misunderstood about this job is it actually changes significantly as you grow:

  1. When you’re a new PM, you’re given the problem and solution and you just need to execute.
  2. When you’re a senior PM, you’re given the problem but you have to define the solution.
  3. When you’re a group PM or above, you often have to identify the problem itself.

I go into more detail on the above in my thread about the PSHE framework.

How did you move from product marketing to product management? What advice do you have for someone looking to break into product management? 

You need to have patience and grit to break into product. It took me 3 years of failure to transition to PM and I almost gave up. There are three ways to break in:

  1. Do an internal transfer. Do your core job well first then pitch a project to your PM. Find an exec sponsor and deliver results in that project, then make the transition.
  2. Join an APM program. Check out https://apmlist.com/ for some opportunities. 
  3. Find an external opportunity. Understand your area of expertise and reach out to companies that would value your expertise. I was able to transition because I had expertise in live video.

Overall, I would optimize to get the PM title as soon as possible via one of the paths above. I have a course for new and aspiring PMs if folks need more help on this topic.

You have written and thought a lot about the creator economy. What companies do you think are most interesting in the space? What do you think the future of the creator economy will look like? 

That’s a great question. I think of creators broadly as anyone who wants to make a living doing what they love online. Creators have a hierarchy of needs that can be summarized as “love, fame, and money.” 

There are many companies across many verticals trying to address the needs above - from YouTube (video) to Substack (newsletters) to Kajabi (courses, websites). I also consider companies like Stripe,  Shopify, Roblox, and OpenAI to serve creators as customers. 

The biggest problem with the creator economy in my opinion is the extreme power law - the top 1% of creators make 99% of the income in most verticals. It’s still much easier to make a living as a regular tech employee than as a creator. I think the industry is still trying to find ways to address this problem - one path is to niche down into your 1,000 true fans.

What do you think of what is going on in AI now? Who do you think will win? Is Bing going to make a comeback? 

I’ve never been blown away by a tech product so much as I’ve been by ChatGPT and the new Bing AI (before they restricted it at least). In the future, I think everyone will have an AI assistant that’ll help them come up with ideas and get shit done. 

I think creators especially need to embrace this trend because it’s simply far more efficient to create content in partnership with AI than by yourself.

Where can people find you on the internet? 

I save my best writing for my newsletter, which is free. Folks can also find me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Note: Compound provides everything you need to manage your personal finances (advice, tracking, investments, taxes, borrowing, estate, and more).