A Dropbox Product Leader Describes the Mechanics — And Impact — of Working on Her Team

Interim Head of Core Product Lyndsey Bauers shares what it’s like to be a product manager at the company and her team’s biggest priorities for 2024.

Written by Olivia McClure
Published on Feb. 27, 2024
A Dropbox Product Leader Describes the Mechanics — And Impact — of Working on Her Team
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Lyndsey Bauers doesn’t know how to run away from a difficult situation. 

“My husband always tells me I’m in a fight-or-flight state, but he’s like, ‘There isn’t actually a flight mode in your body; you’re out here like, let’s go,’” she said, laughing. 

Just as in her personal life, Bauers has proven herself to be a fighter — or should we say Dropboxer? — in the workplace. Since joining Dropbox in 2017, she has transitioned between various product management roles before stepping into her current position as interim head of core product, all while embracing complex challenges and receiving ample support from mentors along the way. 

As she has evolved her own professional acumen, Bauers has learned what it means to truly be a product manager — a far more nuanced role than some people may believe. 

“They’re not just solving the surface level of a problem,” she said. “They’re really leading with curiosity.” 

Curiosity is the lifeblood of Dropbox’s product initiatives. This desire to seek the unknown, coupled with a staunch customer-first focus, informs how Bauers guides her team to accomplish its goals for the year. Bauers is eager to help them shape product decisions in a way that will impact both the company as a whole and those who leverage its products every single day. 

“We’re trying to ensure that everyone is spending more time with our customers,” she said. 

Below, Bauers shares more about the mechanics of product management at Dropbox, the impact PMs have on the company and the exciting goals her team aims to accomplish in 2024.

 

‘A MORE ENLIGHTENED WAY OF WORKING’

In an effort to “design a more enlightened way of working,” Dropbox offers a whole suite of products, including its newest AI-powered tools, designed to simplify workflows, keep teams focused on their work and save them time.

 

Lyndsey Bauers on what it means to be a PM:

PMs are always focused on our customers; they’re always ensuring that they understand who the customers are, what their needs are and the problems that they’re facing, including both small problems and ones that they haven’t even said to you yet. That’s where it’s really important to consider that a PM is only as strong as the cross-functional team that’s around them. 

Oftentimes, PMs are also called ‘mini CEOs,’ because they’re people who really understand every single part of the product and also have that business acumen to understand how different things are actually going to impact the bottom line. They consider, ‘How are we driving overall profitability? How are we driving net new revenue? How are we ensuring that our customers are staying with us?’ A really fantastic PM isn’t just thinking about all of their customers; they’re also thinking about how to create win-win situations for the business as well.

A really fantastic PM isn’t just thinking about all of their customers; they’re also thinking about how to create win-win situations for the business as well.”

 

On how Dropbox’s product organization fits within the company: 

We have different types of product management at Dropbox. We have PMs who sit within our platform teams, and they’re primarily building things for the core product PMs, such as services and APIs, which you can think of as the different building blocks that we need to ship the customer experience. Platform PMs do things like make sure that the underlying file system and structure can support that little folder icon that you see on your screen. Their world looks a little bit different than that of customer-facing PMs. 

Customer-facing PMs are aligned with the products that we have, whether that’s Replay, DocSend or Sign. They function typically within an engineering, product, design and data science quad. The way these people work together is to have clear repeatability and reproducibility hours. But when there’s an imbalance, such as if a designer is overloaded, a PM should be able to go in and run some of those customer research sessions, understanding from a user testing perspective what’s working and what’s not working with the solution that PM is offering. 

It’s really us working as units, where the thing that we’re all prioritizing and incentivized on is how we’re delivering value to the customer. That shows up when product engineering, design and data science are golden in terms of output and input metrics. For example, as customers use our desktop application, we ask, ‘How are we ensuring that our overall daily and weekly active engagement is top-notch? And because we have such a massive customer base that’s already paying and using us, how does that team also do long-term beneficial things in the product to reduce churn to make it so that fewer customers fall out of the bucket?’

 

On the importance of critical yet constructive feedback:

There’s a lot of wonderful, empathetic, kind and loving humans in the product org, and I think that there was once an assumption that if someone is working really hard, it’s difficult to give that person critical feedback. Anyone who’s trying their hardest and is incredibly ambitious is going to be disappointed if they’re not getting critical feedback. It’s not fair to them to not have a really clear plan that outlines their opportunities and how to close any gaps. We make people great by giving them constructive feedback and supporting them and incentivizing them based on what’s best for the company. 

We make people great by giving them constructive feedback and supporting them and incentivizing them based on what’s best for the company.”

 

That company-first mindset is also a transformation we’re going through in product. It’s this idea that you’ll be rewarded based on company-level impact rather than your own empire-building. 

 

On her team’s biggest priorities for 2024:

Right now, we’re focusing on our business acumen. We’re asking ourselves, ‘What are the competitive insights that we’re gleaning? Who are our competitors?’ Being able to answer that with confidence is so important, because that helps us have some directional signal. It’s not us saying, ‘Go copy this product.’ Rather, it’s us saying, ‘What are the things that we’re not offering that we’re uniquely positioned to offer? What are our ‘superpowers’ as a product, and how does that fit into the competitive landscape?’ 

Another big piece here is how we’re cultivating and supporting what leveling up looks like overall from a people perspective, such as the types of programs we’re offering and the type of learning and development support available. I’ve worked really closely with other leaders to decide on what additional scaffolding we could put within the product organization to have a clear trajectory on the impact of leveling up and what it should look like. 

 

On how her team will impact Dropbox as a whole: 

We have really clear business targets, and we review metrics every week. We have targets that teams set that have been validated to actually help us grow and put us on the right trajectory for the future. 

Another thing we’re focusing on is trying to break down silos and breaking down how we operate to really focus on the customer, reiterating the idea that if we do well, we all get rewarded. We’re asking ourselves, ‘How can we be smart about how we’re staffing and organizing our teams to deliver the most impact?’ 

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Dropbox.

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