Where Product Meets Design - Gideon Hod on UX in the Car Sharing Industry

February 27, 2024


Alex Smith: Where product meets design is brought to you by Fuego UX. A leading UX research, strategy, and design consultancy. Hey Gideon, thanks for joining me from the other side of Denver today.

Gideon Hod: Thanks, glad to be here. 

Alex Smith: Yeah, for sure. And to get started, can you give us a little bit of context in your journey in product?

Gideon Hod: I got into product from the other corner of tech, which is operations. And I first joined Uber back in early 2014, that was my first foray into tech as an Operations Manager in the American Southwest. And I started gravitating towards product because I was mainly interested in the product solutions for all of the issues that we were experiencing on the operations side. There was an early group of us that got selected to move to headquarters and become these product operations experts embedded into the product teams. One embedded into each product team and I really got my hands down and dirty into the product when I started with that role. And from there I started to stay within product operations for a few years and even got my toes wet doing some interim product management roles. But I really gravitated towards product operations and stuck with that longer. Yeah. I focused primarily on internal tooling and some products for drivers, specifically new drivers and the new driver experience. And all of that was about five years put together for my first tech company. And then I kind of hit the ground running after that, wanting to do more with product at future companies. And so I got to do product operations at Stripe for a few years, and which was a huge change going from a marketplace to a product for other tech companies, I guess you could say, and working with engineers primarily. And then after a few years there, I was kind of missing the marketplace type products. So I was at Gopal for a few years, building a product operations function and helping integrate some companies that we had acquired, like ride OS. And now I'm at a Turo where I've been for just over a year now, also building the product operations function and most recently we launched France, which was a big part of my year last year. Not just launching it, but migrating users from a company that we had acquired there called IKAR. Migrating those users, migrating our hosts and guests, and letting them start day one on Turo with everything migrated over. 

Alex Smith: Thanks for the idea, and are you ready to hop into the lightning round? 

Gideon Hod: Yeah, definitely.

Alex Smith: All right, let's do it. What's a common myth about product or product ops?

Gideon Hod: Cor product operations I think a common myth is that we're just there to do some of the busy work for product managers. And that we just gather a bunch of feedback and needs and they will take it all from there. But product operations and product management are really great partners. Because product managers look at everything from the top down, you could say they look at the company strategy. They build the roadmaps, everything along those lines and product operations really have a bottoms up point of view of everything that's going on. So they're completing the feedback loops between users and interfacing teams. Operationalizing how we roll the product out so it's smooth and scale product knowledge internally with the organization so that all the internal stakeholders and other product teams know what is launching, when and where, what each product does and what it's optimizing for. There's a lot happening cross functionally that isn't just busy work for PMs. I think all product together is more successful when there's orchestration happening behind the scenes by product operations. 

Alex Smith: Yeah. Agreed. What's the most important lesson you've learned?

Gideon Hod: Catering communication to different levels of stakeholder. I learned pretty early in my career the hard way that trying to do a one size fits all solution when it comes to communicating to people who are within your stakeholder world or within your leadership group, it doesn't quite work. And so you really have to cater the cadence and the style and the delivery method, all of that to each level. 

Alex Smith: What's one thing about product that no one agrees with you about?

Gideon Hod: The collection of a lot of smaller, less stellar negative experiences that don't get a lot of attention. I think it can really snowball into a pretty greater lack of magic or just negative experience with your product. And it's always easy to always prioritize the biggest things, but the long tail, I think that's probably why nobody agrees with me. I think it's just so important to address all those negative things, because especially for me as a user, I notice all those things. And I'm less excited to use a product when there's clearly one thing that's being looked at and a lot of things that aren't, even if they're smaller. And so, yeah, I'd say look at the long tail a little bit more. 

Alex Smith: Definitely agree there. What's an underrated or indispensable tool for product? 

Gideon Hod: So my point of view on this, the indispensable tool is what everybody is using. And the reason why I say this is because I've been in many organizations where different teams all use different tools because everyone has different opinions on what's best. And there's definitely a lot of great tools out there, but none of them work unless everyone is using one. And so the best tool is what everyone's using, whether it's all the feedback in the one place, task management, road mapping, just get everyone in one place so there's better collaboration.

Alex Smith: What's a piece of advice you'd give to someone starting out in product ops?

Gideon Hod: I would say start in a space that's either solving a problem you're really passionate about or associated to a product that you're really passionate about. And become an expert in that product or in that problem. Being excited about that product or the problem you want to tell. It keeps that motivation going and it helps you become an expert and like you just really drive forward to be that expert and your stakeholders will see that and trust you and yeah, I think that's what you got to do.

Alex Smith: Turo is an awesome product. I'd love to talk about that for a second. And it's just a unique space, right? It's like, for those who don't know, it's kind of like Airbnb for cars. I don't know if I'm allowed to say that, but…

Gideon Hod: Yeah, that's fine. 

Alex Smith: We're like but it's just like, there's so much variation and if you like cars, there's an opportunity to drive cars that you can never rent anywhere else. But it also seems very complex from an operations point of view with, you know, supply side, demand side, liability, like, like how, how do you wrap your head around all of that? And now you're talking about France and global markets. I'm already overwhelmed thinking about your role. 

Gideon Hod: Yeah, I think starting off with Airbnb for cars is helpful to know the product that's being offered. But when you start to think about how you build a business around that, it gets way more complex because with home sharing, you're offering the opportunity for somebody to exist inside the space for a short amount of time, but with car sharing, you are handing the keys over to an asset that's going to move around the world and then get back to where it started without any issues. So it can get really complex with the first with insurance, which you probably would have guessed because ut's very different country to country, and it's very different for the car sharing use case, and there's different insurances at play, starting from the guest's own insurance and the protection plans that hosts select when they become a host on Turo, and their own insurances when the cars aren't being used. So insurance, overall, really big deal and a lot to operationalize in every market and with our support agents. And then claims is another big thing. When something does go wrong, what is the claims process like for both hosts and guests? And how do we make that, cause it's never a good experience. So how do you make that a positive experience? And the other really complex piece is vehicle catalogs. Thankfully I have been a car enthusiast for a long time. So it's not as difficult for me to wrap my head around, but for people who haven't been into the car thing for a while, the differentiation of vehicle catalogs by country is wild. Trying to manage catalog vendors and all the catalog data and the value of the vehicles and the insurance that's tied to those values and the risk attached to the trips, it's just all comes together to a very complex but what I now see having been here, a very high tech product. 

Alex Smith: It's an interesting product because you're dealing with CX, you're dealing with UX, you're dealing with owners and all that stuff, but like, how do you think about, do you work with design ops counterparts? Like how does product ops think about design?

Gideon Hod: I'll start on the host side. Starting to list your car, it could be a pretty, especially if you haven't done anything like this before, it could be a pretty daunting experience because you're about to put a 30,000 asset onto a marketplace and if the design can't not only guide you through the process but manage your expectations and help bring you into the marketplace so you're ready to suddenly get that first booking. Like let's say you go online and list a car and then you wake up in the morning and you see that two people have booked your vehicle. If you haven't been adequately prepared for that experience and if design hasn't set you up to manage the right expectations or to know what you're getting yourself into, then you might just start canceling trips and guests will start, I mean, what's going on? And there's just a lot that needs to happen to make sure everyone feels safe and knows what's happening and is familiar with the next steps. And on the guest side too there's a lot of really interesting things going on because there's a lot of different types of travelers and our design and marketing teams know that and want to prepare for that. So there's so many different use cases that we want to build for and design is a huge part of that. 

Alex Smith: Nice. Yeah, I'd love to hear that collaboration with design and the focus on the internal teams too. I think that gets forgotten with a lot of SaaS products. But Gideon, thank you so much for coming on the show today and sharing your insights.

Gideon Hod: Yeah, thank you so much. This was cool.