Better Product Managers, and Product Management

About Cindy Alvarez

For the past 12 years, I've helped companies build better products through intensely understanding their customers.

I'm relentless in seeking out and understanding the problems and constraints that lead to successful new products and features.

I believe that...

  • Customers judge you not on features but on the whole end-to-end experience they have with your company.
  • A great customer experience is a competitive advantage. --
  • If you can connect experience with profitability (through superior products and features, higher revenues, longer customer lifetime, reduced support and marketing costs)
  • Can't afford "traditional" research methods (focus groups, user testing in the lab)? You're in luck: quick-and-dirty interviews and survey tools are faster, cheaper, and more effective at uncovering opportunities.

Thousands of companies and millions of consumers

I'm currently a product manager at Yammer, running User Experience.

I lead Products and Customer Development for KISSmetrics for 2 years.

I joined as we were building our minimum viable product (and kept it lean by identifying and prioritizing the most critical customer needs).

Through customer interviews, I validated the market opportunity for analytics for non-analysts, which has helped us to acquire thousands of paying customers.

Along the way, I also discovered customer demand for a simpler, more targeted survey solution. I launched our KISSinsights product, used on thousands of sites including Starbucks, OpenTable, and

Before that, I ran Product Management for Loomia. Within a month of coming onboard, I identified the need for an immediate business model pivot.

I drove us the product strategy from "free, widget, landgrab and hope to monetize later" to a SaaS-based model which helped publishers (The Wall Street Journal, TIME magazine, US News) more effectively monetize their content.

I managed the Product Design, Platform Product Management, and Technical Publications teams at Yodlee. My teams in the U.S. and India created the design, back-end APIs, and documentation supporting 8 Yodlee applications used by 30 million consumers.

When I started at Yodlee, there was one product and no design team. I instituted regular customer research and user testing (and had to do it on the cheap!), built out a design team, and took the company to a suite of powerful but consumer-friendly products.

The personal financial software applications that my teams designed were deployed by Bank of America, American Express, and dozens of other top financial institutions. Our API, managed by my Platform team, was chosen to power the popular personal finance site (and continued to do so until Mint's acquisition by Intuit.)

Where it started

Usually when you read these bios, the author says “I’ve been programming since I was 8″ — well, not me. My first, reluctant, introduction to computers was my senior year of high school, and I hated them. Supposedly simple things like confusing error messages and missing confirmation messages made me convinced that I was screwing up somehow.

Then I went off to Harvard for undergrad, got my first computer, and realized two things: 1) these things are amazing! and 2) even some of the smartest people in the world find them incredibly confusing!

In college, I majored in psychology and effectively minored in work-study jobs in tech support, building web pages, and Usenet. Oddly enough that was probably the best possible education I could have gotten for the things I do now.